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Robert Jensen THOMSON MID

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
ER Sgt 10543 19y7m 3 Dec 1915 22 Jan 1920 1

Lieutenant Robert 'Jensen' Thomson (1869 - 1943)


Lieutenant R. J. Thomson’s name is on one of the honour boards unveiled by Rev John Robb at Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in October 1915.  Robert Jensen Thomson and two of his brothers John (also listed on the honour boards) and Richard were booksellers in Brisbane and when the Great War of 1914-1918 broke out.  R. J. Thomson paid his passage to England and enlisted with the Fifth Worcestershire Regiment.  A veteran of the Boer War, R. J. Thomson lived an adventurous life in many parts of the world – soldier in Mesopotamia, businessman in Brisbane, wheelwright in Lancashire, pioneer settler in New South Wales, tin miner in Africa and a farmer in Wagga Wagga where he died aged 74.

Early life

Robert Jensen Thomson was born in Liverpool, England on 4 November 1869, the youngest in the family of twelve children of William Thomson (1821 – 1874) and Jane née Rae (1828 – 1906).  His father was a bookseller in Lancashire where Jensen (known as Jense in his youth) learned the trade of wheelwright and coachbuilder.  The Thomson family had booked their passages for Australia but just days before the date for sailing, Mr William Thomson became ill and died.  However, Mrs Thomson and her children immigrated and lived at first in Victoria where Mrs Jane Thomson died in 1906 at Beechworth.  R. J. Thompson was to be found in Coolgardie, Western Australia in the late 1890s working as a newspaper editor.

Enlistment in the Boer War

He voluntarily enlisted to serve in the 1st Queensland Defence Force Contingent in the Boer War in South Africa in 1899.  He was discharged on arrival in Brisbane on 7 February 1901, having returned with the Queensland Mounted Infantry on the ship Orient.


One of Jensen Thomson’s sisters, Mary Agnes, after marrying Captain W. H. Lyons in Liverpool before the Thomson family came to Victoria, later settled in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales.  They took up the holding which became known as Sackville, Forest Hill.  Jensen Thomson who was then a young man in his early twenties, assisted Captain Lyons to settle on his Sackville property, helping to excavate the first dam at Forest Hill and to build the first line of fencing on Sackville.  

He next moved to Brisbane and assisted his brothers in their bookselling ventures there while residing in Montague Road, South Brisbane.

Enlistment in the 5th Worcesters

When the First World War commenced in 1914, he went to England and enlisted in the 5th Worcesters with whom he fought in France, Mesopotamia and India.  

Post war

On retirement from the British army, he went to Nigeria and engaged in tin mining for about ten years before returning to Sackville where he spent most of his time for the rest of his life.

One of Jensen Thomson’s unforgettable experiences was on the occasion he rounded Cape Horn in a 500 ton barque commanded by another brother, Captain Maitland Thomson.  R. J. Thomson signed on as ship’s carpenter.  He often declared that it was a trip he would not take on again for thousands of pounds.

Jensen Thomson retained the title Lieutenant and became well known and liked in the Wagga community. Those who met Lieutenant Thomson were charmed by his lack of affectation and were also greatly attracted by his quiet recital of the many experiences of his life.

He was also noted for his fine shooting ability and held many trophies of big game taken with his gun in other parts of the world.  One tribute said: 

“He loved a day in the field quail shooting and those who enjoyed the privilege of shooting with him found him not only a good shot but a fine companion.”1

Lieutenant Thomson died on 8 September 1943. His funeral service was held in St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Wagga.  The casket which was draped with the Union Jack was interred in the Presbyterian portion of the Wagga cemetery.

1. Daily Advertiser, 10 September 1943, page 2

• National Archives of Australia, Boer War military records
• Australian Electoral Rolls, 1912 – 1943
• Ancestry, on line
The West Australian, 1 January 1901, page 3 
Daily Advertiser, Wagga Wagga, Wednesday 1 May 1940, page 2;  10 September 1943, page 2;  11 September 1943, page 4
• England & Wales Civil Registration Birth Index 1837 – 1915, Oct Nov Dec 1869

Written by N. E. Adsett, Brisbane.  May 2017 ©



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