Commemorative paving stones are to be laid in the home towns of the thirteen servicemen from Cornwall and Devon who were awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War. In the first of a series, Simon Parker relates the exploits of Theodore William Henry Veale.
Selfless bravery in rescuing a wounded comrade led to the awarding of several VCs between 1914 and 1918, and the actions of Theodore Veale were typical of the British Tommy's regard for his fellow soldier.
Risking his life again and again, Dartmouth-born Theodore successfully brought home an injured officer from the battlefield. And in contrast to many of his generation, who spoke little of their experiences during the Great War, Theodore wrote it down for future generations to reflect on.
Aged 23 and a private in the 8th Battalion, The Devonshire Regiment, Theodore was at High Wood on the Western Front in France on July 20, 1916, when he was told there was a wounded officer lying in No Man's Land, less than ten yards off the German line.
Without a thought for his own safety, he crept out and found the casualty, dragging him into a shell hole and giving him water.
"I flopped down on to the ground, but got up again and ran on to the spot where the man was waving," he wrote. "To my surprise it was one of our wounded officers, Lieutenant Savill. I laid down and did all I could for him and I was well fired at whilst I was there. Savill was so close to the Germans. I pulled him back about 15 yards because I found to my surprise he I was only about ten yards from them. I pulled him back, thinking they were going to pull him in. I went back to get some water and I took it back out to Lieutenant Savill. They fired at me again and it was surprising how it was that I was not hit. I meant to save him at all costs."
Unable to carry the officer by himself, Theodore returned to the British trenches to fetch volunteers. As they headed back towards the officer, the men came under heavy enemy fire, which left one of the company dead.
"Because it was all so open I had to crawl back again and got two more men and a corporal to come with a waterproof sheet, which we put Savill on. We tried to pull Savill back. We got about 80 yards and then had to rest. The corporal stood up on his knees and we saw five Germans pop up out of the grass about 100 yards away. We had to go over a bit of a bridge and they shot Corporal Allen through the head. That made the other two with me nervous and they wanted to get back. So I said, 'get back, and I'll manage'. So they went and I pulled the wounded officer into a hole and left him comfortable and went back. Then I sent a team out to cover any of the Germans that might try to fire at Savill and tracked out to him myself again with water."
Pinned down and unable to move forward or back, Theodore returned again to his trench to procure a Lewis gun, which he used to destroy the German position and provide cover for the rescue party.
Theodore was presented with the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery by King George V at Buckingham Palace on February 5 1917. He died on November 6, 1980, aged 89, in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire and had his ashes scattered in the area. On Remembrance Sunday in 2002, a memorial plaque to Theodore was unveiled in Dartmouth by his daughter, Theodora Grindell. Mrs Grindell, who wore her father's VC, was joined for the ceremony by relatives of Sir Eric Savill, the officer he saved.
Corporal Theodore William Henry Veale's Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces, is displayed at The Keep Military Museum in Dorchester.