Captain George Edwin Thomson DSO MC

1st World War Flying Ace who died tragically young during a training exercise

George Edwin Thomson was born on the 19th September 1897, in Rangoon, Burma, son of James and Ellen Thomson, of Glenfuccan, Helensburgh. He was educated at Glenalmond and Glasgow University, where he was studying with a view to a Civil Service appointment. George excelled at both swimming and rugby and took a keen interest in the flying.

Pre-war he had spent time with the family in Rangoon but returned to join the colours. After time spent with the King's Own Scottish Borderers, he left to join the Royal Flying Corps in September 1916. Thomson was seriously injured during flight training; the accident left him with lasting scars to his face. Nevertheless, he joined 46 Squadron during the summer of 1917, to fly a Sopwith Pup.

On 25 September 1917, he scored his first victory flying Pup no. B2196, destroying an enemy reconnaissance plane. In recognition of his services, George was appointed flight commander in November of the same year.

By March, 1918, Captain Thomson returned to England, having brought down 21 German aeroplanes, He had used four different Camels and reeled off fifteen victories within the month, including four on the 16th, three on the 23rd, and two on the 17th. The three on the 23rd brought his total to 21. His tally included five enemy planes destroyed; he shared one of these triumphs with fellow ace Sydney Smith. He also drove down fifteen enemy planes out of control; one of these victories was also shared with Smith, and another with Horace Debenham. The remaining win was the captured Pfalz. He was awarded the Military Cross during the same month, and in April he won the D.S.O.

George was then transferred to the Home Establishment in England as an instructor.On 23 May 1918, he took off from No. 7 Training Depot at Port Meadow, Oxford. His plane burst into flames and he died in the resultant crash aged just 20. George is buried at Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford.

His Military Cross citation reads as follows:
Military Cross (MC) - T./Capt. George Edwin Thomson, Gen. List and R.F.C.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. On one occasion, when testing his machine, he observed a hostile two-seater machine between himself and the lines. He dived on it and fired sixty rounds at a close range, rendering the observer insensible. He then pulled up under the tail of the enemy machine, fired another thirty rounds, and observed it going down in a slow spin. He has accounted for six enemy machines, and has rendered continuous gallant and valuable service.

Supplement to the London Gazette, 22 April 1918

His Distinguished Service Order (DSO) citation:

Lt. (T./Capt.) George Edwin Thomson, M.C., Gen. List, and R.F.C.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. On one occasion, encountering a number of enemy two-seater planes, he dived on one of these and sent it down in flames. On returning to our lines, he dived on to another enemy machine, the observer of which was seen to collapse in his cockpit, the hostile machine going down completely out of control. On the following day, observing a hostile two-seater machine, he dived on it, engaging it at 100 yards range. On the hostile plane going down in a slow spin, he followed it to within 2,500 feet, but was compelled to withdraw owing to heavy machine-gun fire from the ground. He has, in all, accounted for twenty-one enemy machines, and has at all times during recent operations displayed the most marked skill and gallantry.

Supplement to the London Gazette, 22 June 1918

His Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
Lieut. George Thomson (King's Own Scottish Borderers).
A brilliant and intrepid observer in whom his pilot places implicit confidence when engaged in action. He has personally accounted for nine enemy machines. On one raid, when acting as escort, fifteen enemy aeroplanes were encountered; of these this officer shot down two, which crashed, and one out of control.

Supplement to the London Gazette, 21 September 1918