Recently released by Christ College Archive, these evocative photographs are a timely opportunity to see more of the man immortalised by Sassoon as ‘Dick Tiltwood’ in his semi-autobiographical novel, ‘Memoirs of an Infantry Officer’.
David Cuthbert Thomas joined the ranks of the Public Schools Battalion in August 1914, immediately after leaving school. He later gained his commission into the Royal Welsh Fusiliers where he met Sassoon and Graves, both of whom wrote poems about him. He had been in France for only a few months when he died from wounds on March 18th 1916 after being hit by sniper’s bullet during a night working party at the front line.
The only son of Rev E Thomas, Vicar of Llanedy, David Cuthbert Thomas was in the Hostel, now Donaldson’s, from 1906 to 1914. He was a School Prefect and a member of the Classical Sixth, achieving his Higher Certificate in the summer of 1914 with passes in Latin, Greek, Scripture with Greek text, and Roman History.
He was also a good all-round athlete and played for the 1st team of the major sports of the time. Over the two seasons in which he played as a forward in the Rugby Football XV (1912 and 1913), he is described as good tackler who made the most his height in the line-out; as a back in the Hockey XI (1914) he seems to have had similar talents, “though apt to foul and rather inclined to overdo dribbling”; he played for the Cricket XI for three seasons, doing “excellent service as a steady batsman”.
From December 1912 until he left school just before the outbreak of war, David Cuthbert Thomas was also an Editor of the school magazine, The Breconian, to which he contributed “pieces of light verse of no little promise”.
Unfortunately, the poems published in the magazine were unsigned so we don’t know which of them he wrote during his editorship. However, because of his popularity and his connections with magazine, he is one of only a few Old Breconians to have a memorial poem in The Breconian. The author of the poem, published below, is unknown.
D. C. T.
Since you were here two years have sped,
But you're remembered still;
Your memory has never fled,
Not yet it will.
You trod the muddy football-field
On many a hard-fought day;
'Twas then you learned to scorn to yield
In grim affray.
We've seen you batting, calm and cool,
When runs were coming fast;
In a greater game, for Country and for School,
You fall at last.
Rememb'ring what you were and did,
To you, who fighting fell,Breconians,
past and present, bid
A last farewell.
David Cuthbert Thomas is often similarly described in the writing of Sassoon and Graves so these photographs will of special interest to all those interested in their writing. By offering public access to them via the People’s Collection Wales website, Christ College Archive is making it possible for more people to have the opportunity to see the face of ‘Tommy’, the young man with “kind grey eyes” mourned by Sassoon in his diaries, and of ‘DCT’, the Old Breconian who is remembered in the Christ College Roll of Honour.
Photographs of the teams in which David Cuthbert Thomas played Cricket, Hockey and Rugby Football are now available on the People’s Collection Wales website:
In Memory of
David Cuthbert Thomas
18th June 1895 – 18th March 1916