Arthur Thompson

Arthur Thompson was a former Manchester FC player who served in the Northumberland Fusiliers. He was killed in 1916, during the Somme Offensive.

Thompson was from Hexham, Northumbria. He only played for Manchester for a few months, moving to the city in March 1914, having “received a new business” leaving behind his Gosforth Nomads teammates behind. The business in question was at Salford Hospital, where he took up the job of assistant secretary.

Within a week of moving, Thompson was a Manchester FC player, making his winning debut against Liverpool Old Boys at scrum half, despite carrying an old shoulder injury into his new life in Lancashire.

Once fully fit, he found devastating form. Back in the three-quarter line, his traditional stomping ground, Thompson scored seven tries (including a hat-trick against local rivals Sale), and maintained his place in the Northumberland county team.

The Newcastle Journal enviously kept tabs on Thompson, noting his improvement with his new side. “He has a tremendous capacity for work, and possessing speed and weight, he can, if the opportunities are forthcoming, open out an attack finely.”

Thompson crossed twice in Manchester’s final game before the war; a defeat to Old Leysians.

Upon the outbreak of war Thompson returned to Newcastle to enlist with a Northumberland Fusiliers Pals Brigade – the Tyneside Irish. Thompson clearly loved rugby – his lightning quick move to Manchester FC is a case in point – and in the services he was back on the wing for the Irish’s XV, starting against the Newcastle Commercials in January 1915, and scoring against a St. John’s Ambulance team the following month.

The Northumberland Fusiliers participated in the Somme Offensive, from day one. Thompson, now a captain, made it through the infamous slaughter of the opening morning, but was killed the next day. He was 21.

His two brothers were also both wounded at the Somme, but survived. The youngest, Wilfrid, was awarded the Military Cross for his actions at Albert, becoming the first of the Tyneside Irish to receive such an honour.

Newcastle Journal
World Rugby Museum

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