World War I was a global conflict that defined the 20th century and had long lasting profound effects on the worlds people, political ramifications and huge technological changes. It was a moment in time that was the violent forerunner of the modern world.
Sergeant Thomas Hunter is THE LONELY ANZAC-A MAN FAR FROM HOME.
He was a member of the 10th Battalion of the 10th Division of the Australian army. He had been in action and was injured at Gallipoli in 1915 and then when recovered was sent to the battle of the Somme in 1916 where he was shot in the spine and partially paralysed at Pozieres France on the 25th July. He was then brought back to Blighty for treatment in a hospital in Halifax but the train was stopped at Peterborough when he deteriorated on the train journey. He was taken to the hospital which is now Peterborough Museum where he died on the 31st July. He is thought to be the first ANZAC who died on UK soil in WWI.
The people of Peterborough reacted to the death of this man so far from home and his family and friends by bringing flowers to the hospital and collecting money for a big civic and military funeral on the 2nd August. The bells tolled, the boots of the military marching and the weeping of women was heard as a horse drawn hearse made its way through the city. The people cared because this young man made them think and fear for their sons, fathers, husbands and brother fighting overseas. His death brought out all the emotions they had for their own sons, fathers and husbands away still fighting in the trenches. They had recently become aware of the carnage that was the battle of the Somme where 131 men from Peterborough died.
A huge granite cross now marks his grave in Broadway Cemetery Peterborough where a service is held in his memory every year on ANZAC day-the 25th April.
The Funeral of Sgt Thomas Hunter 2nd August 1916.
Thomas Hunter’s ghost is reputed to haunt the now Peterborough Museum roaming the jurassic gallery and the upper floors. And you can attempt to see him for yourself at the various ghost hunting nights held throughout the year. The crazy life of an artist led me to book myself and my assistant onto one of these in April. And despite my scepticism the evening completed exceeded my expectations.
Thomas was born in 1880 in Newcastle in England and emigrated to Kurri Kurri in NS Wales Australia to live with it is believed his uncle and aunt in 1910. He had served for 10 years with the Durham artillery and had been a miner; the occupation he left to join up with the Australian army to fight in WWI.
There is a bronze plaque in the regimental chapel in Peterborough Cathedral-as you enter on the right.This plaque was bought by public subscription following donations after his death. This money also meant that a huge granite cross could be erected on his grave surrounded by other war graves from men who died of their injuries during the war.
Charron Pugsley-Hill-The Royal British Legion poppy social media campaign in 2015.
THE LONELY ANZAC -A Man Far From Home project has been to create a felted /textile artwork to commemorate the death of this man so far from home, away from his family and friends and to bring his story to more people of Peterborough and beyond. I have been collaborating with artisan felter Eve Marshall and working with schools, community groups, veterans and individuals to create poppies and flags that surround the centrepiece and tells the story of Thomas Hunter. There will be a special event on 31st July where the blanket will be laid and a service held to commemorate the centenary of his death. There will be a short commemoration in the Cathedral at 12:30pm with a service at the War Memorial at 1pm. The public are invited to lay flowers as the people of Peterborough did a hundred years ago.
If you would like more information on the series of works that I am creating to commemorate significant events, people and places from WWI then please keep an eye on my blogs or go to the WWI pages on my website charronpugsleyhill.com or get in touch.
I have used as my reference source the book re issued this centenary year “The Lonely ANZAC A true son of the Empire by John W Harvey ISBN number 0-9543916-0-8. John died in 1916 and the reprint is dedicated to him and his dedication to The Lonely ANZAC.
This project has been funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund and commissioned by Peterborough City Council. I am truly grateful to both organisations for their support with this project. Thank you.
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund HLF aims to make a lasting difference to heritage,people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy.From museums, parks and historic places to archeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest invert part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 35,000 projects with more than £5.8 million across the UK. www.hl.org.uk