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Corporal George Thompson is part of the Royal Marine detachment currently serving aboard HMS Terpsichore. He is played by Sharpie. His PB is an unknown extra from Hornblower: Loyalty.


Father: Unknown

Mother: Bessie Thompson

Half-sister: Annie Thompson (b. 1788)

Nephew: Jesse Thompson (b. 1805)

Early Life[]

The Ropemaker's Arms, which Thompson called home before enlisting

Thompson was born in Chatham in about 1783, the son of a prostitute and an unknown father. His home was a tavern and brothel catering to the soldiers and sailors who passed through the town. As a young boy, he used to wander down to the riverside to watch the ships passing up and down the Medway, wondering where they had come from or where they were going.

His life as a street urchin meant that he learned to fend for himself from a young age. He acquired the ability to pick pockets, although it was not something that he found himself doing very often, and although he can still do it, he is reluctant to admit to having such a disreputable skill, especially in the close-knit community of the lower deck. More often, he was to be found loitering outside one or other of the several inns along the High Street frequented by Army and Navy officers, in the hope of earning a penny or two running errands or doing some small service for one of the officers.

His childhood was tough, but generally happy, although he dreaded Saturdays when Punchy Wright used to visit the brothel, after drinking heavily. He came in one day to find Punchy threatening one of the younger children for not doing something, and stepped in to take the blame. The blow he took knocked him off his feet into the wall, but the other boy got away. He avoided Punchy after that, and dislikes drunken fights, a feeling exacerbated later when he was part of a squad of Marines sent to break up a bar brawl; he got hit in the face by one of the fighters and had to be helped back to barracks afterwards. He will defend his friends though, even in situations like that, as he shows great loyalty to his friends and expects the same in return.

Enlisting in the Marines[]

The signature on Thompson's attestation form

Despite knowing the alleys and backstreets of Chatham intimately, by the age of fourteen he was finding it increasingly harder to avoid the pressgangs sent to press men and boys into the Navy. Fascinated by the uniforms of the Marines, and the mystery of the ships, he eventually found himself outside the local Marine barracks, where he took the King's Shilling, in 1797, shortly before mutiny broke out at the Nore anchorage.

He found training to be absolute hell, as he ended up training for six months with a sadistic sergeant who preferred recruits to be scared stiff rather than thinking for themselves, and wielded his cane with deadly effect. Thompson still bears the scars on the backs of his thighs from his days in training. He also has a deep and lasting hatred of people who use their rank to bully those who are not so well off as themselves or who can't defend themselves.

He eventually finished training after six months, and joined a small group of Marines aboard His Majesty's Sloop Vixen. It was here that he really learned what it was to be a Marine, under the tutelage of Corporal Davis, who encouraged and persuaded every new Marine aboard to go aloft to the fighting top at least three times, on the basis that it might only be volunteers who went up, but you never knew if you could volunteer till you tried it. Thompson found that he had a good head for heights and volunteered to be one of the sharpshooters, firing from the tops when in action.

Service Life[]

Ships Thompson has served in
Name Rate Guns Captain Dates
Vixen Brig 12 Baker 1797-1799
Téméraire 2nd Rate 98 Eyles, then Marsh 1799-1802
Juno Frigate 32 Ramage 1802
Calypso Frigate 36 Ramage 1802-3
Sandwich Guardship 0 (ex-90) Hungerford 1803-1804
Surprise 6th Rate 28 Aubrey 1804-1808
Terpsichore 5th Rate 32 Bolitho, then Thorburn 1808-?

He has served both ashore and at sea. His first posting was the 12-gun brig Vixen, where he served for eighteen months, from late 1797 till early 1799. He spent a short period standing guard at the Admiralty, before being posted to HMS Téméraire, a second-rate of 98 guns, when she was commissioned in June 1799, serving aboard her until the Peace of Amiens was signed in 1802. In October 1802, afterTéméraire returned from the West Indies, he was put on the list of Marines to be discharged, though his discharge didn't come through before war was declared again in 1803. He spent some months in Chatham and at the Nore, serving aboard the guardship Sandwich as part of the Marine detachment standing guard over the newly-pressed men. This was a duty he hated, and he was thankful to be sent to Calypso, 36, under the command of Captain Ramage. He served aboard her until he was transferred to HMS Surprise, 28, in late 1804, where he served until 1807, when he was posted back to Chatham before being transferred to HMS Terpsichore, 32.

