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Christopher Birdwood Thomson, 1st Baron Thomson

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Christopher Birdwood Thomson, 1st Baron Thomson (13 April 1875 - 5 October 1930) British military officer later Labour minister and peer.

Born in India to a military family Thomson attended Cheltenham College and Sandhurst before joining the Royal Engineers in 1894. He served first in Mauritius and then saw action during the second Boer War (1899-1902). After a distinguished career both behind and in front of the lines during World War I (most famously at Jericho) Thomson formed part of the British delegation at the Versailles conference, an experience that he considered a profoundly negative one.

After Versailles Thomson made the decision to enter politics, joining the Labour Party and standing as its candidate for Bristol but failed to win the seat and subsequently lost several other such contests. In 1924, however, newly elected Labour Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald elevated him to the peerage as Baron Thomson and he held the position of Air Minister in Macdonald's first short lived Labour administration of 1924 - interrupting briefly Samuel Hoare's seven year grip on the post. The fall of the government meant that it was not until 1929 that he regained the position, once again serving under Macdonald. In the interim he had maintained his air interests acting as chairman of the British Aeronautical Society and the Air League.

This second term in office was cut short by tragedy as Thomson died in the crash of the R101 airship, a government designed derigible on its maiden flight to Karachi in October 1930. The accident claimed the lives of almost 50 and caused the cancellation of the British airship programme by Thomson's successor as air minister Lord Amulree. It was Thomson himself who had initiated the programme in 1924 and he who had rushed through the development of the R101: the privately (Vickers) built R100 was demonstrably more reliable. Thomson's vision of a uniquely British form of intercontinental passenger travel would only be realised by subsequent Labour governments' development of the Concorde.


Preceded by:
Sir Samuel Hoare
Secretary of State for Air
1924
Succeeded by:
Sir Samuel Hoare
Preceded by:
Sir Samuel Hoare
Secretary of State for Air
1929–1930
Succeeded by:
The Lord Amulree

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