Ever since he was a teenager, it has been a bucket list item for Ray Veal from Mount Clear to pay his respects to an uncle he never had the chance to meet.
Thomas Paterson Veal is buried at St Sever Cemetery in Rouen, France, alongside 21 fellow Ballarat men who fought and died during World War I.
“My dad’s family was a large family and we were always aware that we never got to meet uncle Tom,” Mr Veal said.
In October this year, Mr Veal was finally able to make the journey to the war cemetery in France with his wife Betty.
“It’s a little hard to describe (the experience),” he said. “I was well prepared for the visit so I wasn’t emotionally overwhelmed, but it was really satisfying to be there and just to remember what some of these men did.”
“It’s emotional and it brings back lots of memories and questions. You wonder what it was like for him to be out there on his own without family.”
The cemetery was used during World War I as a burial place for the allied soldiers who died in the field hospitals in the area and the nearby British military base.
“When (researcher) Gary Snowden became aware that we were travelling to Rouen, he emailed me a list of 22 names of men from Ballarat who had lost their lives in World War I and are buried at the St Sever Cemetery,” Mr Veal said.
The couple took the list with them and placed a red poppy on 18 of the graves – they were unable to locate the other four before closing time.
“I hope it will be a positive bit of information for their families. We certainly had in mind each of the families, even though we virtually don’t know any of them.
“It was our privilege to be there and represent them, and also to show that these men have not been forgotten.”
The Ballarat soldiers rest alongside soldiers and officers from Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and India.
“We should not forget what these men did and the futility of war, the foolishness of fighting when there are better ways to find peace than to do it through the barrel of guns,” Mr Veal said.
The Ballarat men buried at St Sever Cemetery and Extension:
- Robert Royston Marshal
- Henry William Hart
- Henry Thomas Strickland
- John Albert Woolcock
- George Alexander Grove
- Albert Sidney Maidment
- Archibald Thomas Peady
- Gordon George Simpson
- Lewis James Nicholls
- James William Bale
- Paterson Thomas Veal
- Borlase Harry Clark
- Telfer Albert White
- Walker Charles Tucker
- Curtis Hugh Clarkson
- Keith Clifford Davies
- Norman Dalgleish
- Arthur Windover
- Abijah Samuel Martin
- Charles Walker
- George James Fraser
- Hurley Laurence Callinan
If families wish to get in touch with Mr Veal call The Courier on 5320 1242.