Thomas’s police constable father died when he was 4. By 14 he was a general labourer. At 27 he joined the Coldstream Guards and fought extensively at the Somme.
Police constable father died
Thomas Veary was born between October and December 1886 in Headington district, Oxford. He was the son of Frederick Veary and Alice Hayward. In 1891 the family lived in Cowley and Frederick was a police constable, but he died leaving Thomas aged 4 and Alice expecting another child.
General labourer at age 14
Alice married Alfred Collett in April 1893 at Charlton-on-Otmoor: he was a labourer. At 14 Thomas was also a general labourer at Murcott.
Joined the Coldstream Guards
When war broke out Thomas was accepted as a Private in the 1st Battalion of the prestigious Coldstream Guards. The regular troops were sent to France in August 2014, but Thomas remained in England for training. The battalion suffered heavy casualties and Thomas was among reinforcements that reached France in October 1915.
Fought extensively at the Somme
The 1st Battalion was in action throughout the Battle of the Somme in 1916: at the Battle of Albert; at Bazentin in July; at Pozieres from July to September; and at Flers-Courcelette and Morval in September. Thomas survived all this, only to be killed by a stray shell in the trenches on 7 December 1916, at the age of 30.
Reburied after the Armistice
Thomas was buried in a nearby cemetery amongst a small number of other soldiers. After the Armistice theirs were among nearly a thousand bodies that were moved from small cemeteries and from the battlefield to Combles Communal Cemetery: some English, some French, and one a German prisoner. Over half the war casualties at the cemetery are unidentified, including many reburied near Thomas.