John Meredith Tompson (1857-1929) and Kate Mary Joyce (c1867-1955) married in Leicester in 1888. They had children Dorothy Emily (1889-1982); Miriam Kathleen “Kath” (1891-1988); Gordon Charles (1893-1984); Frank Meredith (1896-1917) and Bertram Edward (1898-1968). John was a draper with his own business. Until at least 1898 this was at 31 High Street; thereafter at number 1 Loseby Lane, which John later purchased for £2500 in 1919 along with three other nearby properties which he rented out. The family lived at 48 Welford Road in 1889, at Ivy Houses, Ivanhoe Street until about 1895, at 32 Narborough Road until c1900 and then at Freemans Common. From some time before 1911 they lived at 58 Regent Road, remaining there throughout the First World War. The family were worshippers at St Martin’s and both Gordon Charles and Frank Meredith were choristers.
After the war and the loss of their son Frank, John Meredith and Kate Mary lived on at 58 Regent Road until around 1923, when they moved for a brief while to The Parsonage, Braunstone, and then by 1928 to 17 Abingdon Road where John died in 1929. The draper’s business at 1 Loseby Lane continued until this time and then closed after John’s death.
Frank Meredith Tompson was baptised at the Church of the Martyrs on 25th October 1896. He was a pupil at Newarke School between 1908 and 1914. In 1912 he was awarded 1st class honours in the Oxford Local examinations. Frank was an altar server at St George’s church, having previously been a chorister at St Martin’s. After leaving school he became a student at Mirfield Theological College (College of the Resurrection), presumably intending to enter the priesthood. Nevertheless he volunteered as a soldier in 1914, joining the Seaforth Highlanders 6th battalion. He died during the battle of Arras on 9th April 1917 aged 20.
On 7th April the battalion marched to trenches east of Roclincourt, which were under heavy fire from German artillery. Frank and his battalion were ordered to adopt fighting dress including carrying entrenching tools, haversack (containing spare oil tin, iron ration and waterproof sheet), full bottle of water, 120 rounds of ammunition, two grenades and a box respirator. These were vital as the Division planned to deploy gas bombs. The men were given a ration of rum and a cup of Oxo – described as “a hot meal” – at around 3.30am. The order was given to fix bayonets and then five minutes later at 5.30am on 9th April 1917 they attacked three lines of German trenches. The battalion succeeded in capturing its objective “The Black Line” – that is, the German firing line, support line and reserve line. However, four officers and 142 men of other ranks were killed including Frank. A further five officers and 176 men were wounded.
Frank’s parents placed a notice to his memory in the Leicester Mercury on 30th April 1917 which read “TOMPSON – killed in action on Easter Monday, Frank Meredith (Seaforth Highlanders), second and beloved son of Mr and Mrs J M Tompson, 58 Regent-road, Leicester, aged 20”
Frank is commemorated at Highland Cemetery, Roclincourt. Frank’s best friend, Lieutenant Alfred Ernest Chambers (1896-1918), whose nickname was “Cheddar,” died on 29th October 1918 at a casualty clearing station in France. Frank had also been also an altar server at St George’s and a close personal friend of the vicar, the Reverend Cecil Lowes Robinson. A plaque was erected to Frank’s memory – next to his best friend’s plaque – at St George’s, which reads:
In loving memory of/FRANK MEREDITH TOMPSON/6th Bttn Seaforth Highlanders/Student of Mirfield Theological/College, and altar server/at this church. He was killed/in action near Arras on/Easter Monday April 9th 1917/aged twenty years. R.I.P./”Time passeth, the world changeth/death hideth. But love abideth.”/”Lift up your hearts:/We lift them up unto the Lord.” This was moved to St Martin’s church at the request of his brother Gordon in 1983, shortly before his own death, when St George’s church building transferred to the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Frank’s brother Gordon later presented a chair to Leicester Cathedral (formerly St Martin’s Church) in memory of his brother, which is still in use today. The chair contains an inscription which reads: This chair is given by the brother/ and fellow chorister, Gordon/ in affectionate memory of/ Frank Meredith Thompson/ one time choir boy of the Cathedral/ later priest in training/ who was killed in action at Arras/ Easter Monday April 9th 1917 Aged 20 Years/ You will not mourn as those without hope/ lift up your hearts.
Frank is also remembered in the memorial to the boys of the Newarke School who fell 1914-18 and on Leeds University memorial panel (addenda).
Frank’s older brother Gordon Charles Tompson was born on 9th February at number 1 High Street in the parish of St Martin. He was baptised at Holy Trinity on 5th March 1893. He joined the choir at St Martin’s as a chorister aged ten. He was educated at Wyggeston School. By adulthood Gordon was 5’7” tall, with black hair and brown eyes and a dark complexion. He began a career as a county court clerk after leaving school but by late 1911 decided to join his father in the family business. John Meredith Tompson was suffering from a heart condition, which became serious in the spring of 1914. Being the eldest son, John felt responsible and although John’s health had improved significantly by July, when war broke out Gordon felt torn between his duty towards his country and his duty as a son and brother to maintain the family income. He compromised by joining a home service battalion – the 2/4th Leicestershire Regiment – as soon as it was formed in September 1914. He was promoted Lance Corporal on 20th October in the same year.
Gordon’s physical condition was not great and he suffered from heart trouble – “dilatation of the heart.” In July 1915 he was awarded two months sick leave. Nevertheless he was commissioned second lieutenant, seconded for duty with the 28th provisional battalion, in October 1915. A reference for his good character was provided by Canon Sanders who had been vicar of St Martin’s whilst Gordon was a chorister. Gordon transferred to the Lincolnshire Regiment in 1916. Between July 1916 and October 1916 Gordon was officer (Lieutenant) in command of a company of the 13th Lincolnshire Regiment.
