A bodyguard who saved Winston Churchill’s life numerous times retired to run a grocery store on Beulah Road.
The Brixton born Detective Inspector Walter H Thompson, is listed as being a shopkeeper of a grocer and provision store at 126 Beulah Road in 1939 but his retirement was short lived and he was recalled to Churchill’s service.
On 22 August 1939 he received an infamous telegram from Churchill which read “Meet me at Croydon Airport 4.30pm Wednesday” and in his memoirs he recalls opening the telegram in his shop and that it had been a strange order for a grocer to receive!
On his arrival he was greeted by Churchill and all he said was “Hallo, Thompson. Nice to see you. Get the baggage together and bring it on to Chartwell.” As they say the rest was history.
He sold the grocer’s shop and another he owned in Annerley and in total spent 18 years as Mr Churchill’s bodyguard. During that time Thompson was said to have single-handedly saved Mr Churchill’s life on nearly 20 separate occasions and carried the PMs Colt .45 . He had orders from his boss that he should not to be taken alive if he was ever captured.
Together they rode with Lawrence of Arabia, dodged German assassins, were nearly shot down by enemy aircraft, lone gunmen, U-boats and IRA hitmen.
They travelled thousands of miles on precarious journeys to meet Stalin, Roosevelt and other world leaders.travelled over 200,000 miles.
Walter retired a second time in summer 1945 after Churchill’s election defeat.
In the 50s he published his memoirs ‘I was Churchill’s Shadow’ and became quite famous embarking on a book tour across the UK and America where he did over 400 lectures with his wife and made a number of TV appearances. He died aged 87 in 1978 in Yeovil.
The Thornton Heath connection was revealed by the Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre and Crime Museum on its Twitter feed @MPSHeritage.
The centre is the museum and archive for the Met and Tweets about the history of the force.