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  1. Have just become an octogeranium! I certainly don't feel it but have to accept that it makes me an elderly gentleman!! The sort you should offer your seat to on a train.

    So, I thought I ought to splash the cash as I was keen to give my Scottish family a feel for how their old man spends his time in la Belle France with his French partner. I was also keen for my French non-step family to meet my Scottish wing. 

    For a genuine French experience, I chose the Manoir des Cavaliers near Chantilly as Chantilly is on a direct fast train line from Gare du Nord where the Eurostar travellers would arrive, and is also only thirty minutes from Charles de Gaulle airport for those flying in from Glasgow. Chantilly is a bit like the Ascot of France with a horse racing track but also has a magnificent chateau. So it's worth a visit. The Manoir is an old jockey training centre on the outskirts with six tastefully decorated bed-and-breakfast rooms plus a coach house (Maison de la Caleche), which is a luxury three bedroom self catering house. I hired the lot and the fourteen of us had the place to ourselves. Brilliant.

    As the Manoir was a bed and breakfast establishment, we held my birthday dinner in the Port Bellon restaurant in the nearby medieval town of Senlis where an unexpected bonus awaited us. For no extra cost, the proprietrix of the restaurant had arranged the use of her thirteenth century cave (wine cellar) for our aperitif - icing on the cake or what?

    Though I say it myself, it was a truly 'happy family' weekend. Must have another 80th birthday.

    Manoir des Cavaliers

    Manoir - My stylish bedroom

    Manoir - relaxing in the Maison de la Caleche









  2. On 26th September 1943, HMS Intrepid, along with the Greek Navay Ship Queen Olga, were sunk by German bombers at Port Lakki on the island of Leros in the Greek Dodecanese Islands. The Italians had just surrendered the island to the British and the Germasn were determined to take it back, and did so in a short but bloody battle. Intrepid was my father's ship.

    Six weeks later, I was born and given my father's name, I presume because my mother assumed he had been killed. But the Old Man turned up three months later, having escaped the island with the help of the Greek Resistance, a Free French destroyer, and, I guess, the Royal Navy's secretive Levant Squadron. So, I became Frederic Gladwyn Thompson Junior, and remained 'Junior' for the next 45 years!

    As my 80th birthday was therefore in November this year, I decided to visit Leros and attend the 80th Anniversary Commeroration of both sinkings. This is a big event for the Greek Navy as the Queen Olga blew up and was lost with all hands whereas Intrepid took 24 hours to sink and apart from those killed by the bomb explosion, the rest of the crew escaped.

    The visit was a moving and spiritual three days as I met three other 'sons of Intrepid' whose fathers had also survived, plus one grandson whose grandfather had been killed. We were united only by the sinking of Intrepid and had all decided individually to attend the commemoration and remember the event and those who were lost. That was the spiritual bit.

    Leros is a small and beautiful island off the main tourist track. I got there by flying on a tourist flight to Rhodes and taking the Rhodes-Piraeus ferry which calls in at Leros, in itself an enjoyable 5 hour cruise. At Port Lakki, there is a rather beautiful memorial to Intrepid, and over the hill at Agia Marina, there is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery where a touching British service of remembrance was held. In Lakki, a larger service was conducted by the Greek Navy.

    By an astonishing coincidence, the Captain of Intrepid, Commander Charles Arthur de Winton Kitcat Royal Navy, who was severely wounded, was the godfather to my captain in HMS Revenge 35 years later. The coincidence is even greater. My captain's father had been Kitcat's Engineer Officer, and I was the Engineer Officer of Revenge. 

    One day, I hope to return to Leros.

    IMG_1535 2IMG_1648 2IMG_1635 2Leros Intrepid memorial by nightLeros Panteli harbourLeros Panteli village 2Leros from the castle



  3. On my way home from Cornwall, I decided to divert off the M6 Toll and visit the new Submariner Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield. I expected to find a cemetery sort of place with few people visiting. I could hardly have been more wrong: it is a very large estate; there were overflow carparks (pre-booking of parking advised); and the place was mobbed, mainly with middle-to-older aged gents wearing Royal British Legion blazers and badges, though it is not exclusively military.

    Another surprise was to find literally hundreds of middle-to-older aged motorcyclists, resplendent in their biker leathers which were universally covered in badges and mottos informing the world of which service they had once served-in. I had arrived on the day of the Royal British Legion Motorcycle Association annual remembrance service. It completely flipped my image of ton-up kids.

    Submariner Memorial 1

    The Submariner Memorial was wonderfully conceived and created, and told its own story without the need for explanation. It stood on a grass plinth at the back end of the Royal Navy field and gave the visual impression of a nuclear submarine surfacing through the grass. The fin is split and inside stands a lifesize statue of a submariner looking upwards, as if towards the surface. On one side of the fin is a memorial to the submariners' families and loved ones; on the other is the submariners' dolphin badge and  Churchill's famous tribute to the Submarine Service in World War 2.

    Submariner Memorial 4

    Whilst every memorial - many merely single trees - was moving, two gave me particular reason to pause for thought. One was in memory of the 346 British soldiers who were executed by firing squads from their own side. Though some were guilty of murder, many were shot for cowardice, what today would probably have been diagnosed as traumatic stress disorder. The memorial portrays a seventeen-year-old soldier, blindfolded, and tied to a stake, arms tied behind him. The statue is surrounded by a semicircle of stakes bearing the names of all who were thus executed. This memorial only became possible when, in 2006, the British Government posthumously pardoned all soldiers who had been executed. War is ugly in so many ways. Best to be avoided. (That's why I was happy to serve in our strategic nuclear deterrent).


    The other particularly moving memorial was the remembrance garden for stillborn babies. They never had a life.

    I spent three hours in the arboretum and left with three words in mind:





  4. As a member of the Helensburgh Writers Workshop, I was able to enter the first 15,000 words of my draft novel, 'Torpedoes Galore', in the Unpublished General Novel category of the Scottish Association of Writers annual competitions 2023. I was delighted to discover at the awards ceremony that it had won a  'Commended'.

    The book was inspired by Compton Mackenzie’s ‘Whisky Galore’ and ‘Rockets Galore’ (‘Local Hero’ is in similar genre) and it has been an ambition of mine to write it ever since I served as a young officer on the RN Torpedo Trials Unit, which went up to Kyle of Lochalsh to set up a torpedo testing range. It's only taken me fifty years to write!!

    My story satirises the impact of the Navy’s arrival on a remote West Highland community where it is opposed by anti-nuclear protesters, the kirk, and Scottish nationalists. The tale set out originlly to be a pure comedy and still is laced with humour, some of it black, but is now a drama.

    The Adjudicator told me that she thought my manuscript was brilliant but could not give it first prize as she did not like the title or my synopsis, which she thought suggested a Carry On film type sex romp, which it is not. Based on her critique, I have now changed the title to 'Unofficial Secrets' and re-written the synopsis. The book is now complete, so I am about to search for an agent or publisher. 

    Lindsay Drummond, a fellow member of Helensburgh Writers Workshop, was even more successful. She won First Prize and a trophy in the Young Adult Fiction section. She has a real future as a writer.

    Jim McKean, a new member of the Workshop, entered a Short Story where the competition was massive (over 50 entries) but unfortunately did not win a prize this time. For me, the SAW competitions are not about winning; they're about getting the critiques from professional writers, a unique benefit from SAW membership. Few other competitions provide such feedback; so, one never learns. 

    L-R Eric Thompson, Lindsay Drummond (with trophy), and Jim McKean

    IMG_0824   A