Walter H. Thompson


Walter H. Thompson

Detective Inspector Walter Henry Thompson (1890-1978) was the bodyguard of Winston Churchill for eighteen years between 1921 and 1945, being recalled from semi-retirement running two grocer's shops by a telegram from Churchill on 22 August 1939 reading "Meet me Croydon airport 4.30pm Wednesday." Although at that time Churchill had no official position in government, as the leading anti-appeaser he was aware of the prevailing risk to his life from assassins (particularly the Nazis) and engaged Thompson to protect him in the pay of £5 per week.(£213/wk in 2006) [http://www.measuringworth.com/calculators/ppoweruk] Thompson resumed his official duties with Scotland Yard when Churchill rejoined the Cabinet on the outbreak of war.

During his time with Churchill, Thompson travelled over 200,000 miles and is reported to have saved Churchill's life on some 20 occasions, including times when Churchill's own foolhardiness exposed him to danger from shrapnel during The Blitz, plots by the IRA, Indian nationalists, Arab nationalists, Nazi agents, Greek Communists, and the deranged. The stress of his duties during his time with Churchill caused Thompson to suffer a breakdown, which took him away from Churchill, but within weeks, Thompson had recuperated and returned to his duties. The stress of the job, compounded by long absences away from his family, led to the dissolution of Thompson's first marriage in 1929; during the war he married Churchill's junior secretary, May Shearburn.

In June 1945, with Churchill out of office and Thompson about to retire for a second time from the Metropolitan Police, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Downing Street decided that it would be improper for him to publish his memoirs for the foreseeable future and threatened Thompson with the loss of his police pension if it was published, even though he had nearly completed a 350,000 word manuscript. An expurgated version, "I was Churchill's Shadow" was published in the 1950s, but the full manuscript was discovered only after Thompson's death, by his great-niece Linda Stoker.

Thompson died of cancer on 18 January 1978, aged 87 years.

The manuscript was published in 2005, together with a 13-part television series, on UKTV History (originally broadcast between November and December 2005).

References

*Thompson, Walter H: "Beside The Bulldog: The Intimate Memoirs of Churchill's Bodyguard". Apollo Book Publishing, 2003, ISBN 0954522303
*Hickman, Tom: "Churchill's Bodyguard: The Authorised Biography of Walter H Thompson." Headline Book Publishing, 2005, ISBN 0-7553-1448-4
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/article581067.ece "Guarding the Bulldog"] , "Sunday Times Magazine", November 2005.


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