He has now served for twelve years, most of the time at sea. He has most recently spent three months back at the Chatham depot, of which he divided his time between standing guard in the Dockyard or on the Dockyard gate, and being posted as a sentry on the receiving ship, standing guard over the newly pressed men.

When not on duty, he can usually be found in the Marines' part of the mess deck or (in fine weather) on deck with the other Marines. He is one of those Marines who have volunteered to go aloft if needed (unlike sailors, Marines do not have to go aloft if they don't wish to) and is proud of the fact that he can use the futtock shrouds like any sailor, even when hampered with a musket slung across his shoulders.

He has recently been promoted Corporal, due to his experience, clean record and cool head in action[1], a change in circumstances that he never expected but that he is getting used to.

Life Aboard HMS Terpsichore[]

Private Thompson came aboard as one of HMS Terpsichore's Marine detachment in late (November or December) 1808 when she was put into commission by Captain Bolitho. His duties were no different than aboard any other ship in the Royal Navy, and he got on well with the other members of the detachment.

In May 1809, Terpsichore received a transfer from another ship, a young midshipman named Mathew de Guarde and from the first moment he stepped aboard, there was trouble. De Guarde accused a sailor of impertinence, bringing him before the Captain and had him flogged. That evening, the midshipman was one of the guests at the Captain's table for dinner, where he got drunk and threw up all over the First Lieutenant. During the night, two sailors carried de Guarde up on deck and threw him overboard. Thompson was on deck enjoying a pipe and saw the splash, alerting those on duty[2].

Fortunately one of the crewmen on duty was Billy Barrow, the captain's coxswain and one of the few sailors who could swim. He leapt overboard and kept de Guarde afloat until a boat could get to them. Thomas Crozier, the ship's surgeon, was able to revive the youngster, borrowing Thompson as a prop to support the lad.

Things with de Guarde went from bad to worse and Lieutenant Bush eventually confined him to the midshipmen's berth during a storm, with Thompson standing sentry. The two got talking and Thompson was able to offer the lad a bit of comfort, finding that the reason he was acting like a bully was because of his previous captain who had insisted that the men could not be trusted.[3][4] During this period, Terpsy fell in with a French frigate and captured her after a brief fight.

Captain Bolitho sent for de Guarde, turning him before the mast to work as a common sailor. Thompson and some of the sailors began to teach him about what it meant to belong to a ship, rather than just being one of her complement, including getting the lad involved in preparing one of his dead messmates for burial at sea.[5]

In return for what Thompson had done to help him, de Guarde offered to take Thompson's dictation of a letter to be sent home, learning more about the Marine's background in the process.[6]

Terpsichore arrived at Lisbon without further incident, and began taking on stores. Thompson was among the men detailed to take sacks of flour down to the breadroom when the lantern lighting the companionway guttered and went out, at the same time as the ship snubbed at the anchor. Thompson, who was in the middle of a step, lost his footing and fell to the bottom of the ladder, spraining his ankle. [7]

Thompson was involved in the Battle of Oporto on the 22nd May 1809, as part of a Naval landing party whose purpose was to distract the French from the real attack on the town of Oporto by attacking a fort further downstream.


Terpsichore originally sailed with only one Corporal, Cross Johnson, but had a berth for a second. It was partly due to his level-headedness under fire, displayed during the action at Oporto, and partly from his experience and length of service, as well as his good conduct, that Thompson was promoted to Corporal into this second berth on the 3rd June 1809[8], a promotion that was completely unexpected although not unwelcome. He has yet to completely find his feet and acclimatise himself and the rest of the detachment to the rank, but he is doing his best to become the sort of Corporal he best liked to serve under, including arranging to take aloft all the Marines who had never been aloft. [9]

Thompson's Squad[]

Appearance and Personality[]

Private George Thompson ringing the ship's bell

Thompson is 5'7" tall, which is on the tall side for a man of his background, leading to suspicions that had he not been malnourished as a child, he might have attained a height of nearer six feet. He is also quite thin, with a wiry sort of strength. He has blue eyes. and dark brown hair, which he keeps in a queue, although he is sure that sooner or later regulations will be changed, meaning that all Marines will wear their hair short, a change he is not looking forward to.

He walks and stands with an erect upright posture, which may add to the illusion of his being a tall man. He is self-confident and his confidence in his new rank is growing as he gains experience.

He has scars on his back from a flogging received when he was sixteen, and thin white scars on the backs of his thighs from the Sergeant's cane during his training as a recruit. He also has a scar just above his left hip where he was hit by a French musket ball during his service aboard HMS Surprise.

