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Arnold Thomson, 1886 - 1918

Arnold Thomson died of wounds received during fighting in France on 27 August 1918. He was aged 32. He is buried at Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt, France.

Arnold was born in Dunedin on 25 April 1886. His parents were Elizabeth Sarah and William Thomson. He attended Dunedin's Central School, before going to live in Hawera with his uncle, solicitor Herbert Theodore Halliwell. Arnold attended Hawera District High School and was Dux in his final year.

After working in the engineering trade after leaving school, Thomson was employed by his uncle as a law clerk while he studied law. He played an active part in the sporting and social life of Hawera, playing hockey (and captaining the Hawera Hockey Club for some years) and cricket and participating in athletic events with the Hawera Amateur Athletic Club (of which he was secretary and treasurer in 1910 and 1911). He was secretary of the Hawera Tennis Club for some time.

Thomson was prominent in the Presbyterian Church and also was a member of the Hawera No-License League, one of many groups campaigning for prohibition (his uncle, Herbert Halliwell was president).

By the end of 1913 Thomson had passed his law exams. He was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court by Justice Edwards on 19 May 1914, on the motion of D Hutchen. He continued to work for his uncle in the firm Halliwell and Sellar, appearing in the Magistrate's Court on various matters. On 1 February 1915 he was taken into partnership, the firm becoming Halliwell, Sellar and Thomson. Several months later on 18 May 1915 Robert Sellar retired and Christchurch solicitor Frederick Campbell Spratt was taken into the partnership, the firm being named Halliwell, Spratt and Thomson. It carried on its practice from 87 Regent Street in the Halliwells Building (built in 1903 for Herbert Halliwell and still occupied by the Halliwells law firm).

Thomson married Mary Murray Hunter on 20 October 1915 in Hawera. The couple had a daughter.

photo of Arnold Thomson 
Second Lieutenant Arnold Thomson.

On 14 November 1916 Thomson enlisted in the armed forces. His medical records show he was 5 foot 8-1/2 inches (1.73 metres), with blue eyes and brown hair and weighing 145 pounds (65.8 kg). He was farewelled by Hawera solicitors at a gathering at the Court library on 19 December. Speaking on behalf of the profession, RD Welsh expressed the esteem in which Thomson was held by his fellow practitioners. He was presented with a pair of binoculars and a radium compass. On 3 March 1917 the Hawera Law Society unveiled a Roll of Honour in the local courthouse with the names of Thomson and 10 other local lawyers who had joined up.

Thomson went to Trentham Camp in January 1917 with the 34th Reinforcements Wellington Infantry Regiment, B Company. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant on 4 February 1918. Shortly afterwards, on 8 February, he embarked from Wellington. On arrival in Liverpool, England on 29 March he proceeded to Brocton for training. His unit went to France on 1 May. 

Serving with the Second Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, Thomson was involved in the attack on Bapaume on 26 August 1918. The Brigade went into action at 6:30am without a supporting barrage and many casualties resulted from heavy defensive machine gun fire. Thomson's battalion was pinned down for much of the day and many of the officers were wounded or killed by artillery fire. Thomson was wounded at some stage in the fighting and admitted to a field hospital, reportedly with a gunshot wound in his leg, where he died from wounds on 27 August.  

Arnold Thomson is remembered on the Hawera War Memorial Arch which was unveiled by Prime Minister William Massey on 12 June 1924. His name is on Plaque 2 Column 2.

Sources: Otago Daily Times, 14 December 1895, page 2; Hawera and Normanby Star, 22 October 1901, page 3; Hawera and Normanby Star, 27 March 1909, page 4; Hawera and Normanby Star, 19 March 1910, page 4; Hawera and Normanby Star, 21 December 1911, page 5; Hawera and Normanby Star, 19 December 1912, page 4; Hawera and Normanby Star, 18 December 1913, page 3; Hawera and Normanby Star, 21 May 1914, page 4; Hawera and Normanby Star, 3 February 1915, page 1; Hawera and Normanby Star, 2 June 1915, page 1; Hawera and Normanby Star, 20 December 1916, page 4; Hawera and Normanby Star, 5 March 1917, page 5; New Zealand Gazette, 28 February 1918; Hawera and Normanby Star, 31 August 1918, page 8; Hawera and Normanby Star, 2 September 1918, page 4; Taranaki Daily News, 3 September 1918, page 5; Otago Daily Times, 10 September 1918, page 5; WS Austin, The Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, LT Watkins Ltd, Wellington, 1924, pages 360-365; South Taranaki District Council, Hawera Town Centre Heritage Inventory, page 121.

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.

Last updated on the 30th November 2015