Margaret Henderson Thomson, MBE, lived from 20 August 1902 to 16 June 1982. She was a doctor who was imprisoned by the Japanese during the Second World War. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Margaret Hunter was born in Edinburgh, the third of six children. Her father was a solicitor. Margaret was educated at Edinburgh Ladies' College before studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh. She graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery in 1926, in the same class as one of her younger sisters. She became a GP in Lanarkshire and then married Daniel Thomson, an agricultural engineer and rubber planter.
At the start of the Second World War, Daniel was working on a rubber plantation near Kuala Lumpur in Malaya and Margaret was working for the Malaya Medical Services. During the Japanese advance through Malaya, Margaret and Daniel moved south to Singapore. Margaret tended to the wounded during the fall of Singapore, and continued to do so when she was evacuated on board the last allied vessel to leave the island, the SS Kuala, in February 1942. This was bombed and sunk, and despite a serious leg wound, Margaret helped care for the survivors as they sailed in lifeboats to Sumatra, and then as they travelled overland ahead of the advancing Japanese army.
Margaret was captured by the Japanese and imprisoned in a local jail and then in a prisoner of war camp on Sumatra. There she helped provide medical care for fellow prisoners and in 1943, while still a prisoner, was awarded the MBE. Margaret survived imprisonment despite the harsh conditions, and after the war discovered that her husband was also a survivor, one of the allied prisoners who had been forced to construct the Burma Railway. They returned to the rubber plantations of Malaya, where Margaret established health facilities for rubber workers. In 1950, Margaret and Daniel returned to Scotland where they took over a farm near Huntly in Aberdeenshire. Margaret was widowed in 1971 and in 1982 she died at Huntly.
This biography draws on research first published in "The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women".