b. 02/10/1897 Shotton, Flintshire, Wales. d. 13/01/1959 Rhyl, Wales.
Henry Weale (1897-1959) was born on October 2nd, 1897, in humble beginnings at the Ninehouses on Brook Road in Shotton, Flintshire, Wales. Harry, like many boys of the time, left school at 14 and went to work at John Summers Steelworks. It was most young men’s dream to serve King and countyr, so Harry lied and joined up, aged just 15. Since soldiers had to be 16, he was sent packing back to Shotton, but undeterred he went to the bloody battlefields legally at 16.He enlisted with the Royal Welch Fusiliers and rose to the rank of Lance-Corporal by the time of the action at Bazentin-le-Grand, France on 26th August 1918.
On 26th August 1918 at Bazentin-le-Grand, France, when the advance of the adjacent battalion was held up by enemy machine-guns, Lance-Corporal Weale was ordered to deal with hostile posts. When his Lewis gun failed him, on his own initiative, he rushed the nearest post and killed the crew, then went for the others, the crews of which fled on his approach. His dashing action cleared the way for the advance, inspired his comrades and resulted in the capture of all the machine-guns.
He returned home to Shotton where he stepped off the train to a hero’s welcome from crowds who had gathered from miles around. He was presented with an illuminated address by the headteacher of his former primary school, St Ethelwold’s. It read: “The parish is proud to know that one of its own boys has won, by deed of valour, the highest distinction which a British soldier can win.”
He received his VC from King George V at Buckingham Palace on 1st March 1919. Bosses at John Summers were so impressed with Harry’s bravery, they presented him with a gold hunter pocket watch. In June 1919 Harry married Susie Harrison of Rhyl, where the couple moved to. However, it was then things began to change for Harry. Conditions were dreadfully hard for men returning from war. Britain was meant to be a land fit for heroes, but when many returned, many like Harry Weale found themselves on the scrapheap.
Harry went from a hero, invited to receptions at Buckingham Palace, to a poorly-paid council worker. Susie’s mother was in poor health and Harry was forced to sell his John Summers gold watch. Harry and Susie had three sons and a daughter. Perhaps one of the most touching tales of Harry’s life was that his former employer John Summers tracked down and bought the gold watch he was forced to part with. The firm returned the timepiece to his nephew in the 60s, and it remains with the family to this day.
Harry died on 13th January 1959 in Rhyl at the age of 64, and he was buried with full military honours at Rhyl Cemetery. His medals including the VC, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, King George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. The medals are held by the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, Caernarfon Castle.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL WELCH FUSILIERS MUSEUM, CAERNARFON, WALES.
BURIAL PLACE: RHYL CEMETERY, RHYL, WALES.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
Picture - Thomas Stewart
Shotton, Clywd, Wales
Connah's Quay (Bill Rosedale)
See below the two stones now in situ in Shotton, Flintshire (courtesy of Bill Rosedale)