William COLBORNE-VEEL DCM

COLBORNE-VEEL, William

Service Number: 2935
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 5th Infantry Battalion
Born: Clifton Hill , date not yet discovered
Home Town: Bendigo, Greater Bendigo, Victoria
Schooling: Bendigo Central School & Bendigo School of Mines
Occupation: Electrical engineer
Died: 1 January 1950, cause of death not yet discovered, place of death not yet discovered, age not yet discovered
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials:
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World War 1 Service

10 Sep 1915: Involvement Private, SN 2935, 5th Infantry Battalion
10 Sep 1915: Embarked Private, SN 2935, 5th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Star of Victoria, Melbourne
20 Sep 1917: Honoured Distinguished Conduct Medal, Menin Road, DCM Recommendation - ‘On the morning of 20th September, 1917 during our advance east of HOOGE when his section Officer became a casualty, Cpl COLBORNE-VEEL, by his splendid courage and organisation, rallied his men and brought his guns into action in the first objective. Then our troops reached the second objective the Brigade on the right was not up in line and the enemy advanced on the flank and tried to turn it; This N.C.O seeing the danger, went forward on his own initiative and broke up the enemy attack cutting off a large number who surrendered. He then withdrew to his position in the first objective and consolidated. By his clever handling of the guns and continually changing positions he avoided many casualties amongst his crews and set a splendid example of courage and coolness throughout.' Medal Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 95 Date: 27 June 1918

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Biography contributed by Jack Coyne

William David COLBORNE-VEEL

Distinguished Conduct Medal

Recommedation- 

‘On the morning of 20th September, 1917 during our advance east of HOOGE when his section Officer became a casualty, Cpl COLBORNE-VEEL, by his splendid courage and organisation, rallied his men and brought his guns into action in the first objective. Then our troops reached the second objective the Brigade on the right was not up in line and the enemy advanced on the flank and tried to turn it; This N.C.O seeing the danger, went forward on his own initiative and broke up the enemy attack cutting off a large number who surrendered. He then withdrew to his position in the first objective and consolidated. By his clever handling of the guns and continually changing positions he avoided many casualties amongst his crews and set a splendid example of courage and coolness throughout’.

William was not the only Bendigo lad to be recommended for a medal on this day. Corporal Charles Atherton from Mt Korong Road was also recommended for the Military Medal on September 20, 1917 and the following day (September 21) at the same location (East of Hooge) Private Steven Clucas, a neighbour to Charles Atherton also from Mt Korong Road, was recommended for gallantry.

The Bendigo Advertiser reported on December 15, 1917: -           ‘The friends of Lieut. William Colborne Veel, late of Bendigo, will be pleased to hear that he has been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for conspicuous bravery. Lieut Colborne Veel is connected with the 1st. Australian Division of the Machine Gun Corps. The presentation was made by General Birdwood amidst the congratulations of his comrades. Before leaving Bendigo for the metropolis, Lieut. Colborne Veel was connected with the Bendigo Electric Light Works, and his name is on the honor roll at St. Paul's Church.’ [1]

William David Colborne-Veel was born in Clifton Hill with the family moving to Ballarat then Bendigo as their father Robert was Surveyor for the City’s Electric Tramway system. His father passed away suddenly in 1904 and their mother Katherine Veel was listed as his ‘Nearest of Kin’ by both sons. William studied Electrical Engineering at the Bendigo School of Mines and was working in Melbourne when he enlisted on June 26, 1915, aged twenty-five.

He would have been in training camp when he learnt the news of his brother Geoffrey being killed in action at the battle of Lone Pine on Gallipoli on August 4, 1915.

William embarked for war and fortunately arrived in Egypt too late to serve at Gallipoli however; he would be assigned to the Machine Gun Company before leaving for France in late March 1916. At the start of 1917 he was appointed Corporal then promoted to Sergeant six days after his courageous deed at Menin Road. The following month he was promoted to Second Lieutenant and by January 1918 made a full Lieutenant. He would be seriously wounded in August in fighting on the Somme and unfortunately lose his left arm following surgery in England. He returned to Australia on February 1, 1919 onboard the S.S Nestor.   

SERVICE DETAILS: 

Service Number: 2935

Born: Clifton Hill, Melbourne

School: School of Mines

Address on Enlistment: ‘Miroa’ Larritt Sreet, Bendigo

Occupation: Electrical Engineer

Age at Enlistment: 25

Enlistment date: 26th June 1915

Embarked: HMAT A16 Star of Victoria on 10 September 1915

Served: Egypt & Western Front.

Unit name: 9th Reinforcements for 5th Battalion & 1st Machine Gun Battalion.

Final Rank: Lieutenant 

Fate: Returned to Australia 12 December 1918. 

Died: January 1, 1950

Medal Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 95
Date: 27 June 1918

September 20 1917

The battle on September 20, 1917 where William Colborne-Veel was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal is better known as the battle of Menin Road. The Australian 1st and 2nd divisions suffered approximately 5,000 casualties in the Battle of Menin Road and the British even four or five times that number. Menin Road is named for the road that connects the towns of Ypres and Menin. The Battle so named was fought to gain ground in the vicinity of Zonnebeke to the east-southeast of Ypres (now known by it’s Flemish name of Leper).

East of Hooge referred to huge crater created by British and Dominion sappers who detonated one of the war’s largest mines under the German front line in 1916. Fighting ranged around this part of Flanders fields throughout the following two years of the war.

[1] Bendigo Advertiser December 15, 1917. P.9

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