Thomas Clarkson is the Canadian born Chief of Defence Staff for the Republic of South Africa. A decorated war hero he has served with the Canadian, British and finally South African armed forces, serving a total of seven tours of duty.
He currently resides in Cape Town, South Africa with his wife Angela and three children, Dylan (21), Jessica (18) and Lillian (16). His youngest son, Spencer, was killed in 1971 by warring factions during the South African civil war.
Thomas was born on July 4th, 1921 in Banff, Alberta, Canada. His mother (Margaret) was a secretary with the Alpine Club of Canada and his father (Robert) was an officer with the British military who happened to be on town for vacation. The two hit it off and spent a several weeks hiking, biking and climbing together, an amount of time that eventually led to the birth of their son Thomas nine months later. They never married because of Robert's job but he maintained contact and provided what he could for the mother and son, visiting on occasion.
These visits would greatly influence young Thomas who listened with rapt amazement to the stories of his fathers far flung adventures. He began to dream of a military career and soon was enrolled in scouts and cadets.
He was 15 when his father was killed fighting in a far flung outpost of the British Empire. Rather then discourage him from a military life it only served to harden his resolve and in 1937 he joined the Canadian Forces as an officer cadet, enrolling at the Royal Military College of Canada to study engineering.
Thomas graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada in 1941 at the head of his class as a 2nd Lieutenant and serve his first posting in Gagetown, New Bruniswick. Here he would learn the skills that would serve him for the rest of his career.
It was during his first tour that the young 2nd Lieutenant distinguished himself under fire, returning to rescue four of his men who had been injured trying to blow an enemy bridgehead to pieces. For his gallantry under fire he was awarded the Victoria Cross and a promotion to lieutenant. It was only the beginning of what would be an outstanding military career.
By 25 he had achieved the rank of Major and was months away from ending his contract with the Canadian Forces. The Canadians were keen to keep him but he would meet someone who would change his life.
In August of 1946 he met Angela Chappel, younger sister of Captain Patrick Chappel of His Majesties Naval Station in Durban, South Africa. Their meeting sadly occured around the same time as the death of his mother in an avalanche. With no reason to remain in Canada, the two wed six months later as his contract with the Canadian Forces ended and, lured by the promise of promotion, a wage increase and rich land, he joined the British Army in South Africa.
He would go on to serve six tours with the British Army, following in his fathers footsteps in distant corners of the Empire. As a Colonel he recieved a second Victoria Cross after personally leading a bayonet charge that drove the enemy from a vital position, an act trumpeted around the world.
After 15 years of service with the British Army he would be promoted to Brigadier-General and given command of the South African garrison. It is a position he would hold for the remaining five years of his career before retiring in 1966 at the age of 45.
During his service with the British Army in South Africa, Thomas and Angela settled down on the Ranch he'd been granted as his signing bonus, an amazing 18,000 acres just south of Cape Town on the coast. With them were four children, two boys Dylan and Spencer, and two daughters Jessica and Lillian. To their fathers delight neither of the boys showed any interest in the military and instead seemed keen to learn the workings of their family ranch.
He was well known to be a firm father, harsh but fair to his family and his employees. Even his most bitter enemies speak of him with respect and none in South Africa can accuse him of being partial towards whites as he took no sides in any the racial tensions.
This all changed however in 1971 when the South African people, fed up with the heavy hand of the British Empire, rose in open revolt. Because of his ties to the country and his family he declined the attempted recall by the British Army and refused to lead their troops against the Rebels.
Eventually he was asked to help negotiate the withdrawal of the Empire and he consented, ascting as a trusted and honest mediator between the two factions. When the Empire finally withdraw at the end of 1971 he returned him hoping to continue his life in peace. It was not to be. Civil war would shatter his family before the year was out.
February 23rd, 1972. Civil war rock the nation and ANC fighters attack the Clarkson Ranch. No one is certain why, some suggest it was an attempt to kill Thomas before he joined the Afrikaner forces though no evidence suggests he was planning to. They failed to kill him, but instead took the life of his youngest son Spencer.
Enraged, the twice decorated war hero announced his intention to serve with the ANP. The ANP rejoiced, they were fast losing a war of attrition as the greater numbers of ANC troops were overwhelming them.
Under the leadership of Clarkson the ANP forces are able to stem the tide of defeat and even inflict crushing defeats on the ANC in several crucial battles. Thus developed a stalemate in the South African civil war, both sides eyeing each other warily.
January of 1973, Nelson Mandela approaches the ANP alone and asks to negotiate. He informs the ANP that the ANC is also aware of a growing threat from the Spanish in the north. His manner of speech, honesty, and intelligence impress Thomas and somehow the two men would swiftly become friends.
Their friendship would allow peace to become a reality and in the fall of 1973 an official ceasefire is declared between the two sides who agree to democratic elections. Somehow, and many maintain it was a rigged election, the ANP triumph.
Whatever the reasons, Thomas was quickly asked to take on the role of Chief of Defence Staff. Urged by his inlaws he agreed.
Thomas is currently engaged in trying to modernize the South African military and to merge it with the Angolan and Namibian forces that came with the recently acquired territories. He still lives near Cape Town but also has a home in Pretoria, the seat of South Africa's government. His wife Angela lives on the Ranch with the children.