Sir Robert Thompson KBE

Sir Robert Thompson KBE, CMG, DSO, MC, was a British soldier and counter-insurgency expert.

Thompson fought as a Chindit in the Burma Campaign during World War II, ultimately obtaining the rank of Brigadier. In the 1950's he served as Permanent Secretary of Defence for Malaya and, working closely with General Gerald Templer, was a major player in the defeat of the communist insurgency during the Malayan Emergency.

In September 1961 Prime Minister Harold Macmillan appointed him head of the newly established BRIAM (British Advisory Mission) to South Vietnam - and by extension Washington. Thompson conceived of an initiative he called the Delta plan but when he saw the effects of the strategic hamlets initiative, begun in February 1962 he became an enthusiastic backer, telling President Kennedy in 1963 that he felt the war could be won. Under Thompson's leadership BRIAM put economic pressure on the South Vietnamese government that Thompson described as "an invitation to a coup".

Kennedy was receptive to Thompson's ideas but the American military establishment were extremely reluctant to implement them. His warning not to bomb villages went unheeded and his dismissal of American air supremacy was ignored. "The war [will] be won by brains and on foot", he told Kennedy but competing interests in Washington and Saigon acted to marginalise Thompson and ultimately his strategies had no real effect on the conflict. He stepped down from BRIAM in 1965 and the organisation, deprived of the man who was essentially its raison d'etre, folded up around him.

Despite his relatively acrimonious criticism of United States policy in Vietnam, Thompson returned to a post assisting the American government in 1969 when he became a special advisor on pacification to President Nixon.

In later life Thompson wrote extensively about the use of commandos and counter-insurgency operations in Asymmetric warfare