5880 Driver Mervyn James Willis Thomson – New Zealand Army Service Corps

Mervyn James Willis Thomson was born in Milton on the 15th June 1908 the only son in a family of five born to
Martha Lucy and Charles James Henry Thomson.[i]

Mervyn married Helen Ramsay Blankie in 1928 they had two children, Myra Helen and James Willis Thomson. The couple separated in the early 1930’s and eventually divorced in 1935.

Mervyn moved to Titahi Bay in the 1930’s and in 1938 was appointed as the first secretary of the newly formed Titahi Bay Surf Life Saving Club.[ii]

In 1939 Mervyn married his second wife, Irene Doris Rodmell and became the stepfather to Shirley.  On the 1st September 1939 New Zealand declared war on Germany at the start of World War Two. Mervyn James Willis Thomson volunteered
on the 15th September 1939 for service with the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF).[iii]

On enlistment Mervyn is listed as a married man, with three children, living at Johns Street, Titahi Bay. Mervyn was employed as a medical attendant at Porirua Mental Hospital. He entered Trentham Military Camp on the 19th October 1939 as 5880 Private Mervyn James Willis Thomson, No 2 General Hospital, New Zealand Medical Corps, 2nd T U
(Transport Unit?)

Private Thomson left for Egypt on the 5th January 1940 arriving there on the 12th February 1940. On arrival in Egypt
Private Thomson was attached first to NZ Divisional HQ, in March 1940, to the 4th Indian Division, probably as a medical resource. In June 1940 Private Thomson returned to NZ Divisional HQ and was transferred to the New Zealand Army Service Corp (NZASC) where he was given the rank of Driver.

On the 15th September 1940 war in the desert began with Italian forces invading Egypt. New Zealand forces did not become involved in the fighting until November 1940 and at this stage Driver Thomson had returned to New Zealand.
On the 21st October 1940 he had been attached as a medical escort with the temporary rank of Sergeant[iv] bringing mentally ill 2NZEF personnel back to New Zealand.
Sergeant Thomson remained in New Zealand for six months leaving on the 7th April 1941 on HMT 25 (His Majesty’s Transport 25) with the 5th Reinforcements arriving back in Egypt on the 17th May 1941. Sergeant Thomson reverted to Driver Thomson on arrival in Egypt and rejoined NZ Divisional HQ. Driver Thomson's military file indicates that he was FAP (Feild Aid Post.)

On the 11th November 1941 the 2nd NZ Division moved up close to the Egypt / Libya in support of the British Operation
Crusader with the aim the operation was to lift the Axis  Siege of Trobruk. The 2nd NZ Division crossed the Libyan
border on the 18th November 1941 and on the 26th
November 1941 linked up with the Trobruk garrison.
The 4th Brigade captured Belhamed and the 6th Brigade
Sidi Rezegh.

The Axis forces, which included armoured tank divisions
from Rommel’s Afrika Korp launched a series of attacks
from the 29th November 1941 on the New Zealand
positions at  Sidi Rezegh and Belhamed. On the 1st
December 1941 the 15th Panzer Division attacked
Belhamed supported by massed artillery. The 20th
Battalion was overrun and 6th Brigade was forced to
withdraw from Belhamed.

It was during this fighting that Driver Thomson was killed
on the 1st December 1941 ‘from multiple gun shots.’[v]

German Armour pursuing the NZ 6th Brigade near Belhamed 1st December 1941

5880 Driver Mervyn James Willis Thomson is buried in the Knightsbridge (Acroma) Cemetery.

Grave of Driver M J W Thomson - Knightsbridge (Acroma)

In Memoriums
1st December 1942

(Insert photo of grave)
(Insert In Memorium )
his family placed in memorium[vi]

The 2nd New Zealand Division Battalion in Operation Crusader suffered 880 dead, 1,699 wounded and 2,042 captured. It was withdrawn on the 3rd December 1941 to Egypt for reequipping and reinforcements.

NZ Defence Archives, Military File : 5880 Driver Mervyn James Willis Thomson
Battle for Point 175 Wikipedia
Early Battles of the 8th Army
Paperspast Online
NZ BDM Online

German attack on 6th Brigade 1st December 1941 – Alexander Turnbull Library
Grave of Driver Thomson: New Zealand War Graves Project
4th Advanced Dressing  Station outside of Belhamed November 1941 - Alexander Turnbull Library

[i] NZ BDM
[ii] NZ Defence Department Military Files – letter from Titahi Bay requesting information
[iii]  NZ Defence Archives Military Files: 5880 Driver Mervyn James Willis Thomson
[iv]  NZ Defence Archives Military Files :5880 Driver Mervyn James Willis Thomson
[v]  Family history Thomson – www.Geni.com
[vi] In Memorium, 1 December 1942, Christchurch Press   
4th Advanced  Dressing  Station outside of Belhamed November 1941