b. 11/11/1892 Dartmouth. d. 06/11/1980 Hoddesdon
Theodore William Henry Veale (1892-1980) was born in Clarence Street, Dartmouth, Devon on 11th November 1892, and he was baptised at St Saviour’s, Dartmouth on 9th February the following year. He was the son of Henry Peake Veale, a builder, mason and plasterer, and Ada King nee Williams, who was a professional concert pianist. They had married in Plymouth in 1890. Theodore was one of three children with a brother Lawrence John (born in 1894) and sister Thora Florence Ada (born in 1911).
Theodore was educated at Dartmouth Council Schools. He was a member of Dartmouth United Football Association and Dartmouth Athletic Reserves, winning numerous trophies, and joined his father’s building business in Dartmouth after school. In October 1912, Theodore was arrested for housebreaking and theft and he is lucky that his sentence was relatively lenient at being bound over of £5 to be of good behaviour for a year. He enlisted on 4th September 1914. The Battalion was trained at Aldershot and Fareham, but his disciplinary record was poor, going absent without leave on numerous occasions.
He went to France with the Battalion on 27th July 1915. He was fined 14 days’ pay on 10th August and on the 17th was admitted to 6th Casualty Clearing Station with influenza. He would be dogged with ill health, suffering from laryngitis in March 1916, then debility in April 1916, and trench fever in May 1916. He finally re-joined the Battalion on 8th July, in the midst of the Battle of the Somme.
On 20th July 1916 east of High Wood, France, Private Veale, hearing that a wounded officer was lying in the open within 50 yards of the enemy, went out and dragged him into a shell hole and then took him water. As he could not carry the officer by himself, he fetched volunteers, one of whom was killed almost at once, and heavy fire necessitated leaving the wounded man in a shell hole until dusk when Private Veale went out again with volunteers. When an enemy patrol approached, he went back for a Lewis gun with which he covered the party while the officer was carried to safety.
During a soccer match, the game was halted and a bugler sounded “Fall In”. Captain James informed Theodore he had been awarded the VC and a general pinned the VC ribbon to his football jersey. The Battalion was given a day off to celebrate. He was appointed acting Corporal and was later promoted to Corporal. On 30th September, the Mayor of Dartmouth presented him with an illuminated address and an inscribed silver coffee service and salver plus £60.
The day after he returned to France he was admitted with bronchitis, and was evacuated to England on the 28th December 1916. On 5th February 1917 he was presented with the VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace. Having recovered, he was posted to the Depot at Exeter and was employed with 3rd Battalion. On 12th June, he returned to France and joined 2nd Battalion. However, his stay was short and he transferred to 31st Prisoner of War Company. He then moved to the Labour Corps and was discharged to the Class Z Reserve on 15th March 1919.
He returned to his father’s building business and also appeared in several films such as The Battle of the Somme, The Call of the Sea and Q Ships. He also worked at Ealing Studios as an electrician. He then struggled for work and ended up working for his brother, Lawrence, in Devon and was a member of the Dartmouth Volunteer Fire Brigade until moving to London in 1927. He married Amy Rose nee Pinsent in April 1920 and they had three children.
Theodore was one of three Devonshire VCs known as “Veale, Sage and Onions”. They met at the VC Dinner on 9th November 1929. On 20th July 1931, he was working at Paignton Pier, when he was struck on the head by a falling packing case and had to give up work. He suffered from fits, numbness in his legs and buzzing in his head. He later sued for damages successfully and became a chauffeur by the Bentall family. During the Second World War, he unsuccessfully tried to get back to his old Regiment, but was turned down and worked at Crewe with 949 Balloon Squadron Auxiliary Air Force.
Theodore died at his daughter’s hom, 11 Ware Road, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire on 6th November 1980. Following a full military funeral he was cremated at Enfield Crematorium, where his ashes were scattered in Area M3 – D8. In addition to the VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, 1939-45 Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953 and Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977. The VC is held by the Devonshire and Dorset Regimental Museum, Dorchester, Dorset.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: KEEP MILITARY MUSEUM, DORCHESTER, DORSET.
BURIAL PLACE: ENFIELD CREMATORIUM, ENFIELD, MIDDLESEX.
Theodore Veale's medal group on display at The Keep Military Museum, Dorchester, Dorset.
(Picture courtesy of Terry Cooling).
Royal Avenue Gardens, Dartmouth
War Illustrated, 23rd September 1916
Royal Avenue Gardens, Dartmouth (Steve Lee)