Budleigh pensioner's shock at history surrounding medal

A BUDLEIGH pensioner has spoken of his shock when he learned about the history surrounding an old and prestigious medal which he inherited. Alec Pollard, 78, was stunned to discover the medal had at some point being bestowed on a Devon war hero, Thomas Ne

A BUDLEIGH pensioner has spoken of his shock when he learned about the history surrounding an old and prestigious medal which he inherited.

Alec Pollard, 78, was stunned to discover the medal had at some point being bestowed on a Devon war hero, Thomas Neale, who retired to Sidmouth.

The award came into his possession through his late aunt who had been his housekeeper. It was left to her by Mr Neale when he passed away around 20 years ago.

Now it has been bequeathed to Mr Pollard, who says he never realised how important it was until he spoke to some Polish farm workers in the area.


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"I showed them the certificate that came with the medal and they informed me it was the highest honour the Polish Government can bestow on a foreigner," Mr Pollard said.

He said that Mr Neal had been called up early after the start of the World War I and served in the army throughout.

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Once his unit had reached Germany, however, he was captured by enemy troops and sent to a prisoner of war camp.

Mr Pollard, 78, added: "It seems he was not one to be a PoW and soon after arrival at the camp he and three others, escaped and went on the run.

"Sadly he was captured but he tried again and this time made it to the Swiss-German border, where he was taken in by a farming family and hidden in a barn.

"When the initial search for him was over he made a break for it and, although captured again briefly, he made it into Poland where he joined up with the Polish resistance and spent the rest of the war fighting with them."

Mr Pollard said he seemed to have been quite a hero, because after the war the Polish Government presented him with the medal.

"When he was demobbed, Mr Neale went back to being a baker and retired to a quiet life in Sidmouth where few people knew about his wartime heroics."

"It is a wonderful story and he certainly seems to have deserved this accolade.

"I am not sure what I should do with the medal and the certificate that came with it. It may be that someone in Poland might want it for a museum.

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