Albert Veal one of the not remembered of the First World War. Possibly one of the we would much rather forget any way of the war. Not a hero, or a coward, saint or sinner, a nobody. Although he was married and perhaps there is a faded sepia photo of him somewhere. maybe you, my reader of this blog, can tell me more.
Born near Bath, he worked as a collier before enlisting in the Royal Garrison Artillery in Bristol, at the age of 23 just before Christmas 1905. The next ten months he spent on home service before being posted to India in October 1906. This was still Kipling’s India so a read of Barrack Room Ballads would give a good idea of what life was like for a British soldier at the height of Empire. Maybe “Bless em all”, originally entitled, “Fuck em all” would give you a better idea of what the soldiers thought. Albert had some the usual selection of ailments that British soldiers caught while serving in the East, Malaria, Tapeworm, Boils. and was slightly wounded in an off duty accident. He also as the song goes, got no promotion that side of the ocean. Bless him.
Albert return to England at the beginning of April 1914. Albert’s son James was born five months later. Albert was at this time in France. A month in hospital at Netley with Enteric Fever December 1914-January 1915. Means he must have been sent back to England. The when is 9th December-7th January, and for the next six weeks at Addington Park War Hospital, it is not recorded how. Albert did have enteric fever in India on at least three occasions. His service record is incomplete because it mentions that he was now with a trench mortar battery. He must have been a reasonably good soldier he was promoted Bombardier, in the field, on the 25th October 1915. But, his service record does not record his home leave. Five days later he marries his son’s mother, Agnes at Croydon on the 30th October 1915. Things are looking good for Albert, a son, promotion, and a wife. The start of another love story. I should write a book about the First World War’s Lost Love Stories.
A fortnight later, back in France, he is admitted to hospital. He has a mental breakdown. First stop is 22nd Casualty Clearing station, followed by 11th General Hospital. Home to England on the Hospital Ship St Dennis on the 25th November 1915. He is admitted to Netley hospital suffering from Melancholia. Five days later he is at Napsbury War Hospital. Discharged from the hospital on the 31st March 1916. he suffers with depression, and delusions of a sexual character to orderlies, nurses, and his wife. The army discharges him as being physically fit for further service on the 15th April. The reason given is “Delusional Insanity”
That though is not the end of the story. Albert was awarded a pension for six months. 27 shillings a week. (£1. 35 pence)
For the next eleven months I have no idea of how Agnes coped. I remember reading about Siegfried Sassoon. W H R Rivers, who treated Sassoon in Edinburgh. Reportedly said, he was not interested in the minds of ordinary men. I do not doubt, that at the time, no one else was either.
Albert Veal Died 3rd March 1917. He is not recognised as being a casualty of the Great War.