Olli Thomson

Major Thompson Street

Spot the odd one out:

a. Georgi S Rakovski
b. Neofit Rilski
c. Aleko Konstantinov
d. Aleksandar Stamboliyski
e. Frank Thompson

If you guessed ‘e’ I’m afraid you guessed wrong. There is no odd one out; all of these are people who have given their names to some of Sofia’s streets. On the other hand congratulations on spotting the only person on the list who was not Bulgarian, not that it was that difficult a task.

Майор Томпсън, which Google mistranslates as Mayor Thompson, was actually Major Frank Thompson of the Royal Artillery and Special Operations Executive (SOE). In January 1944 he entered Bulgaria and made contact with the partisans. In May, Thompson and the partisans were discovered by Bulgarian forces and in the subsequent encounter Thompson was captured. As a uniformed British Officer he should have been treated as a prisoner of war but, after being interrogated at length, he and a number of partisan fellow prisoners were executed. He was twenty three.

Thompson’s body was buried in an unmarked grave together with the partisans. After the liberation of Bulgaria they were reburied near the village of Litakovo where the ‘trial’ and execution of Thompson and his comrades took place. A number of villages in the region, about 45 km north of Sofia, were also merged into one and named Thompson in his honour. I believe there are also a number of other monuments and memorials to Thompson scattered around the country.

There is more on the background of this ‘Very English Hero’ in Frances Wilson’s review of Peter Conradi’s biography of Thompson, A Very English Hero: The Making of Frank Thompson, in The Observer. Thompson was the older brother of Edward Palmer Thompson, better known as EP Thompson, author of The Making of the English Working Class and one of the best known British historians of his era. EP Thompson has authored two books about Frank: There is a Spirit in Europe: A Memoir of Frank Thompson and Beyond the Frontier: the Politics of a Failed Mission, Bulgaria 1944.

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