Memoir of Herstmonceux man mistaken for great train robber

Ray with his new book of memoirs - Ray Thompson My Story
Ray with his new book of memoirs - Ray Thompson My Story

Arms dealer, international drugs trafficker, and great train robber - these are just some of the people 85-year-old Ray Thompson has been mistaken for during his career.

Now the Herstmonceux resident, whose exciting life as a physicist led him to travel the world, where he was mistaken for one of the famous train robbers, among others, has penned a book of his memoirs - Ray Thompson My Story.

Ray’s book details how his first role was in the atomic energy factory at Springfields near Preston before moving to the nuclear reprocessing site Sellafield. He later worked with a team developing a heat seeking missile at de Havilland Aircraft Company. While on a course at George Washington University in America, Ray met several of the leading American engineers working on the Apollo moon landing project, and came home to design the power system for the first British space satellite.

He helped British Rail modernise locomotives and signalling and dealt with the oil company Esso when they were updating super tankers. Ray was thought to be a Great Train Robber by a hotel waitress who overheard him discussing with colleagues the need to take measurements at a railway track one evening. At the time he was working on British Rail projects and it was fortunate that when the girl told her manager of her suspicions he spoke to the group before the police were called.

Ray said the greatest accolade was being asked, in 1980, to chair a conference in London for academics and industrial engineers from all over the world.As he arranged the conference he was called to Denmark for a meeting only to be disturbed by two armed policemen hammering on his hotel room door demanding to know his name. He was suspected of being a drug baron and they took some convincing that he was not the person they wanted.

Ray was prompted to write his book while on a respite break, with his wife Ruth, at Bowes House care home in Battle Road, Hailsham. As part of the respite package staff discuss and compile a ‘Life History’ with each resident. Everyone was intrigued by Ray’s tales and encouraged him to go further and publish a memoir. He and his daughter Gill spent hours writing and re-writing until eventually it was ready to be published. Ray said he enjoyed writing his book and is delighted when people take an interest in it. The book was published for his family and friends but can be bought from Red Letter Books on 01825 723940.