Private James Bond Thomson
Pakenham & District War Memorial & Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour
Born: 19 August 1873 - Indalopis, USA
Enlisted: 8 June 1917 aged 43
Unit: 58th Battalion, 9th Reinforcement (SERN: 3437)
Died: 1940 - Meyerton, Transvaal South Africa
James Bond Thomson was a 43 year old farmer living in Pakenham Upper with his wife Emily and five children when he enlisted on 8 June 1917. American born James seemingly migrated first to England, where he became a “Bobby” (a member of the London Metropolitan Police) (1). He later served with British Forces in South Africa during and after the Boer War. As late as 1906, he was serving with a unit from the Transvaal. (1a). James acquired his orchard in Pakenhan Upper in 1911 (1b). After James enlisted for the AIF, a special farewell was held at Pakenham Upper for James, together with Wally Black. At this, James’ previous service in South Africa did not go unnoticed: “Mr Thomson went through the Boer war, and the medals he gained were seen to advantage upon his khaki tunic” (2).
After enlisting, James was assigned as a private to the 58th Battalion, 9th Reinforcement at Broadmeadows Army Camp. While in camp, he underwent basic training, including drill without arms; the drill walk; care of arms; physical training and judging distances. James embarked from Australia in July 1917, but never got further than camp in England. There, it was found that he was suffering from acute deafness, which had led to him being sent off parade as he was unable to hear the drill commands. As this was not likely to improve (he had apparently been suffering from slight deafness for 15 years), James was deemed unfit for active service and was recommended for home duty back in Australia. He left England for Australia in December 1918 on the Argyllshire, a transport for invalids, and was discharged from the AIF in February 1919 (3).
In October 1919, a special event was held at Pakenham Upper to officially welcome home James and other local Diggers who had returned. They were presented with framed certificates to commemorate their service by Justice Frederick Mann, who owned “Goronga” in Pakenham Upper. James spoke on behalf of all the Pakenham Upper Diggers, saying that they “felt highly honoured that evening” and referred to the special “debt of gratitude” they felt towards the women of Australia for their “excellent work during the war providing clothing and other comforts. They had done much towards winning the war. In addition they had always taken a leading interest in providing a send-off for the boys and a hearty welcome home”. In the newspaper report of the event, special mention was made of the fact that James was a veteran of three wars: the Boer War, the Zulu Rebellion (1906) and WWI (4). Later, James returned to South Africa, writing from Mageliesburg, Transvaal seeking the issue of his war medal (5). James was managing the largest orchard in the Transvaal (6). He was killed in a car accident at a railway level crossing at Meyerton, South Africa (7). James’s passing was reported by the Pakenham Gazette, which said that the news would be heard “with regret” amongst Pakenham Upper residents (8).
Updated 25 November 2018
(1) (1b) (6) (7) & (8) Pakenham Gazette 2/4/1940 p. 3
(1a) (3) & (5) NAA B2455 THOMSON, J B
(2) Dandenong Advertiser 7/6/1917 p. 2
(4) Pakenham Gazette 10/10/1919 p. 3