VEALL, Reginald Pax
Reginald Pax Veall was born on 5 November 1918 in Melbourne, Victoria, the eldest son of Arthur James and Cora Estella Veall of St Kilda, Victoria. His siblings were Keith, Ian and June.
Veall was educated at Wesley College in St Kilda until about 1935, where he represented the school in high jump. When he finished school, Veall worked for the family business, Arthur, J Veall Pty Ltd, which was advertised as 'Melbourne's Leading Electrical House'; he was attracted to the technical aspects of the business and he qualified as an electrician.
He was a ham radio operator with the call sign of 3PV and would disappear into the shed for hours. Veall built his own equipment and taught himself Morse Code.
His brother Ian recalls that Veall was well liked by all, and that on Saturday night he would generally take a table with friends at the Palais de Dance in St Kilda, where all the gentlemen wore tails.
The family firm, of which his father Arthur was the governing director, had an annual ball, also held at the Palais de Dance, where they raised money by selling tickets. The proceeds were donated to Berry’s Foundling Home in Berry Street.
Reports in The Argus in 1938 and 1939 reveal that Veall accompanied his mother and brother, Keith, to the 10th and 11th annual staff ball, a grand affair attended by more than 500 representatives from the radio and electrical houses of Melbourne.
Veall enlisted as a volunteer in the Militia Forces on 15 February 1938 in Signals 3rd Division, his trade or occupation was recorded as salesman 'wireless'. He was engaged in the Australian Merchant Navy on 14 May 1941, in St Kilda, and became the 3rd Radio Officer on the MV Neptuna. The trip to Darwin on the Neptuna was his second trip; the first one was to Hong Kong, and he brought presents of ivory back for the family.
The MV Neptuna was crewed by eighteen Australian Officers, four Cadets, and over one hundred Chinese sailors. She arrived in Darwin Harbour loaded with two hundred depth charges and a very large quantity of anti-aircraft shells for the Navy and Army.
When the Japanese air attack began the Neptuna was berthed alongside the main wharf awaiting maintenance. The first bomb hit the ship below the waterline and she began taking on water; she then received a direct hit causing her to catch on fire. When the fire entered No. 3 and No. 4 hatches, the Neptuna blew apart, creating a huge mushroom cloud caused by the explosion of the ammunition she was carrying.
Most of the surviving ship’s company were rescued from the wharf and the harbour and taken aboard HMAS Platypus, a depot ship being used as a casualty clearing station. Thirty-six of the ship’s crew were killed, including the Master, Captain William Michie.
Veall died on 19 February 1942, at twenty-three years of age.
In 1944 his friends George, Noel, and Don remembered him in The Argus Family Notices:
'Two years ago our pal Reg was killed in Australia's first air raid. Words cannot assess our value of his friendship. We could never forget.'
Veall is commemorated on panel 12 of the Northern Territory War Memorial at Adelaide River War Cemetery.
Compiled with assistance from Ian Veall, brother to Reginald Veall.
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