Edmonton, London born left half Jimmy Tompkins began his football career playing as an amateur for Woking in 1931 whilst at the same time being registered (as an amateur) with Second Division Fulham. His paid employment was as a member of Arsenal’s ground staff; it was during this period that the legendary Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman saw him play and was reportedly disappointed to hear that Fulham had already signed him, opinining that “Tompkins was a future international.”
Tompkins made his Football League debut against Swansea Town in September 1933 before he signed as a professional for Fulham on 15th March 1934. He made 167 appearances for the club, 157 of which were in the Football League, scoring 5 times before the outbreak of the Second World War. He began his career as a centre half, but suffered from a lack of opportunities due to the presence of club stalwart Syd Gibbons. Moved to left half-back he quickly became established in the side, his 164 appearances including an unbroken run of ninety games. A forceful player renowned for his brave tackling, time on the ball in defence and attacking runs, he also scored five goals. His career highlights included playing in an F.A. Cup semi final against Sheffield United in 1936, when Fulham lost 2-1 to The Blades at Molineux. Towards the end of his career he occasionally deputised as captain when regular skipper Mike Keeping was absent through injury. He was an ever present for the final two pre war seasons.
Seeing the imminent approach of World War Two Tompkins signed on in the Territorial Army. On the outbreak of hostilities he was swiftly drafted into the regular army as a private with the Royal Fusiliers. He worked his way rapidly through the non-commissioned ranks, then was commissioned as an officer in 1942. He was then seconded to the Hampshire regiment, had attained the rank of Major and held a provisional rank as lieutenant colonel, a remarkable rise even in the accelerated promotions of wartime. Tompkins joined the Allied offensive in France shortly after D-Day. On 10th July 1944 he was ordered to lead his command in an attempt to secure the village of Maltot; unfortunately, unknown to his commanders, Maltot was surrounded by German Tiger tanks concealed in woods and depressions which opened fire as the Hampshires entered the town. Fifty-six men were killed before the order to withdraw was given. Tompkins, aged 30 when he died, was last seen charging a machinegun nest, but his body was never found. It is assumed he and his comrades must have suffered a direct hit from a German tank shell. His name is inscribed on the war memorial at Bayeux.