On 16th April 1917, Gordon married Florence Mary Perkins (1885-1958) who was seven years his senior, at St James the Greater, Derby. Florence was known as “Florrie” or “Flossie.” At this time he was serving with the 13th Lincolnshire Regiment and Florence was working as a VAD. It is possible that they met whilst Gordon was convalescing from one of his periods of illness.
Gordon held the acting rank of Captain during various periods including during 1916 and from 1st January 1919 to 14th March 1919 when he worked at a prisoner of war camp in Italy. During the summer Gordon was ill and spent time at Arquata Scrivia hospital near Genoa, after which he was transferred to Prince of Wales Hospital, London, and then awarded two months sick leave. He demobilised on 22nd October 1919. Gordon requested to keep the honorary rank of Captain but this was refused, despite his complaint that “I really need the extra money – and money to which I am entitled and should have received but for my Adjudicant not at time being aware of the [War Office] order….it will help me considerably at a time when, through my disability, I am rather in need of it.” The Medical Officer disagreed, stating that Gordon had only a slight heart murmur, however eventually 30% disability as a result of home service in 1915 was agreed.
After the war Gordon returned to live with Florrie at 2 Livingstone Street, moving in about 1924 to 13 Lincoln Street, to Ashwood, Dovedale Road in about 1932 and finally to 3 Barrington Road in 1938, which they had designed to their own specification. In 1925 Gordon was the owner of the “Supportu Underwear Co” Leicester, which was a successful business enabling Gordon to purchase a holiday cottage in Devon, where Gordon’s nieces and nephews stayed during summer holidays and where they rode his pet pony Joey. Gordon also managed the lease of 1-3a Loseby Lane, which had passed to Gordon and his siblings on the death of his father, along with 17 St Martin’s. The properties were sold in 1962.
Florence died in 1958 at St Francis Private Hospital in London Road. After the death of Florrie, Gordon married Louise Mathilde Cottam (1913-2004) later that year. Louise was an accomplished artist and cello player. Gordon died in 1984.
Dorothy Emily Tompson – known to her family at “Dot” – was born on 6th May 1889 and baptised at Holy Trinity a month later on 12th June. She attended Wyggeston Girls’ School, winning attendances and essay prizes in 1904. She was an elementary school teacher by 1911. She served as a VAD (“Voluntary Aid Detachment”) with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service during the Great War. Dorothy embarked for France on 9th November 1915 and served until 27th February 1919. She was awarded 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals.
Dorothy married Walter George Fluke (1896-1977) soon after returning to Leicester, at Holy Trinity on 22 April 1919. Walter had served in the South Staffordshire Regiment, where he rose from the rank of 2nd lieutenant to Major and was awarded the DSO. He had also been a prisoner of war between March and December 1918, having been shot down on a bombing raid into Germany as part of 55 Squadron Royal Flying Corps and taken prisoner on the 24th of March. He was repatriated on the 17th of December 1918. Dorothy and Walter moved in with Walter’s parents at Aboyne, 8 Nunnery Road, Canterbury. They moved to North Mead, Altcar Road, Formby. Dorothy gave birth to a daughter, Monica (1921-2013), in Singapore in 1921. In 1922 Walter, Dorothy and Monica travelled together from Rangoon, Burma, to England where they lived for some time. In 1923 Dorothy and her daughter made the trip to Rangoon alone – perhaps to see Walter. Her address was given on both occasions as that of her parents at 58 Regent Road.
The marriage was extremely unhappy, with Dorothy experiencing “great unkindness and cruelty” – likely to be a euphemism for domestic violence – which eventually led her to leave Walter in October 1924 as “it was unsafe” for her to continuing living with him. Meanwhile Walter continued to commit adultery with numerous women. Dorothy divorced Walter in 1928 whilst living at Ottery, London Road, Oadby – requesting custody of Monica, which was granted. Walter did not contest the divorce. He re-married in 1931 to Catherine Elizabeth Cockburn (1882-1964).
Dorothy also remarried on 11th May 1931, at Thurcaston Church, to Ernest Frederick Lionel de Jersey (1872-1941). She stated her marriage condition as “unmarried” – it is not clear how she obtained permission to marry in church, as a divorcee. Perhaps she did not fully explain her circumstances. She also described her deceased father as a “gentleman” which was not strictly true. At this time Dorothy’s address was Little Orchard, Rothley. Ernest – son of a clergyman – had been a surgeon in the French Red Cross during World War One and was previously married to Agnes Mary Hadfield (1878-1929), who died in 1929. He had children Agnes Helene (1909-1986), Marguerite (1913-1976) and Charles Frederick le Vavassour (1918-1986)– all of whom lived in Guernsey, where Ernest worked as a GP. Dorothy’s brother Bertram joined Ernest’s medical practice in Guernsey after completing his medical training in London, which is possibly how Ernest and Dorothy met (though they could also have met through their war service). Ernest’s daughter Agnes married Bertram a month after his own wedding on 30th June 1931. Dorothy’s daughter Monica lived with Dorothy and Ernest, taking the surname de Jersey until her marriage in 1942.
Dorothy remained on the nursing reserve – it is not clear whether she also nursed during the second world war.
Ernest practised as a GP in Surbiton, Surrey after ten years of marriage, in 1941. Dorothy lived for another forty years. Her address between at least 1939 and 1956 was Gorse Corner, 98 Pauntley Road, Mudeford, Christchurch. She died in 1982 at a nursing home in Brockenhurst in the New Forest, where sister Kathleen also died. During these latter years Dorothy and Kathleen were taken care of by their brother Gordon.