A Fife war hero described as “one of the most decorated soldiers of the modern era” has sold his collection of medals for £150,000 to help buy a house for himself and his children.
Sergeant Major John “Tommo” Thompson, of 42 Commando, Royal Marines, won the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross (C.G.C.) for selfless bravery during the “Battle of the Sluice Gate” in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2007.
The single dad-of-three had already been Mentioned in Despatches for the rescue of his Delta Company colleagues during a lethal engagement in Iraq in 2003.
His outstanding and excessively rare “double gallantry” group of seven medals was sold in Dix Noonan Webb’s Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria sale.
‘A stable life’
Dunfermline-born Thompson, 43, said he will use the proceeds to buy a home to help “secure a stable” life for his children.
He said: “It was a hard decision to sell these medals but I’m a great believer in living in the moment. That was before and this is now and actually the greatest challenge in my life is being a good parent.
“I’m a single parent of three children aged six, eight and 21, and I need to be able to create the best opportunities for them as they grow up.
“I am so thankful that I won these medals, that I have this opportunity to put a deposit down on a house and secure a stable life for my children.”
‘Selfless and courageous actions’
Thompson was awarded the C.G.C. for a display of bravery that led to the defeat of an overwhelming number of Taliban during an ambush and intense prolonged firefight at Habibollah Kalay, Helmand, on January 10 2007.
Pinned down under fire deep in Taliban territory, he engaged five separate enemy firing points.
His actions allowed the company to dismount their vehicles while he became the focus of “withering and accurate fire”.
Suffering burst eardrums from the proximity of rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and machine gun fire, and with his vehicle hit by numerous enemy rounds, he continued to engage the enemy despite the obvious personal dangers.
Running low on ammunition, and “without any regard whatsoever for his own safety”, he stayed in the killing area, engaging the enemy at only 50 metres.
It was later recorded that “his utterly selfless and courageous actions allowed the company to win the firefight”.
Pierce Noonan, CEO of Dix Noonan Webb, said: “Thompson is one of a very small band of soldiers of the modern era to have been formally recognised on more than one occasion for exceptional gallantry.
“During the course of his career he repeatedly placed himself in the thick of the action, bringing the fight to the enemy and saving the lives of his comrades on more than one occasion.”
Thomson claims proud Scottish roots, though he currently lives in Barnstaple, Devon.
He joined the Royal Marines in 1998.
Trained as a heavy weapons anti-tanks operator, he joined 40 Commando Royal Marines and deployed to Northern Ireland in 2000.
Act of bravery
The citation for Thompson’s C.G.C. states: “This contact was the fiercest the company had endured during the six-month tour.
“That mission success was achieved and no friendly casualties were sustained was attributable to the fortitude, bravery and level-headedness of Thompson in the face of overwhelming enemy fire.
“He displayed gallantry, determination, outstanding professionalism and exceptional leadership skills far beyond anything expected or imagined throughout the entire operation.
“This particular act of bravery led to the defeat of an overwhelming number of Taliban and was executed without any thought for his own safety.”
Thompson’s courage under enemy fire had previously been recognised in the early days of the Iraq War, after his 40 Commando Delta Company was ambushed near El Yahudiyeh on March 30 2003.
His decisive action and willingness to expose himself to considerable danger under incoming fire – despite having already been stunned by an enemy RPG – disrupted the attack, regained the initiative and almost certainly saved the lives of a number of his team.
Conspicuous Gallantry Cross
The Conspicuous Gallantry Cross was instituted as a result of the 1993 review of the British honours system and is second in seniority only to the Victoria Cross.
The C.G.C. was awarded for the first time as a result of the Bosnian War in 1995 and to date 61 such awards have been made.
The medals in the group comprised the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross (C.G.C.); General Service 1962-2007, Northern Ireland; Operational Service Medal 2000, for Afghanistan; Iraq 2003-11 with M.I.D. oak leaf; Jubilee 2012; Accumulated Campaign Service Medal 2011; Royal Navy L.S & G.C.