I write this for today, Veteran's Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom. The day in both countries used to be called Armistice Day, the day the armistice was signed to end the Great War, now called World War I. You might recall seeing some dramatic photos from November 11, 2014. It was the day that the last of 886,247 ceramic poppies were placed in the moat around the Tower of London to commemorate that number of dead from the United Kingdom, Australia and the British Commonwealth during World War I. This work of outdoor art was called “Blood-Swept Lands and Sea of Red.” One of those poppies represented the subject of this essay, Michael Hubert Thunder.
My late father called his father’s brother “Uncle Mick.” Whenever he spoke of him, he did it in hushed, reverent tones. Since his Uncle Mick died in 1916, when my father was but three, my father, in speaking in hushed, reverent tones all his life, must have been mimicking his father.
My father and his four siblings, living in Berkeley in 1916, never met Uncle Mick. His father, James, and the brother, Mick, separated when James emigrated to America and Mick didn’t. My father knew next to nothing about Uncle Mick. He knew he’d been a prisoner of war in the Boer War, that he had been a gentleman jockey while working as an executive for a tin mining operation in Malaysia, and that he had died as a Royal Flying Corps pilot in World War I.
Through the wonders of the Internet, I’ve been able to learn many details of his story. I will limit this essay to his military service, in the Boer War and in World War I. Here’s one thing I discovered: Young journalist Winston Churchill would have been taken prisoner a second time if he had accompanied Uncle Mick’s battalion rather than another battalion.
Here follows a link to "One Poppy for Michael Hubert Thunder: Boer War POW and Royal Flying Corps KIA."
Spero News columnist James Thunder is an attorney who practices in the Washington DC area.