Tom Thompson may be retired from the Royal Canadian Navy, but he still keeps his ties with the military by being active in the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 191 in Chemainus and working to clean, repair and mount medals.
Thompson served 32 years in the Navy.
Thompson was born in Toronto’s Danforth area in the east end but was raised mostly in Bracebridge in Ontario’s Muskoka region.
His first taste of the military came with the Hamilton Hillpark Sea Cadets and Haida in Toronto, where he was introduced to brass musical instruments.
Thompson joined the Navy as a cook in 1960.
After a few years in the galley, he became a ship’s writer. As the ship’s writer, Thompson was the chief administrator to the captain, and he had a staff of five. He looked after all the pay and administration and the staff that looked after those areas on ships and on shore, he explained, noting he was responsible for personnel records, engineering matters and anything to do with administration and pay.
With the Navy, Thompson visited nearly every country in the world. He has been to the Orient, Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia, parts of the Baltic and the Arctic.
“I’ve been across the Equator four times and the Arctic Circle three times,” he said.
Thompson sailed on numerous vessels, including HMCS Lanark and HMCS Haida, Canada’s most decorated warship.
After serving with the Haida Sea Cadets in his younger days, Thompson served five years on the destroyer HMCS Haida, which was decommissioned in 1963 and is now a National Historic Site.
“It’s a museum in Hamilton, Ont., now,” said Thompson. “It’s the only tribal-class destroyer in the world now. It had quite a war effort. There was nobody killed on that ship in the war.”
Thompson served in headquarters in Halifax for five years and the recruiting centre in Kingston for five years then headed for the West Coast, where he sailed with 4 Squadron as writer and then 3rd Victoria Squadron as chief clerk.
Thompson counts among his achievements working with the Diving Unit in the 1970s as they wrote the NATO Diving Manual, which is still in use today, and participating in the Nova Scotia and CFB Esquimalt 75th Anniversary Tattoos as staff in 1987.
Thompson had three trades in the Navy — writer, pay and administration, and musician and qualified drum major for military brass and pipe bands.
Thompson’s association with military music has been a lifelong love. He has played with the Stadacona and Naden Navy Bands and Pipe and Drum Band and organized the Mass Pipe Band for the Senior Games in Duncan and the grand re-opening of the Duncan Legion.
This year, Thompson, who is 70, will be a 50-year member of the Legion.
“I’ve belonged to Legions from coast to coast,” he said. “I’ve been a member of the Colour Party for almost 30 years. I’m 70 and just about ready to retire or just do my medals — that’s enough to keep me busy.”
Thompson has been a member of the Chemainus Legion for about five years but has been coming to their Colour Party for longer.
When he isn’t participating in musical endeavours, Thompson, who lives in Duncan, cleans, repairs, anodizes and court mounts and swing mounts medals.