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Fireman & Trimmer Benjamin Thomson - The Fireman Footballer
19/01/2024
Second World War Merchant Navy United Kingdom Pre-war sportsman/woman
By Alexander Marchi

United Kingdom

Fireman And Trimmer Benjamin Thomson
2364257
View record on CWGC
Benjamin Thomson on the pitch for Kilmarnock (Mitchell's - Scottish Football Snaps)

Benjamin Thomson was born on the 8th of June 1913 to John and Janet Thomson of Saltcoats, Ayrshire, Scotland. 

Growing up “Benny” was immediately considered a promising athlete and footballer, starting out at the age of 17 as a junior footballer with Kilwinning Rangers in 1930.

Less than 4 years later, in 1934, he was soon considered good enough to make a move to the local First Division club, Kilmarnock FC, the oldest professional club in Scotland. His Scottish League debut took place in January 1935 at Kilmarnock’s home ground of Rugby Park in a 0-0 draw against Airdrie.

During this time, he gained a reputation for being extremely skilful, showcasing a keen sense of position and managing to score numerous goals from the position of “winger.”

Cigarette card biogrpahy of Benjamin Thomson (Mitchell's - Scottish Football Snaps)

Thomson's prowess as a goal-scorer emerged in the 1935-36 season, where he netted 11 goals in Killie's campaign, a feat he repeated in 1936-37. The pinnacle of his goal-scoring success occurred in the following season when he scored an impressive 20 goals for Kilmarnock, achieving two goals in a game on five different occasions.

Perhaps the highlight of his footballing career was during the 1938 Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park, Glasow. Thomson played a pivotal role by scoring twice in Kilmarnock's famous 4-3 victory over Rangers FC.

He went on to play a big role in the infamous Scottish Cup Final against East Fife later that month. East Fife at the time were in the Second Division, one division below Kilmarnock. 

The first match ended in a 1-1 draw, the replay game was watched by a crowd of almost 92,000 spectators. 

During the replay game Thomson levelled Danny McKerrell's opener for The Fifers with a penalty. Unfortunately for Benny Thomason and his Kilmarnock team, they ended up losing 4-2 after extra time, marking East Fife's sole Scottish Cup triumph.

By the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Thomson had made 160 appearances and scored 51 goals for Killie, and he was married to Catherine Thomson, of Saltcoats, Ayrshire. 

During the war he served as a fireman and trimmer in the Merchant Navy. He was posted aboard the SS Balmore, a 1,935-ton cargo steamer. 

On the 12th of November 1940 Benny Thomson lost his life along with 26 other crew members after the steamer sunk after an air attack, in position 52N-17W, while on passage from Huelva for Glasgow with 2800 tons of pyrites and cork.

He is remembered and commemorated on the CWGC’s Tower Hill Memorial in London as well as by Kilmarnock Football Club in their World War memorial garden outside Rugby Park. 

The Tower Hill Memorial where Benny is commemorated.
Benny's name on one of the Tower Hill Memorial's many panels.