Thomas Henry Hampshire
Known to all as Tommy

Serial Number: 12486
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Date of Birth: England
Personal Details: English-born Tommy fitted straight into Cambridge society when he emigrated here in 1922, and his community spirited nature was without comparison by all accounts. This is demonstrated here in his extraordinary obituary that was written by the editor of the Cambridge Independent newspaper, and published with top billing on the front page of the edition dated Tuesday the 24th of January 1978. I gives a little insight into what this man was like.

Goodbye Tom, we'll miss you

OLD Tommy Hampshire is going to be missed.

When he died in Cambridge last week after a short illness the town lost one of its most colourful personalities. And we're going to miss him down at the Independent.

It became something of a tradition for old Tommy (he would have been 80 this year) to call down for his paper each Tuesday and Thursday about morning tea time. He'd always pop his head around the editor's door with "how are you lad."

Whatever the controversy at the time, old Tommy always knew the background. In most cases it was history repeating itself, he said, proving it later with his incredible filing system - scrapbooks containing every letter he'd ever written and had been published in the Independent over the years.

And Tommy was particularly proud of a longstanding correspondence with the late Anthony Eden. He was quietly "tickled pink" when Sunday News published the story.

It was not unusual for Tommy to come in and reminisce with managing director Gib James. More than a few strange looks came when Tommy burst into song in the office.

He read the Independent from cover to cover... and when the 25 and 50 years ago columns were left out because of pressure of space, Tommy gave the editor a right ticking off.

The Cambridge competitions had long been one of Tommy's great interests. But when the competitions society decided to withdraw the classes he was interested in last year, Tommy was upset. Without telling anyone, he sneaked off to enter the Thames competitions, and came back with a host of prizes.

"Life's too serious," he always used to say. "People need a little bit of humour."

But more than being just one of the town's more colourful personalities, Tommy Hampshire has left a legacy of long community service. As well as being an accountant, he acted as secretary to numerous Cambridge organisations and was also prominent in sporting and musical circles.

Tommy Hampshire was born in England and at the age of 17 joined the Royal Flying Corps gaining the rank of lieutenant.

He came to New Zealand in 1922 and his first job was as assistant secretary to the Cambridge Co-op. Dairy Company, Limited.

Two years later he was appointed secretary of the Bruntwood Dairy Company, a position he was to hold for 45 years.

As secretary of the Cambridge Trotting Club from 1933 to 1953 Tommy became widely known throughout New Zealand. He was largely responsible for the club's early strong membership.

Other secretarial positions with the Cambridge Bobby calf Pool, Building Society, Cambridge Domain Board, Upper Mangapiko Drainage Board and Waikato Hunt race meeting.

He acted in many voluntary capacities as secretary of the Ex-Servicemen's Association, Relief Association, Arawa Lodge No. 97, Alpha Lodge No. 81, Cambridge United Friendly Societies and Cambridge Golf Club.

He was honorary auditor for many organisations.

Tommy served two terms as a member of the Cambridge Borough Council and was a borough sinking fund commissioner. He was appointed to the Waikato Licensing Committee following the death of Mr Mervyn Wells.

He was an original committee member of the Waikato Aero Club, founded in 1937.

Tommy was an entertainer of considerable ability as a pianist, singer and humorist. He was president of the Cambridge Orphans' Club and conductor of the orchestra.

In early years he played the euphonium in the Cambridge Band and was secretary of the band's fund-raising carnival in 1924.

For long service to the Cambridge R.S.A. he was elected a life member. He was also a member of the King's Empire Veteran's Association.

Tommy's main sporting activities were golf and bowls. In later years he was an active member of the Cambridge Senior Citizens Association.

He was married in 1936 to Eunice Parker. Mrs Hampshire died in 1973.

Please Note: In the quote above I have amended the date of the Waikato Aero Club's foundation from the original text which reads 1934, but is in error. Well known aviation historian Errol Martyn kindly submitted the correction, saying;

"It was in fact not founded until late 1937. NZ Wings magazine of 5 Nov 37 records that 'the first meeting of the newly-formed club was held at Hamilton last month'. Hampshire was elected to the committee at the meeting. Prior to this there was a Waikato branch of the Auckland Aero Club which, according to Wings, 'had an excellent record, having trained 45 pilots.' Incidentally, there is no record of Hampshire having acquired a NZ 'A' licence."

Further to Tommy Hampshire's RSA service, he acted as the honorary secretary and treasurer to the Cambridge Returned Soldiers' Association from 1927 till 1937. He stepped down as secretary at that point, but continued to work on pensions for old soldiers till 1944. After this point he still kept a close interest in the RSA.

In 1928 Tommy became the man responsible for the first South African War Pension, for veterans of that war. A local Cambridge veteran of the South African campaigns (Boer War) had suffered an accident which incapacitated him, causing severe financial difficulties.

Tommy, in his capacity as secretary of the Cambridge Ex-Servicemen's Relief Association, made an appointment with Prime Minister Gordon Coates in Auckland to discuss the man's plight. When Coates heard of the veteran's problems he immediately announced that £200 would be made available to aid needy South African War Veterans. Tommy Hampshire was quoted as stating, "This was the first Government aid that these men ever received. Previously they had relied on charity when in dire straits."

Tommy was also a member of the New Zealand War Birds - a 1930's association of ex-WWI flyers who met annually in Auckland. At one point he was secretary and Cambridge's Keith Caldwell was president of this veterans group. They first met in 1935 and continued to meet till at least 1938 each year. Cambridge's Arthur Broadhurst was also a member.

Service Details: Tommy Hampshire served as an officer in the Royal Flying Corps, and trained as a pilot, flying land-based planes. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant (on probation) on the 20th of April 1917 according to the Supplement to the London Gazette, dated the 6th of June 1917, He was on the General List of the RFC.

Date of Death : 19th of January 1978, aged 80 years
Buried: Cambridge Returned Services Association Lawn Cemetery, Hautapu, Cambridge

Connection with Cambridge: Tommy moved to Cambridge in 1922 and remained a well known citizen of the town till his death in 1978.


Above: Tommy Hampshire at his desk sorting out Cambridge R.S.A. matters

Thanks to the staff of the Cambridge Museum, and to Errol Martyn for assistance in researching Tommy Hampshire's life and RFC career so far. Some details have been extracted from Eris Parker's book 'Cambridge R.S.A." (Eris Parker, 1997)


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