His red coat is starting to fade, but the chevrons on his right arm look fresh and new, testament to his recent promotion. He wears white trousers, black shoes and white gaiters, and the white-bound black round hat with a white-over-red plume and black cockade on the left.

His face and hands are deeply tanned, and his arms less so, testament to the hours spent on deck in uniform and the fewer hours he can spend off-duty on deck with his sleeves rolled up, taking his ease or cleaning his kit. He has a fouled anchor tattooed on his right shoulder, with the Marines' motto Per Mare Per Terram (By Sea, By Land) below it.

He is optimistic, always preferring to see the good in people if he can. He is patient, but can snap without warning when he is pushed too far, which he deals with by getting away from situations where he has to deal with people if possible as it is either that or hit someone. Generally situations are defused before they get to the point where he snaps.

He does not lose his temper readily, but does know how to use his fists when pushed - he will never throw the first punch deliberately unless under extreme provocation (in which case his opponent is asking for trouble anyway), but when it's his turn to hit, it will connect, hard, precisely where he means it to. His childhood and training have taught him to bear pain uncomplainingly, and he will keep going even when wounded, almost until he drops. Even if ordered to desist, he will keep fighting despite his wounds if his friends or fellow Marines are in trouble.

He is fair-minded and approachable, and has a good rapport with those younger than himself, striking up a friendship with de Guarde, and teaching Fingers Smith to count and to add up [10] which the younger lad had only sort-of been shown once before. He is patient and doesn't mind going over something more than once before his pupil understands it, and will also demonstrate what he is teaching, combining the skills of a teacher with those of a leader, as shown the time he took some of the inexperienced members of the detachment aloft.[11]

Habits, Skills and Pastimes[]

He is superstitious rather than deeply religious, but will touch iron rather than wood for luck - or to ward off bad luck

He smokes a clay pipe, rather than chewing tobacco as many of his shipmates do, a habit picked up as a child ashore.

He is quite dextrous, and can still pick pockets, a skill learned as a street urchin that he keeps to himself.

He always has a clean rag in his pocket, to wipe the barrel and lock of his musket with when coming off-duty from a post topside. More recently, this rag has been pressed into use as a handkerchief when talking to de Guarde, and then replaced from the rag-bag hung from the mainmast in the Marines' messdeck.

He is a sharpshooter, as accurate as anyone else with a musket. Until recently, his station in battle was in the foretop, as he has a good head for heights and is able to use the futtock shrouds even with a musket slung across his back.

Although intelligent, he was illiterate until recently - and is still functionally illiterate despite having reading lessons from de Guarde. He made his mark on his attestation form, and has only recently learned to write his name.

He likes whittling in his free time, making copies in miniature of the figureheads of the ships he's served in.

Working with Johnson[]

While Johnson views Thompson as an upstart and a jumped-up private, they have worked well together. When Thompson discovered that someone had covered Thomas Shepherd's face in blackball [12], he ordered all the off-duty Marines on deck for a parade at which he hoped to find the culprit. Johnson heard about the proceedings but chose not to disrupt the inspection Thompson was carrying out, instead going along with it and helping.[13].

On another occasion, when Private Morgan's musket fired while he was in the act of loading, injuring him, both Corporals worked together to treat the man and get him to the surgeon before returning to drill the rest of the squad in the hope of preventing a similar accident in the future.

More recently, Johnson received a letter from his brother's regiment, informing him that his brother had died, and went on a drinking spree thanks to a bottle of brandy that he had hoarded. Thompson was the one who found him passed out and tried to get him back to the messdeck, planning to cover his watch for him but was intercepted by Lieutenant Sewell [14]. The lieutenant ordered Thompson to try sobering Johnson up by dunking his head in a bucket of water, which led to Johnson's protesting that his letter would get wet, so Thompson stripped his off-watch jacket off, later stowing it in his own sea-chest for safe keeping.

The following morning, Johnson realized his jacket was missing which led to a confrontation with Thompson that nearly became violent but was interrupted by Albert Savage, a master's mate, before any blows were thrown, although Johnson had hold of Thompson's shirt [15].

Life as a Corporal[]

Thompson has begun to get used to both the privileges and the responsibilities of his new rank. At first the other marines in the detachment seemed a little wary of him, subtly pushing to see how far they could take things before he would do something about it. He quickly proved himself to be an able corporal, responding even-handedly to subtle teasing and both willing and able to use low-key punishments where necessary, such as setting musket-cleaning chores for Branning when he owned up to blacking Tom Shepherd's face [16].

