In 1941, at the controls of a Blenheim bomber (see HERE) he made a forced landing near Aveiro... just a small detail in his life.
A test pilot during and after the war, John "Tommy" Thompson flew everything there was, and latter, with his feet on the ground, followed the stories of his aircraft in various publications that have the classics as their central theme.
It was in one of those magazines that he found a small notice: a Portuguese journalist looking for veterans of the RAF who had been in Portugal during World War II ...
Tommy was one of the largest contributors to the "Landing in Portugal!" book... He told me of his experience, but also researched, searched and shared everything he found over several years.
Later, while I was writing my book, he answered many questions and tied up a lot of loose ends.
In November 2008, during the release of the book, I managed to get Tommy to return to Portugal - (a big thank you to the publisher Gabriela Fernandes).
Hardly had he arrived at Lisbon airport, he was questioned by journalists from the Portuguese Newspaper “Correio da Manhã”. They wanted to know if he had seen the book and what he thought of it ...
Tommy was ready with the answer: "I've seen it... It has no crossword puzzles, or sex, so it should not be much."
We went to Aveiro... The army opened the doors nicely and made us welcome at the Base S. Jacinto. The place where Tommy had been taken after the forced landing.
We spent time at the Air Museum in Alverca, where he rediscovered a Spitfire, he had flown as a test pilot - somewhere I have video footage of that visit, I will have to look for it.
He presented the book and signed copies.
I also know he was really surprised, and cherished a lot, the wings that the Portuguse Air Force (FAP) officially offered him… “None of my friends has one of this to wear on his suit”.
There was still time for a trip to the Alentejo, where he admired the cork trees and was a star on a modelist show.
He returned tired, but satisfied.
We would never see each other again.
We arranged a meeting in London... but a small car accident prevented him from appearing.
Last year he invited me to his 90th birthday party... I could not go. How I regret it.
Two Spitfires did a magnificent flying display over his house during the celebration. He wrote me saying he had been in tears.
Although he did not told me, he was already sick...
A few weeks ago I sent him a book with photographs of the Portuguese Naval Aviation. It had pictures of S. Jacinto base in the 40's and of the Junkers aircraft he remembered having seen there...
It was a surprise. He usually reacted quickly to surprises, but this time said nothing.
I waited and ended up becoming insistent, sending more and more e-mails.
Finally a family member told me that Tommy was hospitalized, in palliative care with Prostate cancer and would not return home...
They did a search through the house and found the book of photographs, still in the envelope - It arrived on the day he had been hospitalized...
His son took it to the hospital where Tommy asked a last favour of me. He wanted me to translate the caption of a picture:
"BRISTOL BLENHEIM IV-F"
Aircraft Bi-engined monoplane, three seater, used in The Beginning of WWII fighter-bomber of the coastal attack. British made, 16 Were transferred to the Naval Aviation under the British-Portuguese That agreement allowed the use of the Azores base (to the allied). These Were the aircraft under control That HAD ship more firepower..."
It had to be the Blenheim ...
I know that the books "The Naval Aviation" and the "Landing in Portugal!" were kept in his room in the hospital and were frequently a topic of conversation.
They were part of his history, his memories, his world ... and a little bit of mine.
On Tuesday he left for his last flight ...
Tommy's son did not fail to notice that his death was exactly 115 years after the birth of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart ...
Always these links to the world of airplanes.
Thanks for allowing me to fly with you in some moments…
Keep on Flying, Tommy