See how tiny French village kept up moving tradition of paying tribute to Sunderland WW2 hero 82 years on from his death

A tiny French community has kept up its moving tradition of paying tribute to a Sunderland hero.

Monday, 23rd May 2022, 3:52 pm

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Every year, Fosseux holds a ceremony to remember Private William ‘Willie’ Thomson who was wounded by machine gun fire on May 21, 1940, and died soon afterwards in the village.

Village resident Regine Verguier was determined to ensure that Willie was honoured once again this year.

The ceremony to honour Private William Thomson.

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Despite there only being around 140 residents in the tiny community (according to online statistics), locals have always remembered the Englishman.

And Regine remains determined to find a member of his family. It is a search which she has maintained for years.

This year’s tribute to Private Thomson saw flowers placed on his grave and a flag lowered in his honour.

The annual tradition of paying tribute to Private William Thomson.

And when German armoured columns attacked the 70th Brigade in Mercatel and Ficheux on May 20, 1940, dozens of the ill-equipped labourers lost their lives.

It appears Willie was left on his own, but was trying to make his way back to British lines when he was shot.

Private Thomson’s search for his comrades led him to the outskirts of Fosseux a day after the attack, where a villager spotted him seeking cover from an approaching enemy column.

Tragically, just minutes later, he was wounded by machine-gun fire – shot from what was probably a German reconnaissance motorcycle combination.

Lowering the flag in Fosseux.

Information according to old people of Fosseux, showed that William Thomson was buried first at the place where he fell in the war. Then, after the liberation, he was buried in the Communal Cemetery.

William was the son of Margaret Bell and William Thomson who were married in Deptford, Sunderland District, on December 21, 1917. Research does show that William lived with his family in Deptford Terrace for many years.

Can you help in the search to find descendants of William? Email [email protected]

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Regine Verguier at the graveside of Private Thomson.
The final resting place of Private Thomson.
The cemetery in which Private Thomson is buried.