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Alister McLean Thomson, 1891 - 1916

Alister Thomson was killed in action during the battle of the Somme in France on 17 June 1916. He was aged 25. He is buried in the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres, France

Alister was born at Petone on 28 December 1891. His parents were Florence and Alexander Thomson. His father was a Presbyterian church minister at St David's Church. He attended school in Petone, matriculating in 1907 from the Petone District High School. From there he enrolled at Victoria University College to study law.

He secured employment as a law clerk with the Wellington law firm Findlay, Dalziell & Co (part of the 1982 merger which created Buddle Findlay) and graduated LLB on 3 June 1915. In all he worked for eight years with Findlay, Dalziell & Co.

photo of Alister Thomson 
Second Lieutenant Alister Thomson.

Thomson enlisted in August 1915 and entered Trentham camp for training in October 1915. His medical examination shows he was 5 foot 11 tall (1.8 metres), weighed 148 pounds (67.1 kg) and had blue eyes and brown hair. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant on 1 March 1916 and posted to the 10th Reinforcements, Wellington Infantry Battalion, B Company.

He embarked from Wellington on 4 March 1916, arriving in Suez, Egypt on 10 April. His unit went almost immediately to France, leaving Suez on 13 April and arriving in France on 24 April. He was based at Etaples until he went into action on 6 June with his division which was holding the line at Armentieres. He was killed in action on 16 June 1916.  

Shortly after news of his death reached New Zealand, the Free Lance newspaper carried a fulsome tribute to Thomson. Included were the following comments: "With his shrewd and keen and kindly eyes for the eccentricities and the humours of humanity, he found the world a very entertaining place, and his retinue of friends was long and picturesque embracing, as it did, representatives from all classes of society. Many a member of that depressed fraternity that drifts through all offices, many a disreputable old dead-beat and broken down vendor of dog-eared music, doubtful boot polish, and venerable soap will miss his ever-ready shilling, and remember wistfully the wide and friendly smile he turned alike on the rich and poor, the just and the unjust, the sheep and the goats."

The anonymous contributor continued that Thomson was "a fine footballer, good sport, and good pal to the finger-tips of his sensitive, beautiful hands, essentially fair-minded and high-principled, he 'saw life steadily and saw it whole' and picked no quarrel with fate." 

Sources: Evening Post, 27 October 1909, page 4; New Zealand Gazette, 4 April 1912; Evening Post, 11 March 1914, page 3; Taranaki Daily News, 3 June 1915, page 3; Evening Post, 16 October 1915, page 5; New Zealand Gazette, 9 March 1916; Wairarapa Daily News, 24 June 1916, page 5; Colonist, 28 June 1916, page 4; Free Lance, 30 June 1916, page 4; The Spike, War Memorial Number, 1920, page 38.

Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph soldier profile.

This obituary has been prepared by the New Zealand Law Society to preserve the memory of members of the legal profession who died while serving in World War I.

Lawyers Roll of Honour. 

By Geoff Adlam, New Zealand Law Society. Further information is welcomed: geoff.adlam@lawsociety.org.nz.

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Last updated on the 27th November 2015