Hero soldier auctioning medals to provide ‘best opportunities’ for his children

·4-min read
Royal Marine Commando Sergeant Major John Thompson after receiving the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2007 (Steve Parsons/PA Wire)
Royal Marine Commando Sergeant Major John Thompson after receiving the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2007 (Steve Parsons/PA Wire)

One of the most decorated soldiers of the modern era is to auction off his medals to pay for his children’s futures.

Sergeant Major John Thompson has fought off enemy forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and has been repeatedly recognised for his bravery in combat and for saving the lives of his comrades.

The Royal Marine Commando now plans to sell all seven of his medals, including a rare Afghanistan 2007 Battle of the Sluice Gate Conspicuous Gallantry Cross (CGC) – an honour one level down from a Victoria Cross.

Auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb estimates their worth to be between £120,000 and £140,000.

The 43-year-old veteran, who now lives in Barnstaple said: “I’m a single parent of a six, eight and a 21-year-old and the money will enable me to provide the best opportunities for them as they grow up.

“Being a father is the most important role I’ve ever had, which I didn’t fully appreciate when I was running around Iraq and Afghanistan, and I’m doing this for them.

The medals belonging to Sgt Major John Thompson (left to right) the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross awarded in 2007; General Service medal, 1962-2007 – for service in Northern Ireland; Operational Service Medal 2000 – for service in Afghanistan; Iraq medal 2003-11; Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal; Accumulated Campaign Service Medal 2011; Royal Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.
The medals belonging to Sgt Major John Thompson (left to right) the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross awarded in 2007; General Service medal, 1962-2007 – for service in Northern Ireland; Operational Service Medal 2000 – for service in Afghanistan; Iraq medal 2003-11; Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal; Accumulated Campaign Service Medal 2011; Royal Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

“Initially when I thought about selling them I felt quite anxious but ultimately I’m quite content to sell them because I know they’ll stay in a cherished collection.

“At the end of the day, the greatest thing for me is not the medals, it is that my children know their daddy is a hero.”

Sgt Maj Thompson, who was born in Dunfermline, Fife, but has lived most of his life in Devon, joined the Royal Marines in 1998.

After training as a Heavy Weapons Anti Tanks operator he joined the 40 Commando Royal Marines and was deployed to Northern Ireland in 2000.

In 2003, he received a Mentioned in Despatches medal for exceptional gallantry after he rescued colleagues in his Delta Company who had become surrounded by enemy forces at Al Yahudia, Iraq.

The items, which include Thompson’s unpublished memoir, maps, photographs, paintings, letters and news clippings, go on sale on December 8.
The items, which include Thompson’s unpublished memoir, maps, photographs, paintings, letters and news clippings, go on sale on December 8.

He was then given the CGC after his entire company was ambushed by the Taliban in Habibollah Kalay, in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, in January 2007.

During the prolonged battle, when ammunition was running low, Sgt Maj Thompson stayed in the killing area and opened fire on five separate enemy points, making himself the focus of the shooting and allowing his team to dismount.

He suffered burst eardrums in the process due how close he was to the RPG and machine gun fire, but his “selfless and courageous actions” led the company to win the firefight.

Recalling the two actions, he said: “They were the greatest moments of exhilaration and extreme adrenaline that I will ever have.

“At the time you don’t think about what you’re doing you just do what needs to be done and put yourself in the hands of fate and destiny.

“When I was later stood in front of the Queen for the investiture I was just blown away in awe, so much so I didn’t hear what she said to me.

A print of Gordon Rushmore’s watercolour painting of Thompson entitled, ‘Corporal “Tommo” Thompson RM, CGC’ is also up for grabs in the auction.
A print of Gordon Rushmore’s watercolour painting of Thompson entitled, ‘Corporal “Tommo” Thompson RM, CGC’ is also up for grabs in the auction.

“Having grown up on a council estate in Plymstock where my mum often went without food to feed me, I just never believed I could achieve so much.

“Although I would say that although I have been awarded these medals, there are so many acts of gallantry by soldiers that go unawarded every day and I’m astounded by the courage that I see every day around me.”

Pierce Noonan, chief executive of Dix Noonan Webb, said: “Thompson is one of a very small band of soldiers of the modern era to have been formally recognised on more than one occasion for exceptional gallantry.

“During the course of his career he repeatedly placed himself in the thick of the action, bringing the fight to the enemy and saving the lives of his comrades on more than one occasion.

“John Thompson is the epitome of a Royal Marine Commando and his awards tell the story of his consistent and selfless bravery.”

The medals will go on sale on Wednesday December 8, along with a host of other items including Sgt Maj Thompson’s unpublished memoir, his pocket watch, maps, photographs of tours and investitures, letters of congratulations, and dedicated watercolour paintings by the artist Gordon Rushmer.

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