Cambridge District Scout Archive
Benjamin Robert Thompson was one of the original intake of Scouts into the 13th Cambridge in 1910. Born in December 1895 he was 14’6’’ on joining, one of the oldest of an old cohort. He became a 1st Class Scout and P/L of the Peewit’s.
Ben, if that is what his friends called him, joined the Cambridge Regiment in September 1914 and was serving in the 11th (Cambridge) Battalion Suffolk Regiment. This was a Service Battalion, one that was formed from the Territorial Forces that had agreed to waive the rule that they could not be obliged to serve abroad. Service Battalions provided Combat service support to a brigade group and its elements. They were able to fight in a defensive role. This rule was a pre-war regulation and changed later in the war. Clear distinctions about who served with which unit quickly became unclear; any time out for injury or illness resulted in a reposting to any unit in need of reenforcements. It is not known if Ben was in the Territorial Force.
Ben was a Drummer, a private soldier, distinct from a musician although drummers were also buglers. The role of Drummer was originally that of battlefield communication and they were often used a ceremonial roles in peacetime. During the war they became messengers, orderlies and, in Bens case, first aid and stretcher bearers. This last role was usually associated with musicians.
Ben died on August 4th 1916 aged 21
He is a rare example of a Military Medal (MM) amongst Cambridge Scouts, not that such marks of Gallantry are rare but rather less readily located in the records. The page on Gallantry Medals has a number of Military Cross (Officers) but only this one MM. The MC’s have largely been awarded to those who went on to some success in fields where records are kept; teaching in higher education, the Church or the Military. As a generalisation those located have noticeable names. Ben was located by a focus on the Cambridgeshire Regiment.
The funeral took place at Cambridge on Thursday of Drummer Benjamin Robert Thompson, Suffolk Regiment, who dies at Whalley Hospital Lancs. … from wounds received in action a month earlier. His conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty had gained for the gallant soldier the Military Medal.
He was engaged with a party of stretcher bearers in bringing in the wounded and spent some hours in ‘No man’s Land’ under heavy fire dressing the wounded who could not be moved He was badly wounded himself about 4.30 PM on Sunday as he was leaving the trenches to fetch more wounded. A shell fell immediately in front of him, wounding also Cpl Billings. Drummer Thompson’s wounds were severe and necessitated amputation of one of the legs.
The family monument at Mill Road Cemetery lacks a headpiece. Mill Road Cemetery records list him as being injured at La Boiselle. La Boisselle (1- 6 July 1916) was the name given by the British to the first two weeks of the Battle of the Somme (1- 6 July 1916).
The Vicar of St Philip’s was among the officiating clergy; his brother Walter, also a Scout, among the mourners.
- Structure/ District/ Early Establishment Support/ Scouts: Military Gallantry Medals
- Local History/ WW1 WW2/ Rolls of Honour
- Local History/ WW1 WW2/ Cambridgeshire Regiment and the Scouts
His name will be forwarded to the Gilwell Rolls of Honour.
JWR Archivist Feb 2020