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In the Line of Duty - Constable James Warrender Thomson KPM – Metropolitan Police by Peter Kennison

Police constable Thomson wt. no. 112399 aged 37 years was originally from Wemyss in Fife Scotland where he had been employed as a miner at East Wemyss. He lived at 37 Mays Lane, Barnet with his wife and three children – he had 15 years police service. On 7th September 1935 he was on duty as part of a contingent of police sent to the ancient gathering on Barnet Hill called the Barnet Fair. The Barnet Fair had often presented challenging problems for police due to the large crowds, pickpockets and transport difficulties. Tragically Thomson was killed trying to clear a crowd from the path of an out of control lorry emerging out of the fair late on Saturday night. There were three other fatalities all from the same family together with four people who were injured and taken to hospital.

The accident happened when the lorry, heavily laden with cement bags, was about to pass a stationary tramcar just as a motor car drew out from an open space. A collision occurred and the lorry mounted the footpath, which was crowded with people. The lorry regained the roadway, but as it did so there was a second collision with a small car. When the lorry re- mounted the pavement its load of cement bags was flung into the roadway.

Police constable Thomson wt. no. 112399 aged 37 years was originally from Wemyss in Fife Scotland where he grew up. He lived at 37 Mays Lane, Barnet with his wife and three children – he had 15 years police service. On 7th September 1935 he was on duty as part of a contingent of police sent to the ancient gathering on Barnet Hill called the Barnet Fair. The Barnet Fair had often presented challenging problems for police due to the large crowds, pickpockets and transport difficulties. Tragically Thomson was killed trying to clear a crowd from the path of an out of control lorry emerging out of the fair late on Saturday night. There were three other fatalities all from the same family together with four people who were injured and taken to hospital.

The accident happened when the lorry, heavily laden with cement bags, was about to pass a stationary tramcar just as a motor car drew out from an open space. A collision occurred and the lorry mounted the footpath, which was crowded with people. The lorry regained the roadway, but as it did so there was a second collision with a small car. When the lorry re- mounted the pavement its load of cement bags was flung into the roadway. Police constable Thompson, who was directing traffic nearby, saw the danger. He rushed to the footpath, and flinging out his arms, pressed the crowd back from the path of the lorry. Many people were saved from death or injury by the policeman’s action. He himself was struck down and received multiple injuries, and was rushed to hospital. Mr and Mrs Hudgell, of Campsbourne Road, Hornsey, and their 10 years old daughter Jean died as a result of the accident. Four other persons were injured. Thomson won the Kings Police Medal for gallantry posthumously in 1936 and the medal was received from the Prince of Wales by Mrs Thompson.[i] One of his six brothers was also in the London Metropolitan Police and a sister was a nurse in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. The inquest on the four victims took place on Friday 13th September 1935 there the Coroner, Mr T Ottaway, spoke of the heroism of Constable Thomson, who was killed when trying to save others from the path of the lorry. The lorry driver sent for trial in October 1935 of the alleged manslaughter of four people and convicted on 14th November 1935.[ii]

His case led to the establishment of the Roll of Honour in Back Hall of Scotland Yard.


[i] The Times 9th September 1935 and Kennison. P. Swinden D. and Moss. A. (2014) Discovering More behind the Blue lamp p90-91 [ii] http://www.hudgill.com/William%20Arthur%20Hudgell%20-Barnet%20Hill/Four%20killed%20Sept%209%201935.htm accessed on 13th May 2018

Kings Police Medal for Gallantry

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