Frederick William Thompson (1865 - 1924)


The following account of the life of a one-time resident of Calstock has been very kindly submittted by his grand-daughter, to whom any queries should be directed.

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Mr. Thompson lived in many locations in the British Isles, but retired to Calstock in the 1920s.


Online Census Project

Cornwall Family History Society

Tamar Valley A.O.N.B

Cornwall / Calstock


My paternal grandfather Frederick William THOMPSON was born in 1865 in Dundalk, Ireland, the first son but second child of William Frederick THOMPSON.  His father was so named throughout his Coastguard career (born Richard RASPISON and later known as Charles Alfred RASPISON - the complexities of his surnames recur in some of his children and grandchildren!), and was later a Chief Coastguard Officer.

In the 1881 Census Frederick THOMPSON was a 2nd Class Boy from HMS Impregnable, staying with a family called DEAN (father was a smith in HM Dockyard, Devonport, and grandfather a superannuated Leadingman of shipwrights) at a house in Gloucester Street, Stoke Damerel, Plymouth with another lad of the same age.  It is possible that through this friend he met his future wife for she had cousins, with whom she was in regular contact, who lived nearby.

His elder sister (born Dundalk in 1863) was nearby as a general servant to a retired Chief Paymaster RN at Osborn Villas - and Mary Anne was then using the surname RASPISON.

In early 1890 he married Mary Gertrude GAWDEN of Torpoint, the eldest daughter of Thomas GAWDEN (1839 -1922), a RN gunnery instructor who was awarded the Baltic Medal.  As her husband would still have been at sea she remained at Torpoint and I believe her first two children were born there (although the later ones might have been born in Gravesend and then elsewhere once he was in the Coastguards):

  1. Bertram Gordon Raspision THOMPSON (the Registrar mis-spelt both his middle names as they should have been Gawden and Raspison!) born 15.12.1890 (my father) who, after an apprenticeship in Devonport Dockyard, became an Admiralty draughtsman; he narrowly escaped from being on the last, ill-fated, trip of the submarine HMS Thetis in the upper 1930s, and in 1951 he took a model of the Royal Yacht Britannia to Buckingham Palace to discuss it with King George VI.

  2. Hilda Mary THOMPSON, born 30.9.1892 - when she was married to Edward Borrowdale she used the surname RASPISON-THOMPSON (she wasn't going to be thought of as a nobody!).  She nursed a Leeds constituency during World War 2 when the sitting MP was on active service, and was a great personality.

  3. Walter Frederick THOMPSON, born 14.7.1894 but died aged 2 years.

  4. Gertrude ("Girlie") THOMPSON, born 19.2.1896, died of TB at Calstock Cornwall 1.8.1921.

  5. (Olive) Gladys THOMPSON, born 30.12.1898 at Havens Hole, Canvey Island, she was engaged to James HYSLOP of Torpoint but died of TB at Robin Hood/s Bay 3.11.1917.

  6. (Edith) Nellie THOMPSON, born 13.9.1904, died of TB at Calstock 7.5.1923.

Click to enlarge
Frederick William, his wife Mary Gertrude and 3 of their daughters
(from left: "Girlie", Nellie and Hilda Mary)
photographed in 1920
Click to enlarge.

Thus the three younger sisters all died round 20.  On enquiring from cousin Harold CRADICK what they were like his reply was that they were all like their elder sister, Hilda Mary, and the world wasn't big enough for more than one of them!

In 1893 (presumably about the time he left the Navy as he would by then have served for 12 years), he travelled from Torpoint to Gravesend and around 1895 he still seems to have been in Gravesend (where his RASPISON family lived), as I have a Gravesend photograph of him and his wife and first two children taken there.  Was there a Coastguard training establishment there, or did he actually start as a Coastguard rating in the Coastguard station there?  Son Bertram thereafter stayed with his GAWDEN family in Torpoint to be educated, and the daughters went with his wife to the Coastguard stations once he went into that Service.  In 1896 he still seems to have been in Gravesend.

He moved from Gravesend 20.10.1898 to be stationed at Canvey Island, and on 17.3.1900 he moved to the Isle of Grain. He broke a leg in 12.1903 falling off the sea wall whilst patrolling there at night, was discharged from hospital 19.2.1904 and then had 3 weeks sick leave.

He was at Bridlington in 26.7.1910 (presumably by then he would have been a Chief Boatman because he soon after became a Chief Coastguard Officer) when he signed the death certificate for his father (who was by then known as C.A.RASPISON); he signed as "F.W.RASPISON, son, Coastguard Station, Bridlington".  I was told by my father that his father then opened the Coastguard Station at Filey, although that is not mentioned in the surviving extracts from the family diary.

