Special service to mark centenary of the death of the Lonely ANZAC

ANZAC Day service at Sgt Hunter's grave at Broadway Cemetery EMN-160425-174801009
ANZAC Day service at Sgt Hunter's grave at Broadway Cemetery EMN-160425-174801009

People are asked to bring flowers to lay at a special service to mark the centenary of the death of The Lonely ANZAC, a soldier who died in Peterborough after being wounded at the Battle of the Somme.

The event at Peterborough War Memorial will commemorate the death of Sergeant Thomas Hunter, who died at Peterborough Hospital - now the site of Peterborough Museum - on 31 July, 1916.

A procession to Peterborough Cathedral will leave Peterborough Town Hall in Bridge Street at 12.15pm on Sunday (July 31).

A commemoration service will then take place at the cathedral from 12.30pm which will be attended by Major General Wilson, a retired senior officer of the Australian Army who is travelling especially from Australia to attend, as well as Squadron Leader Peter Mole who will represent the Royal Australian Air Force.

Following the service the procession will proceed to the war memorial on Bridge Street where a blanket of poppies will be laid at 1pm.

Named ‘The Lonely ANZAC A Man Far From Home’, the blanket is made up of a collage of hand felted poppies and flags of countries involved in the First World War.

It has been made with the help of Peterborough people under the expert guidance of Peterborough artist Charron Pugsley-Hill and artisan felter Eve Marshall.

Sergeant Hunter was a member of the 10th Battalion of the 10th Division of the Australian army. He was in action at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 where he was shot in the spine and partially paralysed.

It was while being transferred by train to Halifax, Yorkshire that his condition deteriorated. The train made an emergency stop at Peterborough and he was taken to Peterborough Hospital (now Peterborough Museum) in Priestgate where he died.

He was buried in Peterborough and a plaque in Peterborough Cathedral commemorates his life.

Charron Pugsley-Hill said: “Although a story with a sad ending, the way the people of Peterborough took Sergeant Thomas Hunter to their hearts is heartwarming at the same time. This memory of the Lonely ANZAC continues even to this day with a service held on ANZAC Day each April at his graveside.

“It would be really fitting if the people of Peterborough could mark this special date by bringing flowers to lay at the foot of Peterborough War Memorial.”

All flowers will be donated for use in the Peterborough community and the city’s care homes.

A Heritage Lottery Fund grant for £8,600 was awarded to Peterborough City Council to help fund the centenary commemorations. A short film is also being made which will be available on YouTube from Monday, August 1 by finding Charron Pugsley-Hill Art.

Councillor Janet Goodwin, Peterborough City Council cabinet member for city centre management, culture and tourism, said: “Peterborough has a proud tradition of marking the anniversary of Sergeant Hunter’s death and it is marvellous to see the hard work put in by Charron and her team to mark this centenary year by involving members of the community, all thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.”

Peterborough Museum will also host an exhibition called Trenches, Trauma & Treatment: The Thomas Hunter Story on Saturday, July 30 and Sunday, July 31.

Costumed re-enactors will bring Peterborough Infirmary to life as the process by which wounded men were treated during the Great War unfolds around. For more information on the exhibition please call 01733 864663 or email museum@vivacity-peterborough.com.