Reverend Austin Henry THOMPSON MA

Date of birth: 29th April 1870
Date of death: 17th April 1941

Killed by enemy action aged 70
Buried at Westminster City Cemetery
He was born at Malta on the 29th of April 1870 the son of Lieutenant Colonel John Baylis Thompson, Royal Artillery, and Gertrude Tottenham (nee Marsh) of 15 St George's Place, Canterbury.

He attended the Kingís School Canterbury from September 1886 to July 1889. On leaving school he went on to St Edmund Hall, Oxford where he gained a 2nd Class degree in Classical Mods in 1891, a 3rd Class lit Hum in 1893 and a BA and MA in 1896.
In 1894 he was ordained in the Truro Diocese and in 1897 went to Norwood before being attached to the College of Clergy at All Hallows at Barking in East London from 1900 to 1906. In 1906 he became a Tait Missioner and Six-Preacher in Canterbury Cathedral.

He was married at Trinity Church, Upper Chelsea on the 21st of July 1909 to Anstace Mary (nee Mylne); they had a daughter, Anstace Morwenna, born on the 20th of May 1913, and they lived later at 24 Chester Square, London SW1.

From 1909 to 1916 he served as Vicar of St Peterís Church, Ealing and from 1916 until his death he was Vicar of St Peterís Church, Eaton Square. In 1929 he took the additional duties of Rural Dean of Westminster and in 1934 was appointed a Prebendary of St Paulís Cathedral.

On the outbreak of war an air raid shelter was established in the crypt of St Peter's. A canteen was opened by Austin Thompson and his wife in which they worked tirelessly to attend to the needs of their parishioners. At 11pm each night he would say prayers before settling down in a deck chair until dawn when he would return to the vicarage.

At 9pm on the night of the 17th of April 1941 an air raid began with 685 German bombers attacking London in what was the largest enemy raid of the war to that date. The bombing lasted until dawn during which time some 2,000 fires had been started and over 1,180 people had lost their lives with a further 2,230 injured.

At1.50am, a man came down to the crypt to report that something unusual was happening outside. Austin Thompson and his wife went upstairs at once but as he stepped into the portico at the west side of the church, a bomb fell in the south-western corner of the churchyard and he was killed instantly. His wife survived as she had not stepped outside at the time. His funeral took place at St Peter's Church on the 21st of April 1941.

Two appreciations of his life were reproduced in the Cantuarian edition of July 1941: -
Bishop A.F. Winnington-Ingram wrote: -

"Austin Thompson was a great personal friend of mine. He did so well at St Peter's Ealing that I appointed him later on to St Peter's Eaton Square, and it was a great pleasure to me, a few years ago, to make him a Prebendary of St Paul's. This will show what I thought of him. He was an excellent Parish Priest and a good preacher. He had great difficulties of late years at St Peter's. Owing to Eaton Square becoming practically empty on Sunday St Peter's became almost like a City Church; but Austin Thompson struggled bravely against all difficulties and died gallantly, guarding the church which he loved, and which he served so well. I am sure the Old School may well be proud of him."

"B. K." wrote: -

"The recent death by enemy action of Prebendary Austin H. Thompson deprived the London diocese of one of its best beloved and most respected clergy, a man of deep devotion, ceaseless labour, and unfailing kindliness. Educated at King's School Canterbury and at St Edmund's Hall, Oxford, he was ordained 47 years ago in the Truro diocese, and after three years in that city came to Norwood for a similar period and was then attached to the College of Clergy at All Hallows by the Tower for six years. Canterbury claimed him as Tait Missioner, but he came back to London after three years to be vicar of St Peter's Ealing, where he was for seven years. In 1916 Dr Winnington-Ingram, then Bishop of London, appointed him to St Peter's Eaton Square, in 1929 he was made Rural Dean of Westminster, and in 1934 he was appointed a Prebendary of St Paul's Cathedral. On the outbreak of war he opened the crypt of his church as a public shelter, and spent almost every night with his people there."

He is commemorated on a stone plaque in the porch of St Peter's Church, Eaton Square. The plaque reads: - "Here in this porch died Austin Thompson Priest. Vicar of this parish 1916-1941 Prebendary of St Paul's killed by enemy action on the night of 16 April 1941 whilst firewatching on every night of peril he ministered to his people in the crypt of this church. Pray for his soul ye who pass by".

He is commemorated on the war memorial at St Edmund Hall Oxford.