David Thomas

Posted on Thursday 1st December 2011

David Thomas, a graduate of the MA in British First World War Studies and, before that, of the part-time BA in War Studies, died peacefully at his home in Didcot on 24 November.  David was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Motor Neurone Disease part way through his MA. I shall never forget the afternoon he telephoned me with the news. He characteristically explained that he wished me to know the disease was responsible for a slight slurring in his speech not that he was ‘drunk’ (he may not have used the word ‘drunk’). His main concern was to ensure that he got a good start on his MA dissertation research and writing before he became too incapacitated. He did this triumphantly. 

The quality of his dissertation on British military pistols in the First World War, which has been published, was a source of great pride to him and has attracted great interest both in this country and in the United States. I always used to greet new students on the MA with the words ‘the greatest asset you will have is one another’. No one understood this more than David and exemplified it better. The MA and his fellow students were a source of real joy to him. He confronted his wretched illness with courage, stoicism and a complete lack of self-pity and was an inspiration to everyone who knew him during this dreadful time. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Penny, his family and friends. 

John Bourne
Director, Centre for First World War Studies (2002-9)