I'm reminded this morning my my on-line calendar that Sir Ian Thomson's 91st birthday would be coming up in early January, had he not passed away last year. Sir Ian, known fondly as "Mungo," was Aide-de-Camp to Sir Harry Luke, High Commissioner of the Western Pacific and Governor of Fiji, in 1940-41, before returning to his regiment where he served with distinction in World War II. I became acquainted with Sir Ian when -- in Fiji in 1999 -- I was told that it was too bad he had recently died, because he could have told me a lot about that critical period in the history of Nikumaroro and its elusive bones. I wrote to Sir Ian's son in New Zealand, expressing regret at his father's passing and asking if he'd left any papers. Awhile later I received an aerogramme from Sir Ian himself, in Edinburgh. "Whilst some in Fiji may equate Scotland with the hereafter," he wrote, "I am not, in fact, deceased." For several years following my rather flustered response to his note, we maintained a correspondence that I found delightful, and Sir Ian pointed me toward a number of useful sources of information -- though he said that he himself had no direct knowledge of what might have happened to the bones from Nikumaroro.
I greatly valued my contact with Sir Ian, as I have with the late Harry Maude and other veterans of the great days of the British Empire in the western Pacific. I mourn their passing, and honor their achievements.
17 December 2009