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ANZAC Day feature – Remembering Colin Thomson of Tibooburra

Sergeant Colin Gordon Thomson of the 27th Australian Infantry Battalion. Photo Australian War Memorial

Written by Peter Hazelwood, who grew up in Bourke during the early 1950’s when his father was a schoolteacher at Bourke Public School.

Welcome – please, do come on in, if the gate is shut just slip the latch, it is never locked.

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I’m Colin from Mount Stuart Station at Tibooburra in far western New South Wales, near the Queensland border. Or more formally here, I am 467, Sergeant Colin Gordon Thomson of the 27th Australian Infantry Battalion.

I enlisted at Keswick in South Australia on 28 January 1915 just one month short of my 29th birthday. It seemed the right thing to do, although I was the eldest son and running the property at the time, and I know that mother fretted dreadfully when I joined up, and I don’t think my fiancée, Dr Mary DeGaris was too keen on it either.

After some basic training and being promoted to corporal, I sailed from Adelaide on HMAT Geelong on 31 May 1915 and served from September at the Gallipoli Peninsula where I was promoted to sergeant in November, a month before the big evacuation. On the peninsula I oversaw our bomb teams and was responsible for instructing them. From there we were sent here to France, to this place called The Somme, and wasn’t it a whole different kettle of fish.

And no, I haven’t always been here at London Cemetery, High Wood, Longueval, France, where you will find me down there, straight ahead, at Plot 7, Row H, Grave 11. It took me some time to get to my final resting place.

I got ‘knocked’, as the boys would say, along with thousands of others, just up the road a bit from here at Pozieres near the Windmill, on the night of 4th August 1916. I was leader of No 8 Platoon, No 2 Company of the 27th Battalion. We were in the second wave of troops to leave the trenches that night, and I got hit in the thigh by shrapnel before reaching the first German line, and it really stood me up. I had it bandaged in no man’s land with field dressings and continued on because we had to go forward, but then got hit again.

Our section lost a lot of men that night when the Germans began a huge bombardment of our lines and when most of the officers in my section were killed, I had to take charge and direct the actions of what was left of our section. Captain C.E.W. Bean even mentioned me in his Official History of Australia in the War… “in Captain Devonshire’s section north of the road, Sgt C. G. Thomson undertook a leading part in the direction until he collapsed through loss of blood”.

It was a dreadful night, and by Jove, it was hard to tell which way was forward and which was back, it was absolute bedlam. About three hours into the action, I was fairly battered about and tried to make my way back through no man’s land to the aid post but was hit for a third time.

A Corporal Buck found me lying beside the track apparently with my head on my arm, but when he looked more closely found I had been shot through the chest and was dead. He reported this to the aid post and the next morning stretcher bearers found me with further shrapnel wounds due to the continuous shelling and when they could not get me back towards Pozieres because of the barrages, they took me forward for a temporary burial near the Windmill. As the fighting continued on towards the Mouquet Farm enemy stronghold, so too did the artillery barrages, night and day, and my grave was lost for the next twenty years. {…]

Read more in the printed edition of The Western Herald.

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