United Kingdom / Biography
Jimmy Tompkins was a professional footballer who played for Fulham FC based at Craven Cottage stadium in Fulham. Tompkins joined the army upon the outbreak of the Second World War and was later killed after landing in Normandy just after D-Day.
Situated right alongside the Thames in Fulham, Craven Cottage has been home to Fulham FC since 1896. During the Second World War many Fulham players joined the military and put their footballing career on hold, including Jimmy Tompkins. Tompkins was born in Edmonton in 1914 and had started as an amateur player at Woking, Arsenal and Fulham. He signed as a professional with Fulham in 1934 and made 164 appearances before he eventually joined the territorial army in 1939. He was an especially acclaimed player who, as a left half-back, was well known for his speed and aggressive attacking.
The government had temporarily suspended football matches upon the outbreak of war and closed Craven Cottage, but it was reopened just a few months later with a spectator limit of half the usual capacity due to safety concerns. Football did struggle to survive in the war years, but some regular players managed to dip in and out of games despite the club advocating they all join the territorial army.
After joining the army, he progressed to be a private in the regular army with the Royal Fusiliers and then enjoyed a meteoric rise to major and provisional lieutenant-colonel with the Hampshire regiment by 1944 to his ability and leadership skill. Whilst seconded to the Hampshire Regiment, Tompkins embarked for France and landed just after D-Day on 10 June 1944 with the aim of leading his regiment to take control of the village of Maltot as a part of Operation Charnwood. Unbeknown to Tompkins and officers from the Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, 7th and 44th tank regiments, Maltot was being held by 2 divisions of German Tiger Tanks who ambushed the Allies upon entering the area. The battle that ensued was fierce and led to substantial Allied losses, including 56 men from Tompkins’ regiment. Included in this number was Tompkins himself, who was believed to have killed during a direct hit from a tank shell, and his body could not therefore be recovered.
Major John James Tompkins was just 30 when he was killed and is commemorated on the Bayeux War Memorial in Calvados, France. After his death, it is said that Fulham FC later paid his two children each £500, money that Tompkins was due to receive for his 1939/40 season, but was not paid due to a lack of club revenue. He was one of the first of the team to join up, shortly after getting married too, and was reportedly the first professional player to achieve the rank of major. Tompkins’ death was a substantial loss to the footballing community. He was much loved by his club, the fans and the then manager of Arsenal, who earlier predicted he would be a future international player.