T. C. Thomsen

​One of the Early Leaders of Rotary

Amended 13 February 2013

T. C. ThomsenT. C. THOMSEN was a Danish Rotarian, President of the Copenhagen Club 1924/5.
He was an engineer working mainly in the water supply industry.

In 1925/6 he served as a member of the Board of RI which involved travelling to the United States.

While in Los Angeles, he accompanied Paul Harris on a tour of the area as well as joining Paul at the cinema to see ‘Making of pictures’ with Colleen Moore and Blanche Sweet.

In 1927 at the Ostend Convention, Thomsen made one of the keynote speeches on the subject “What Can Rotary Do For Europe”.

In the reports of the Convention, he was described as a member of the Aarhus Club and given the classification of ‘Cream and Oil Separator’.

In 1929 he bought out the old established water treatment company of Kruger and managed it until 1934.

Despite this post, he still found time for Rotary.

When Fred Warren Teele resigned as Special Commissioner in Europe in 1928, Thomsen took over both this post and responsibility for the Zurich office. Initially he was given a 3 year contract.

Thomsen was a multi-linguist, a very useful attribute in this post. Although he travelled extensively throughout Europe, it was his work in Germany for which he is best known.

His first club, and indeed the first in Germany, was in Hamburg where a distinguished group of Germans formed an inaugural club in 1927.

A year later he met Paul Harris again and briefed him on Rotary’s progress in Europe before they went to a meeting of the Hamburg Club.

Harris recorded it thus:-

“In one particular respect my experience may be of benefit to future visitors to German Clubs.
Neither in Cologne nor in Hamburg was I called upon by the chairman to speak as had been the practice elsewhere.
The natural result was that I did not speak until it had become in other ways manifest that I was expected to do so.
In Hamburg “T. C.” astounded me somewhat by seizing the gavel, calling the meeting to order, and making a brief address on matters of current interest to German Rotarians, after which, by various signs and exclamations, he indicated to me that it would be quite in order for me to do likewise.

I could not, however, readily overcome my reluctance in becoming my own announcer until convinced.
It must be then or never, whereupon I arose and, I am quite certain, said just the wrong thing.”

After this success, Thomsen was instrumental in founding further clubs, among them Frankfurt, Koln, Munich, Dresden, Stuttgart and Berlin.

All these clubs were closed down when Germany went to war.

After the war, Thomsen, back in Denmark, but did not rejoin his club.

Thomsen also served on the 1931 Rotary convention committee

Amended 13 February 2013

Thomsen was excluded from the Copenhagen club after the war when Rotary resumed in 1946. He tried to rejoin Rotary at various times up to 1960 but was unable to do so. It was said that, during the occupation of Denmark by the Germans. he had either done business with the Germans or acted in their interest. Although the Danes looked into such cases to see if anyone could be brought before a court for acting against Danish interests, we have not found any such case involving Thomsen. Indeed, in one document, a secret service officer supported Thomsen saying “that most likely he had done nothing wrong.” However, a British government agency disputed this and Thomsen remained a non-Rotarian.

There are several items in the Danish Rotary Archives about Thomsen and the research is on-going.

Researched by Frank Garbelmann, Torben Svendsen, RGHF senior historian Wolfgang Ziegler and RGHF senior historian Basil Lewis

Approved by RGHF VP of History Calum Thomson

researched by Basil Lewis and Wolfgang Ziegler, September 2008