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Continued from the previous page:

In the lull that followed those two nights, Plymouth buried its dead as Naval ratings from HMS Raleigh, across the water at Torpoint, were given the task of recovering bodies from the ruins and many of the 292 civilians killed during the raids were buried in mass graves at Efford Cemetery, each wooden coffin draped with a Union Flag.  Whilst the job of burying the City’s dead went on, the Bomb Disposal teams of 7 Company were fully stretched identifying the locations of unexploded bombs before digging down to gain access to allow them to safely defuse and remove them.  A week later at 13:30 on Thursday 27th March the bomb disposal team with which Ernest was serving with as a sapper had removed an unexploded bomb from the rubble and loaded it onto an Army truck for safe disposal when its time delay fuse exploded killing eight members of the Bomb Disposal team including two officers and Sapper Ernest Thompson, who by this time was days away from the end of his six months period of service with the Bomb Disposal Company.   Ernest’s body was recovered along with the seven other casualties, and outside of normal practice, all eight casualties where buried together in the Weston Mill Cemetery  where they received a full Military Funeral, which was attended by Ernest’s elder brother James, who had previously served with one of the Foot Guard regiments and Mr Davey, who was the guardian of Ernest’s son.

 

Ernest Thompson's grave

Ernest Thompson's War grave in the Weston Cemetery

©Phil Jennett

 

Those other members of the Bomb Disposal Team, killed and buried alongside Sapper Ernest Thompson were as follows.

Serjeant 1911226 David Thompson, (no relation)

Lieutenant 123014 Lawrence Joseph Ball - (a local man whose parents lived in Plymouth and whose wife lived in Paignton)

Lieutenant 154324 David Ross

Sapper 1894425 Douglas Alfred Palmer

Sapper 1991724 Thomas Raffle Fishwick

Driver 1945630 Albert William Stevens

Driver 1945480 Reginald Sullivan

In the 287 days between 21st September 1940 and 5th July 1941, 24,108 bombs were made safe and removed by the Bomb Disposal team volunteers.*

Various other members of the Thompson family saw service during WW2, including nephews Ernest John Wood, who served with the 1st Airborne Battalion of the Border regiment, with whom he was captured during the epic battle at Arnhem, Eric Wood, who served as a Stoker with the Royal Navy and James Wood who served with the 61st (5th South Lancashire) Searchlight Regiment, the Highland Light Infantry and the Royal Scots Fusiliers.  Ernest’s brother in law James Wood, served in WW1 with the South Lancashire Regiment and the Army Service Corps, and his own father James Thompson served with the Army during WW1.

*In recent times, efforts have been made to map Plymouth to show future builders  and developers where they might expect to discover unexploded bombs. There have been many unwelcome discoveries since Ernest Thompson's time. Among the most recent are the 100 kg bomb which turned up in the City Centre in April 2009; a 70kg bomb found in Notte Street 12 November 2010 and another of the same type found in the same area 23 February 2011 - it is estimated that 1 in 10 of bombs dropped during the war failed to detonate.

 

 This page © Phil Jennett

 

 
 
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