Leslie Thompson

Born: 9 January 1920
Died: 30 December 2007
Service number: 2385919
Rank: Signalman
Regiment/Service: 108 Royal Signals
Family information: Son of Martha and Wright Thompson and husband of Muriel​

War service

Leslie Thompson tried to enlist as soon as war broke out, but he was turned down due to being in a reserved occupation. He did join the Home Guard and was stationed at Homefield House.

In 1941 Leslie got his wish and joined the Royal Signals, Wireless Interceptors. His basic training took place at Catterick. The section was based in England between July 1941 and May 1944. On 4 June 1944 they embarked for France and the D-Day landings. In the chronicles of the activities of 108 SW/WI Section from Normandy to VE day it states that “the esprit de section, which has always animated 108, was never better seen than in the historic days in Normandy 1944.”

On 9 June 1944, Leslie landed at Courseulles and went on to La Deliverande Camp alongside a hedge in a cornfield. The service history records that it was very hot and the soldiers bathed on the beaches. They had “fireworks most nights, as the Germans raided shipping and beaches.”

Between 1944 and 1945 the section travelled from France to Holland, then through Belgium and Germany. On 3 Septemberd in Holland they saw “the first German prisoners of war in convoy.” By 12 December 1944 the section were in Breda “in luxurious Dutch barracks.”

The Ardennes offensive began soon after this and on 25 December the service history records: “Christmas dinner in a marquee. Perishing cold. Ardennes offensive held and repelled.”

February 1945 saw the beginning of the Reichswald battle. The entry for 18 February reads: “Reichswald Forest, Germany. Crossed Maas at Mook and the German frontier at 1200 hours; the first section to do so. Under canvas 400 yards from 25-pounder battery. Camp was right on top of frontier and we genuinely hung out our washing on the Seigfried Line.”

4 March provided Leslie’s section with an encounter with Mr Churchill and by the 5th “German civilians looked pretty glum [with] white flags of surrender everywhere.” By 1 April, the section had travelled 1000 miles since the D-Day landing.

By the 10 April, Leslie’s and the section’s excitement was tangible as they encountered “numbers of prisoners of war on [the] road.” Finally, on 2 May  “the fall of Berlin was announced. On 4 May at 2000 hours, BBC news announced surrender of all German forces in the North-West. 2100 hours suitable celebrations were in full swing. 2200 hours all bottles were empty.”

Family story

Leslie Thompson was born on the 9 January 1920 at 21 Johnson Street, off Peterson Road in Wakefield and was then brought up in Clarkson Street, Westgate End. His parents were Martha Ellen and Wright Thompson.

He left Ings Road School at 16 years old and worked as an apprentice joiner at Larrads.

When he was 20, Leslie joined the firm of Drake and Warters. In 1930, the company were shopfitters but in 1939 they soon became involved in war work. They built air raid shelters and army camps and then were contracted to build a decoy port in Hull and a decoy town in Leeds. In 1943 they began building landing craft. Boats built by the company were used at D Day.

All this meant that Leslie was in a reserved occupation and had to wait until 1941 before he could join the armed forces.

After he was demobilised, Leslie worked for the Yorkshire Woollen Bus Company at Dewsbury, then went on to Avondale Joiners in Wakefield.

Leslie married Muriel Hallas on 20 December 1947. They had 60 years of married life, celebrating their Diamond Wedding Anniversary in 2007. Sadly, Leslie died shortly afterwards on 30 December 2007.

Story submitted by David M Wraith

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