On 22.12.1911 he was promoted to "C.B.C." (presumably Chief Boatman Coastguards) or "C.B.O." (the writing in the extracts from the family diary is here unclear) backdated to 15.12.1911 and appointed to Robin Hood's Bay.  He took up that appointment on 26.1.1912 and remained there for nearly 8 years (a surprisingly long time at one station, even taking World War One into account). I am not sure when he became a Chief Coastguard Officer, but he is so described in Dalton's "1914 Guide to Robin Hood's Bay", when he was also in charge of the Sea Scouts. As Chief Coastguard Officer he lived in the house attached to the Coastguard Station, although that house is now almost unrecognisable due to some unfortunate subsequent alterations to the building.  In July 1919 he was involved in an attempt to aid the Cap Palos which had run aground at Ness Point (ref: Lidster's "Robin Hood's Bay as it Was").  He is shown in a photograph of the Lifeboat Day procession in Fig 21 of that book, behind the White Ensign standard bearer, but the photograph is unfortunately undated.  I have his sword although it might originally have been his father1s (i.e. my great grandfather's).

It seems that there was no Freemasonry Lodge in Robin Hood's Bay for I have the certificate dated 26.3.1917 confirming his 18.12.1916 Initiation into Lion Lodge No.312, Whitby, Yorks.

Having found that the National Trust had purchased the Old Coastguard station at Robin Hood's Bay, I visited it in 9.2002, and later in 2002 I gave enlargements of a few photographs of my grandfather to the National Trust there, who from their acknowledgment letter, were delighted to receive them and planned to put them on display.

(Webmaster's Note:  A photograph showing Chief Officer Thompson, plus a description of an attempted rescue, can be found here.)

He was posted to New Quay, Wales, on 7.12.1919. That was his final appointment as he then retired to Calstock on the Cornish side of the Tamar, north of Plymouth.

He is recorded as becoming a joining member of Cotehele Lodge in Calstock No.2166 on 8.2.1921 and, as a very regular attendee; he was elected Tyler of the Lodge in 3.1922 and was so appointed in 4.1922, serving the Lodge thereafter "until his death in 10.1922" according the Lodge Secretary in 12.2002.  However either "1922" is a typing error for "1924" or he ceased attending in 10.1922 on account of ill-health and this is incorrectly recorded in the Lodge books.

I have not yet obtained dates for his political activities, and only in Jan 2003 did I become aware of them; when he died he was, according to the accounts of his burial service in the East Cornwall Times of 24.10.1924, Cornish and, in the Devon Post of 25.10.1924, the Chairman of the "local" Conservative Association.

He suffered from diabetes, was taken to the Naval Hospital 26.9.1924, died 11.10.1924 and was buried at Calstock 15.10.1924. I remember seeing as a child a newspaper cutting of his full ceremonial Freemason funeral - this cutting was in his Freemason carrier pouch, but over the years has disappeared.  I obtained the two above accounts (presumably one is the account I saw as a child) from the Newspaper Library in Colindale, West London.  According to these newspaper reports (which are all but identical) the funeral service was held in Calstock churchyard, the Rev.C.W.Rowland, Rector of Calstock, officiating. The family mourners were:
"Mr.B.G.Thompson, son" - Mr.B.G.R.THOMPSON, my father
"Mr.H.Cradick, nephew" - Mr. Harold CRADICK, son of his sister Anne
"Mr.C.Brooks, nephew" - Mr. Charles BROOKS, husband of Harold's sister Maud
"Mr.C.Cowburn, brother-in-law" - possibly the husband of his sister who stayed in Ireland
"Mr.H.Davis, brother-in-law" - Mr. Harry DAVEY/DAVIS, his wife's half-brother.

It is reported that "W.Bros. W.Spry W.M., and W.Billing G.M. impressively rendered the Masonic oration", although the Lodge number is reported as 2161 not 2166.

The following acted as pall bearers: "W.Bro. Spry W.M., W.Bro. W.Billing P.M." (the two papers list him a one place and G.M. in the other, but in reversed places!), "and W.Bros. Cann, Holden and Gibson".  The following "W.Bros." also attended but apparently were not pall bearers (although the listing is none too clear on this): "G.Hele, Hill, Steele, Lock, Hambly, Bowden, Kellow, Mulhallen and Hele Jun.  Messrs Mulhallen and W.Hutten" represented the local Conservative Association.

His widow, who had been deaf for many years as the result of an accident, returned to Torpoint, sharing the house with her unmarried sister Ellen Ann Sloman GAWDEN and widower brother-in-law Charles AYRES. She died 20.12.1946.

Dorothea Elspeth Gordon BAILLIE
Feb 2003




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