A British Empire Medal (BEM) has been awarded to David Thompson from Billingshurst in the Queen’s New Year’s honours, in recognition of his tireless community work since 1964.
In the five decades he’s lived in the village with his wife Anne, David has been part of almost every voluntary role available, from helping with the community minibus to heading up the Neighbourhood Watch and helping with Santa’s Sleigh for the Billingshurst Lions.
Shortly before moving to the area in 1966, he joined up with the special constabulary in London and went on to serve a total of 25 years as an unpaid policeman, rising to chief sub-division officer in Sussex Constabulary, the equivalent of chief inspector.
Alongside his voluntary police role, David served as a governor at Billingshurst Primary School, and helped to organise sailing trips for pupils.
He built a full-sized long boat with families of children at the school for the weekend and holiday excursions.
He said: “We used to go down to the coast.
“Over the years, I taught quite a lot of children to sail. That was very pleasing, very satisfying.”
After retiring as a special policeman in 1989, he joined the Billingshurst Lions in 1994, serving as treasurer, president and as a trustee over a 22-year membership.
He also volunteered for the Royal British Legion for ten years, providing music for Remembrance Day parades and donated blood three times a year for 50 years up until the age of 70.
He said he was grateful to be nominated by his daughter, Julie Casey.
“I said, you’ve worked hard on this,” David said.
“She said ‘you did all the work, all the volunteering’.”
Letters of support for his honours nomination note David’s kindness and attentiveness to the needs of others, both in his charitable work and as a helpful and caring neighbour.
Now a grandfather of five, at 88, David is still volunteering for the community transport scheme, taking elderly and vulnerable people to doctors and hospital appointments and serving customers once a week in the Billingshurst Lions bookshop.
He said: “I suppose I feel it’s nice to help, nice to contribute something to the community – community has been reasonably kind to me.”