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To be a Brit - Peter Thomson - working at the chalk face


Abandoned by his father and with both of his uncles lost in World War II, Peter Thomson grew up determined to mentor young boys. He became a great history teacher and headmaster, who turned around failing boys and failing schools with his charisma, kindness, energy, high standards and sporting prowess.

Thomson’s finest hour, however, came during the Clapham rail disaster of December 12 1988, when three commuter trains collided half a mile south of Clapham Junction and in which 35 passengers died. At the time, he was headmaster of Emanuel School in Battersea Rise, which is wedged between two railway lines; the tragedy occurred just to the west of the main building.

Thomson led by example, marshalling the entire school to be first on the scene in the rescue efforts; these ranged from providing cups of tea for survivors, to cutting loose the injured and the dying. Mrs Thatcher later praised the pupils as a credit to the nation’s youth at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons.

After the death of his first wife, Thomson remarried. He wrote three books about the Fulham Football Club. His second wife was "his constant companion at Fulham matches at home and abroad".

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