Prime Time: A survivor of the battle of Seicheprey who became a Bristol cop

Published on Sunday, 4 March 2018 20:20

Staff Writer

I met Martha T. LeClair the other day after she emailed me about finding some historical things while cleaning out her mother’s house. Her mother, Adelheid Thompson, died in October of last year. Adelheid was married to William Thompson Jr., who was a son of today’s subject, William W. Thompson. The latter was wounded but survived the Battle of Seicheprey in France on April 20, 1918, and later became an officer in the Bristol Police Department.

I thought I’d share some of the information from the material passed along to me by Martha, including original WWI letters sent home to Bristol by Sergeant Thompson, most of which will go to Carol Denehy of the Memorial Military Museum of Bristol - surprise, Carol. Carol has no idea of this, but will know once she reads this column.

One story that was in this newspaper came when Sergeant Thompson was somewhere in France and it was dated April 17, 1917. It was sent to James Cray, a city councilman, and the last paragraph read:  

“I see my brother is doing some wonderful bowling. If you see him, tell him he is taking after his younger brother. Well, I believe I will close and get a snooze. Before you hear from me again, if I am alive, will be after another brush with the Boch, @#&$* them. I hope to get one this time. I went looking for one last time over in No Man’s Land but never found any. Bristol has reason to be proud of their boys. They are all game and a credit to Bristol.”

A year later, another segment in the newspaper was written about Thompson. This was after the Battle of Seicheprey where Bristol lost eight men, the most ever in one day of battle with regards to any war through the years. Here is what was written about this Bristol hero:

“Sergt. William W. Thompson of Bristol was one of the Connecticut soldiers severely wounded in the fierce battle of Seicheprey and he recently wrote home about his partial recovery. Sergt. Thompson told of killing three or four Huns who came upon him, throwing his gun at the fourth and “beating it” to a dugout. Then a shell came along and he and several companions were buried for nine hours.

“As a result he lost forever the use of one ear and there is doubt as to whether he will be able to hear out of the other. Because of his incapacity he has been made a supply sergeant in one of the companies of the 102nd Regiment. He was formerly first lieutenant of Company D, First Connecticut, and resigned, and reenlisted as a private when America entered the war.”

A page one story in The Bristol Press talked about his homecoming. It’s too long space-wise here, so I’m putting it into my own words.

Thompson’s arrival home was to be remembered by the community as one befitting a king. The pride they were to show him was also for the others who had seen duty in the war. Interesting to note, when he reached Bristol at 5 p.m. on his day of arrival, he simply wanted to sneak into his mother’s house, his mother being Emma Thompson of Church Street. It wasn’t long after that that word was spread that he was here.

At 8 p.m. that evening, an impromptu parade started downtown with Cray as the chief marshall. Thompson was getting cheers from the crowd and when his name was announced, he was given a loud ovation. When he spoke, Thompson, who was using a cane to help him walk at that time, told of the fine work the Red Cross had been doing, as well as the Salvation Army and Knights of Columbus.

Thompson would later serve with Bristol’s police department and saw firsthand some of the biggest crime stories the city dealt with at that time. The word “Excellent” was used by one of his WWI commanders while in service and he took this work ethic and character with him as a Bristol police officer.

I wasn’t able to find Thompson’s obituary, but did find one on his widow. Julia E. Thompson, who died in 1990 at age 97. She left two sons, William W. Thompson, Jr., and Robert L. Thompson, both of Bristol. Also, seven grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews.

Contact Bob Montgomery at or by calling 860-973-1808.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Sunday, 4 March 2018 20:20. Updated: Sunday, 4 March 2018 20:22.