Private John Samuel 'Jock' Thomson

Service number 3127
Birth Date 1889
Birth Place United Kingdom: Scotland, North Lanarkshire, Motherwell
Final Rank Private
Unit 41st Australian Infantry Battalion
Place Motherwell
Conflict/Operation First World War, 1914-1918

John “Jock” Samuel Thomson was born at Motherwell in Lanarkshire, Scotland, in 1889. In 1910, at the age of 21, Thomson emigrated to Australia. He arrived at Brisbane, Queensland, on the ship Perthshire. His enlistment records describe his occupation as clerk, with a previous apprenticeship as a blacksmith – although before enlistment he was active in vaudeville as a baritone singer. At the time, Thomson was involved with the Elder Conservatorium of Music in Adelaide.

Thomson enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in October 1916, and was attached to the 7th Reinforcements, 42nd Battalion. He married Winifred Ruth Jordan on 24 January 1917, and on 7 February 1917 he embarked on the troopship Wiltshire. He arrived in England during April 1917. His unit was based at the AIF training camp at Durrington, and later at the training camp at Fovant, both located in Wiltshire. It appears Thomson performed at the Concert Hall of No. 12 Camp at Durrington in an evening of entertainment by the Mountebanks concert party. During this concert, he sang two songs, “Friend o’Mine” and “I will repay”. This performance appears to be the forerunner of further performances by Thomson as, later in the war, he joined the Coo-ees theatrical troupe which performed a number of concerts near the front lines on the Western Front until late 1919.

Thomson’s unit was transferred to France in November 1917, and he continued to serve there, later transferring to the 41st Battalion in October 1918. During the same month, he sang in a series of concerts by the Coo-ees Australian Divisional Concert Party. Thomson was granted leave in London from July to October 1919 to join a group referred to as the AIF Theatrical Troupe in his service record. It is believed that this was a continuation of his service with the Coo-ees Concert Party.

On 27 January 1920, Thomson departed England on the troopship Friedrichsruh, disembarking in Sydney on 12 March 1920. He was discharged on 27 April 1920.

Following on his theatrical activities before and during the war, Thomson continued after his discharge, joining the Smart Set Diggers after they returned to Australia in 1920. This concert party had been formed in 1917 and performed for troops near the front line; after hostilities had ceased, the troupe continued performances in Europe and Britain. Thomson was chosen as the sole vocalist to entertain the Prince of Wales at the Queen’s Hall, Melbourne, during his visit to Australia in 1920. In later years Thomson became a long-time member and manager of the Famous Diggers, a theatrical troupe concentrating on Great War themes. In 1935 Thomson spent 18 months in England in the theatre and appeared in several films, including I Claudius with the great actor Charles Laughton. Thomson continued his professional theatrical activities, including work in radio, in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Great Britain until the 1940s.

John Thomson is understood to have died in Australia, although the details are unknown.



Date of birth 1889
Date of enlistment 26 October 1916
Date of embarkation 07 February 1917
Date returned to Australia 22 January 1920