There was a brief period when it seemed as though, despite their very different personalities and approaches, Thompson and Johnson could work as a team, when trying to get to the bottom of the Shepherd twins' mix-up with Jonny Seward [17], or when Thompson paraded all the off-duty Marines in an attempt to find out who was responsible for painting Tom Shepherd's face with blackball[18], or in the aftermath of Privater Morgan's accident during musket drill, when the two Corporals endeavoured to correct the slip which had led to the accident [19].

Despite these occasions, it was obvious that Johnson either resented Thompson's promotion or simply disliked him personally. After a run ashore in Gibraltar in September 1809, something had evidently changed as Johnson turned to drink[20], leading to his being unfit for duty on two separate occasions. The first time, Thompson and Lieutenant Sewell attempted to sober him up[21]. During the attempt, Thompson removed Johnson's drill jacket in order to keep it from getting wet, and took it for safe keeping.

The following morning, the two corporals nearly came to blows over this, with Johnson calling Thompson a 'God-damned sneakin' heap of shit' and accusing him of invading his privacy - there were some private letters in Johnson's jacket pocket, which he thought Thompson had read. The altercation was broken up by Albert Savage, a master's mate, who reported both men to Lieutenant Sewell [22]. The officer placed both men on continuous watch for the next five days, declaring that one or other of them had to be on duty at all times during that period.

Following the officer's verdict, Thompson attempted to reason with Johnson in an effort to get him to rein his drinking in, to no avail [23].

Three days later, Johnson was again late relieving Thompson for duty due to drink, and Thompson felt that he had no choice but to report his fellow corporal for dereliction of duty [24], with the results that Johnson was stripped of his rank, and awarded twelve lashes at the grating along with six-water grog for six weeks.

Despite the necessity of the report, Thompson felt somewhat responsible for the fallout and approached Captain Cartwright (who had taken temporary charge of the Marines due to Sewell's falling ill) with a request that the officer make arrangements to send five pounds of Thompson's own savings to Johnson's family, as Johnson's demotion must inevitably mean that he could no longer send as much money home as he once had as a corporal (although Thompson knew nothing of Johnson's family or financial arrangements), adding the proviso that the family not be told of the source of this money. Cartwright halved the amount of money, stating that Thompson was not the only man to think such a thing might be necessary [25].

As a corporal, Thompson is fair-minded and approachable. He will try to sort things out before they need to come to the attention of anyone more senior than him. He is sharp-eyed and will not let his men get away with slacking off. He prefers to encourage his men and leads by example [26]. He has only needed to dole out corporal punishment once himself, at Lieutenant Sewell's order, giving Thomas Shepherd six strokes of the cane for fighting, a task he did not enjoy but did to the best of his ability in order to discourage similar occurrences in the future [27].

On Duty[]

Thompson is conscientious and quick-thinking when on duty. Like Major Cartwright, Thompson tries to find suitable punishments. When an unknown person played a prank on Thomas Shepherd[28], Thompson got the off-duty Marines on deck for an inspection and extra drill[29], and when Private Branning confessed to being the one behind the prank[30], Thompson signed out half a dozen muskets and set him to clean them for the rest of the watch[31].

During a scheduled drill session which included firing, Private Ben Morgan had an accident which fired his ramrod through his hand. Thompson and Johnson worked together to ensure that the man got prompt treatment and then continued drilling the detachment to ensure that such an accident could not happen again.[32]

When he and Lieutenant Sewell carried out a stock check of the detachment's muskets, Thompson who first worked out when the musket went missing and when he thought it might have been one of the muskets he signed out previously for Branning to clean, he was quick to own up to it, despite the consequences that would result if it had been his fault.[33]

Father Figure[]

Despite not knowing his own father, Thompson has recently found himself taking a couple of the younger members of the crew under his wing. Before his promotion, he found himself standing guard over a newly-arrived midshipman, Mathew de Guarde, who had been threatened with being disrated[34]. When the disrating was carried through, Thompson found himself comforting the youngster, acting almost as an older brother.

Thompson has recently found himself in conversation with Fingers Smith and began teaching him the basics of counting[35] and addition.

Learning to Read[]

Early in their nascent friendship, de Guarde offered to write a letter home at Thompson's dictation, the first letter home he had ever sent. [36]. The conversation eventually led to de Guarde's giving Thompson his first ever writing lesson, beginning with teaching him to write his own name[37].

