Born in 1920, William "Frank" Thompson’s father was Edward Thompson Senior, a novelist, historian, and particular friend and supporter of an independent
As an undergraduate, he was intensely active in political campaigning and joined the Communist Party in 1939. He was commissioned in the Royal Artillery in March, 1940 and went on to serve five months in the north African desert war theatre with the Eighth Army. He was then posted to
For Thompson, as with so many young men, the war only made sense with an anti-fascist purpose. “When this war is over,” he wrote in August, 1942, “there will have to be an enormous deal of kindness to atone for all the senseless hate and suffering of these years.” His vision was for a better world to emerge from the conflagration. “There is a spirit abroad in
He parachuted into
Thompson was the only Englishman part of this large roaming partisan force operating in
“By what right do you,’ an English-man, enter our country and wage war against us? “he was asked.
“I came because this war is something very much deeper than a struggle of nation against nation,” he replied “The greatest thing in the world now is the struggle of anti-Fascism against Fascism.”
“Do you know that we shoot men who hold your opinions?” he was asked.
Thompson replied: “I am ready to die for freedom and I am proud to die with Bulgarian patriots as companions.” ‘
Three months later the Red Army swept into
In his memory, Prokopnik’s railway station was named “Major Thompson Station”. But Thompson shared a common grave, and later a common memorial for all of his comrades who were so cruelly executed. Socialist Bulgaria also awarded him two posthumous decorations, but Thompson never received any honour from his own country.
In the immediate post war era, his mother and his younger brother, Edward Thompson collected Frank Thompson’s war letters and his poems into a book, adding an introduction and notes which a contemporary reviewer though revealed “the fine, glowing, generous mind of an outstanding young Englishman”. The book’s title echoed one of Frank’s letters: “There is a Spirit in
Sources: Daily Worker;The Rural Crusader (August 1947); contemporary issue of the News Chronicle (courtesy of Michael Walker)