Lieutenant Colonel Astley John Onslow Thompson VD MID

Discussion in 'Military Biographies' started by liverpool annie, Sep 12, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    4th Battalion AIF Row A, Grave 11

    Lieutenant Colonel Thompson was a Welsh-born fifty-year-old grazier, station manager and company director who had served with the NSW Mounted Rifles from 1892 until his enlistment. On the unattached list of officers he was appointed Major in the 4th Battalion in August 1914 and later commander of the battalion.

    [Adelaide Ah Kow, William McKenzie, London, 1949, p.36]

    A plaque in St Illtyd’s Church, Pembrey, Dyfed, Wales commemorates Lieutenant Colonel Thompson ‘who died fighting at the head of his regiment in the Dardanelles on the 26th April 1915’ as the eldest son of the late Astley and Udea Thompson of Glyn Abbey.

    Astley John Onslow Thompson, V.D., Lieutenant-Colonel, 4th Battalion, Australian Infantry.

    Astley was the Son of Astley and Udea Thompson. He had been born near Pontyates, Wales in 1865, and had served for some years in the NSW Mounted Rifles, but had not fought in South Africa during the Boer War. Promoted to major in 1903, Thompson was in virtual military retirement in 1914, having been in the officers' graveyard known as the Unallotted List.

    In private life, Thompson, a well known company director, was a member of Australia's 'squattocracy', having come from a family of early pastoralists, and for some years he had managed the Camden Park Estate that had earlier belonged to Captain John Macarthur, the man responsible for Australia's booming wool industry through the introduction of Merino sheep. Despite being 49 years old at the outbreak of war, Thompson was seen as a man possessing the experience, drive and vitality required to lead an infantry battalion to war, and was selected to raise, train and command the 4th Battalion, which was raised in New South Wales, and attached to 1 Brigade, 1st Australian Division.

    The battalion was raised within a fortnight of the declaration of war in August 1914, and embarked just two months later. After a brief stop in Albany, Western Australia, the battalion proceeded to Egypt, arriving on 2 December. The battalion took part in the ANZAC landing on 25 April 1915 as part of the second and third waves, and pushed forward ahead of the neighbouring battalions, becoming isolated in a position known as Lone Pine. Astley was killed here that same day. He was 50 years old. His body was recovered weeks later and buried in the parapet of a trench, but he was later re-interred at the 4th Battalion Parade Ground Cemetery, Gallipoli.

    Astley was Mentioned in Despatches by General Sir Ian Hamilton for his gallant conduct during the day of the landings. We Forget/lwfonslowthompsona.html

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  2. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    The grave has been dug by the two men standing by. McKenzie was known as ‘Fighting Mac’, because of his prowess in the boxing ring, and was a popular and well known figure at Anzac. He later recalled burying Lieutenant-Colonel Onslow Thompson, the commanding officer of the 4th Battalion, NSW, who was killed on 26 April during the Battle of the Landing:
    It was a relief to find the body of our colonel … after it had lain out for a full fortnight. We buried it after dark, as it lay in an exposed position. I had to kneel and keep head and body in a crouching posture while reading the service. Hundreds of bullets swept over us while this was going on.

    [Adelaide Ah Kow, William McKenzie, London, 1949, p 36] [AWM H15688]

    Salvation Army Padre William McKenzie burying a soldier in Shrapnel Valley cemetery about 24 May 1915

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