Thompson approached Lieutenant Mowet to request further reading lessons from him, feeling uncomfortable about approaching his own officer[38][39]

Eventually, he decided that he needed to focus on things that would be of most use to him in carrying out his duties and asked Captain Cartwright to help him develop his still basic reading and writing skills[40]

Relevant Quotes[]

He's sitting at his mess-table looking as though he's been hit over the head with a belaying-pin. - Sergeant Quinn, referring to a just-promoted Corporal Thompson[41]

"Well, he might have a temper on him worse'n a shark with toothache, but he's a proper one of us, an' no mistake." - Private Thompson, on Corporal Johnson.

"Y'saw me musket, earlier, di'n't you? An' you said you'd like t'see it again. It ain't duty that makes me look after her the way I do... it's pride. In meself, me ship. Y'can't belong in a place without havin' pride in it... and that's what we'm talkin' about. We'm Terpsies - we belong to Terpsy, an' she belongs to us. An' that comes fr'm more than just doin' your duty."
~ Thompson to de Guarde, on being a Terpsichore

"Bit different, bein' the one t'sew 'em up, innit?" He gestured at Thompson, who'd just appeared to take over sewing up one of his own mates from another Marine. "Even the lobsterbacks do it."

"Even us lobsters are Terpsies, Cob Chase," Thompson said quietly, looking up from his task. -Cob Chase and Thompson, on being Terpsichores

"There's a difference 'tween bein' a member of the crew... an' bein' part of the crew. An' we want you to be part of us... 'stead o' standin' on the edges, an' watchin' like. We want you..." He sighed. "Hell, we might even want to be friends with you, if you'd give us the chance. An' ev'ryone needs friends." -Thompson, to de Guarde, on being a Terpsichore

"Beats me why you don't ask a Tar t'do it. You'd fit right into our messdeck, with it all done that way I do it. Leastways, your head would. The rest of you looks too much like a Tar."
- Thompson, on de Guarde's preference for having a queue done the Marines' way.

Nice day? Skylarking? Fingers wrinkled his nose and almost asked when the Marine thought they'd get to start a skylark. That wasn't a question you asked a corporal though. Even if the corporal was Thompson, who used to be a good sort. There was no telling what he was really like now though. Now he was wearing stripes like Johnson. Even though Johnson couldn't be that bad, really, since he'd let Fingers borrow his jacket.

"Are they heavy?" Fingers blurted out, only to immediately look stunned at letting such a nonsensical question escape into speech. "Them chevy-iron things, I means. Only... well is they?"

They had to be, for why else would Thompson be holding his shoulders so square?
 Fingers, on the newly-promoted Corporal Thompson

"You did your job, Corporal. Not an easy thing but you did it. What you're asking is somewhat irregular, I have to say. But," Cartwright added, "it is of the same stripe as your making that first report. Looking to the welfare of one's men is not always easy and sometimes necessitates irregular arrangements." Cartwright, on Thompson's first reporting Johnson's dereliction of duty and then sending money to his family[42]

So long as they kept their thieving hands off his money, Thompson didn't particularly care if they wanted to roger the bloody cows on the bloody common - On discovering that his account had been opened with Hoare's[43]

Referenced Threads[]

  1. "Promotions"
  2. "In the Night on Terpsy"
  3. "A Summons"
  4. "The Middies' Berth"
  5. "After the Battle"
  6. "Writing Home"
  7. "After the Refit"
  8. "Promotions"
  9. "Marines Aloft"
  10. "Life isn't all beer and skittles"
  11. "Marines Aloft"
  12. "Of Painted Faces"
  13. "Cat and Mouse"
  14. "Where's Waldo?"
  15. "That Morning After Feeling"
  16. "Making a Clean Sweep"
  17. "On Styles"
  18. "Cat and Mouse"
  19. "Powder and Ball"
  20. "Slippery When Drunk"
  21. "Where's Waldo"
  22. "Straight to Business"
  23. "As Sparks Fly Upwards"
  24. "The Wages of Sin"
  25. "Making Amends"
  26. "Marines Aloft"
  27. "On Styles"
  28. "Of Painted Faces"
  29. "Cat & Mouse"
  30. "Cat & Mouse"
  31. "Making a Clean Sweep"
  32. "Powder and Ball"
  33. "Forgive me for I have sinned"
  34. "The Middies Berth"
  35. "Life Isn't All Beer and Skittles"
  36. "Writing Home"
  37. "Writing Home"
  38. "A Marine's ABC"
  39. "A Marine's Progress"
  40. "" Here Beginneth the Lesson
  41. "Promotions"
  42. "Making Amends"
  43. "Making Amends"