We have created this page in remembrance of our friend, Andy Thompson, who died suddenly on 7 May 2022.
We welcome any contributions in the form of your memories or photos of Andy sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and they can be added to this page
Andy was an extraordinary personality – an outstanding balance of warmth, immense energy, great knowledge and the ability to share his knowledge clearly and effectively, at the same time as he encouraged enquiry and enabled others to share their own knowledge. A truly charismatic personality, with a real interest in those around him as well as the significance of the information that he shared with his audience. This might be schoolchildren or adults, with military or literary interests, all of them drawn in by his explanations and ability to work well with specialist contributors on any trip, at any relevant site.
I first encountered him at the Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge, very clearly a schoolmaster telling his teenage pupils why this place was important and what they should understand about the site and the men who fought there. As they scattered to investigate the site, he and I started talking and I understood at once what an able, energetic and far-sighted teacher he was.
That early encounter was a tremendous bit of good luck for me, for he immediately took a historian’s interest in my own reasons for being there that day – and despite the complexity and demands of his work as teacher and head-teacher at large school, he was quick to pick up on the particular interests of literary societies in relation to the First World War. More than once over several years I had the good fortune to see him helping a somewhat reluctant battlefield visitor to understand what happened there, who was involved and why the site was significant, creating an enduring interest in the site for the modern traveller.
It was lucky timing in other ways too, for at the time it was not easy to follow in the footsteps of poets of the First World War – some, such as Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Edmund Blunden, were well known for their memoirs and poems relating to their war experience, but many more figures were much less well-known at that time – the early 1990s – than they are now. That includes writers such as Isaac Rosenberg or Edward Thomas, both killed in the war, or survivors like David Jones; Andy’s help was invaluable in designing and managing tours when today’s poets could visit sites linked to their literary forebears.
Andy became a good and much-valued friend, a fine blend of practical knowledge with a true gift in sharing it. And always on a tour, he emphasised the individual contribution in each case, alongside their specific experience of their war. This attitude and understanding were applied to famous figures and otherwise unnoticed individuals alike, a visitor’s forebear, or a nameless grave: small and large-scale events balanced and interpreted together.
His approach and skills in guiding were striking and truly impressive; and I observed many times how this literary angle became a valuable part of his tours across the landscapes of war. His presentation and individual understanding were a tremendous gift to very many people, including literary scholars of the period who found great rewards and further understanding in exploring battlefields with him.
His teaching experience was constantly visible, in the patient organising and listening alongside the set-piece explanations; a warm and resonant voice brought instant attention, inside a coach or across an old battlefield – and he was particularly skilled at knowing how to pitch a joke, a literary extract or piece of unexpected information. He will be very greatly missed.
(Chair of the Wilfred Owen Association, 1993-2002)