Who is Thomas Shelby?
The story of Thomas Shelby is narrated on the Peaky Blinders show; a British crime drama television series. The key man driving the action behind the Peaky Blinders is Thomas Shelby. He’s also the patriarch of the Shelby Family, a very influential family in Birmingham and London.
The show has won multiple awards, including several British Academy Film Awards(BAFTA). A large part because of Thomas Shelby’s character. In this post, we cover 5 interesting facts about Thomas Shelby. You’ll get to see why Peaky Blinders has earned a spot on our list of best TV shows for gentlemen.
He’s a World War 1 Hero
Thomas Shelby fought in the First World War, where he was a tunneler. This was one of the most dangerous jobs in the front line, with men often not surviving. During the war, the military employed specialist miners to dig tunnels. The main objective was to place mines beneath the enemy’s defensive positions. When detonated, the trenches were destroyed. The infantry would then advance towards the enemy’s front-line, hoping to take advantage of the confusion that followed the explosion of an underground mine.
It could take as long as a year to dig a tunnel and place a mine. As well as digging their own tunnels, the miners had to listen out for enemy tunnellers. This was the job Shelby volunteered to do! He was commended for his bravery, earning him unwavering respect from members of his unit.
After the War, he received medals of honor, including the Military Medal and the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
He never feels the need to prove his masculinity
In episode 5 of the first season, the Shelby brothers’ estranged father, Arthur Sr., arrives and causes tension within the family, especially with the eldest brother Arthur Jr. During this episode Arthur Jr. wishes to prove to his father he’s become a strong man in his absence. At the same time, he seeks approval and validation for his masculinity from his father. This results in a father and son boxing match, one which Arthur Jr. is reluctant to participate in as he tells his father that he doesn’t want to hurt him.
The fight itself is considered a ‘test’ from his father. Arthur Sr. wins and reiterates his dominance and power over his fully grown son. Throughout this episode, Arthur Jr. proves he does not possess the same mental strength as his brother Tommy. Arthur felt the need to prove his masculinity to his father, where Tommy displays full confidence in himself thus does not need the same validation to prove that he is a man. Masculine confidence is a seal that proves to others that you are fit to lead. It shows that you trust yourself and can be trusted by others, as well.
He’s extremely careful in all his dealings
Chief inspector Campbell a hire of Winston Churchill is the main antagonist in the first and second season of Peaky Blinders. On multiple occasions, he’s seen coercing Thomas Shelby to do his bidding. After being threatened several times by Campbell, Thomas writes a letter to the editor of the New York Times, explaining that Winston Churchill is having him perform high-profile assassinations on behalf of the crown. He names Chester Campbell and gives the sealed envelope to his sister. She’s to send it to the newspaper if Thomas is killed.
This is Thomas’ approach to his dealings through the show. Even in difficult, dangerous situations, he’s very calm and observant. With his enemies always out to get him, he never gets too comfortable and he always on his toes. Instead of panicking when in peril, he finds ways to protect himself and get the upper hand on his opponent.
Though not the firstborn, he’s the family patriarch
After returning from the war, Arthur Jr., the eldest of the Shelby siblings, feels that he should be the head of the family business. However, he lacks the complete mental strength essential for a successful and powerful man. Thomas steps up to be the leader of the Peaky Blinders gang, as his older brother Arthur Jr. ends up as his brother's right-hand man.
Thomas Shelby is also the head of the family’s thriving company, The Shelby Company Limited. Over the different seasons of the show, the Shelby Company grows, becoming ever more successful. Under Tommy’s leadership, it expands beyond Birmingham to London.
He earns the respect of Winston Churchill
At one point, Thomas is carted out to an abandoned field where he faces certain death. To his surprise, one of the three would-be assassins shoots the other two. The man says, “At some point in the near future, Mr. Churchill will want to speak to you in person, Mr. Shelby. He has a job for you.”
This is intriguing because these assassins were sent by Inspector Campbell to kill Thomas. And Inspector Campbell works for Churchill. For Churchill to interfere with Campbell’s plan, its because he sees some value in Thomas.
Later on, he’s able to secure steady cash flow from Winston Churchill, which helps him establish a successful export business.
Thomas Shelby is a man who was deeply traumatized by what he saw in WW1. He’s nowhere near perfect and throughout the show, he’s battling his own demons. Despite all this, he is still an incredibly compelling and interesting character. He makes Peaky Blinder a worthy show to add in our list of best TV shows for gentlemen.