Page last updated at 12:22 GMT, Tuesday, 18 May 2010 13:22 UK

Ex-Royal Marine's Military Cross sold for 3,200

Captain Peter Neale being presented with his military cross by Field Marshal Montgomery
Captain Peter Neale being presented with his military cross by Field Marshal Montgomery

by Neil Prior
BBC News

Captain Peter Neale went to war in 1942 as an apprentice architect, and came home a decorated hero.

Only 65 years later is his full story coming to light, as his Military Cross and accompanying documents were sold for £3,200 at a Colwyn Bay auctioneers on Tuesday.

Born in Stratford Upon Avon, Capt Neale lived the latter half of his life in north Wales, firstly in Deganwy, and then in Llandudno.

Displaying the modesty typical of his generation, Capt Neale, along with his wife Isabel, was known in Llandudno for his charitable work, in particular with the church and young offenders, but didn't like to speak of his role during World War II.

One person who had a unique glimpse into both sides of Capt Neale's life was their friend of 60 years, Malcolm MacDonald, who lives in Coventry.

Capt Neale was someone who didn't wait for things to happen, he made them happen, but he was a compassionate man who had tremendous concern for humanity
Malcolm MacDonald, friend

"Capt Neale was someone who didn't wait for things to happen, he made them happen, but he was a compassionate man who had tremendous concern for humanity," he said.

"He told me once about how he found the body of a little girl who had been killed during fighting in Belgium. He carried her body from where she lay to a place of safety. She was clutching two little dolls - they were only two or three inches high - and the memory stayed with him for the rest of his life."

The Military Cross and a letter from King George VI
Peter Neale was sent a letter by King George VI, which said he regretted not being able to present Capt Neale with the medal personally

Capt Neale died in 1999, and last year his wife passed away in Llandudno. Having no children, she requested that their joint estate was auctioned, allowing his tale to be told for the first time.

His citation tells of how Capt Neale was part of a Royal Marines Commando unit, preparing for the Allied advance over the Rhine.

On 3 March 1945 his group became stranded in a minefield, and three Sappers were badly injured when they stepped on a mine and were blown into an orchard around 100 yards away from the lane they were clearing.

He crawled on his stomach, feeling for explosive devices with his bayonet, until he struck one, and Capt Neale and another officer were also thrown into the even more heavily mined orchard.

Although injured and dazed from the blast, he ordered his men to stay still where they lay, while he felt his way back to the road, laying out tape behind him to mark out a safe passage for the stretcher-bearers arriving. It concludes by saying that his "controlled prompt and gallant actions" saved the lives of the other four men.

'Slice of history'

The medal was sold for £3,200 to a New Zealand collector, one of three telephone bidders.

The buyer later explained that he collects medals awarded to individuals who bear his own family name, even though he is not related to Capt Neale.

It was also revealed that the money raised will be donated to charity, in line with Capt Neale's wishes.

The sale lot included the full citation, a signed photograph of Capt Neale being presented with the medal by Field Marshal Montgomery, and a letter of congratulations from King George VI.

Auctioneer David Rogers-Jones said: "What people are interested in when something like this comes on the market is as much the story and the provenance as the piece of metal. With this Military Cross you have an entire slice of history, with the photo, the letter and the back-story.

"It's almost impossible to know how much it will raise. The market generally is quite depressed with the current financial climate, but this is an extraordinarily complete story."

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