b. 25/08/1897 Cardiff, Wales. d. 27/04/1983 Merthyr, Wales.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 11/08/1919 Cardiff, Wales.
Walter Charles Cleall (1896-1983) was born on 25th August 1897 in Cardiff, Wales, one of eleven children born to Walter Charles Cleall and Clara Florence (nee Chard). Little is known about his early life except that he attended Grangetown National School until the age of 14 when he left to work in a local mattress factory. On the outbreak of World War I, he served in the Army Service Corps (ASC) before transferring to the Infantry. He enlisted with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and served in the Dardanelles Campaign, Egypt, France from April 1915 to October 1915 and in Salonika from October 1915 to February 1919. He was demobbed in March 1919.
On 11th August 1919, whilst on demobilisation leave in Cardiff, a fire broke out at the Royal Hotel. The fire had reached the 6th floor when a maid. Winnie Jones, was seen to come to a window on that floor. Cleall, who was in the assembled crowd below, at once entered the building and eventually succeeded in getting to the 6th floor and into a room from where he could see the maid. He climbed out of the window on to the narrow parapet, and reached the maid. Above the ledge that afforded him a foothold was a stone balcony for a part of the intervening space, but a very dangerous corner had to be negotiated with a sheer 100ft drop in the street. However, he succeeded in carrying the maid back along the parapet and into the room from which he had come. A portion of the roof collapsed as the maid was assisted from the room. Cleall's action undoubtedly saved her life.
He was gazetted for the Albert Medal on 30th December 1919, and on 2nd March 1920 he re-enlisted in the Welsh Guards until 1st March 1927. He then transferred to the Reserve until 1st March 1932. He married Annie-May and they went on to have a son and a daughter. After his service years, he trained as a cabinet maker.
In 1971, Walter chose to exchange his Albert Medal for a George Cross and attended an investiture at Buckingham Palace in 1972. He donated his AM to the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. He lived his later years in Merthyr Tydfil, where he died in hospital on 27th April 1983. He was cremated at Llwydcoed Crematorium on 29th April 1983, and his ashes were taken away by the family. His wife, Annie-May passed away in 1986. Walter’s medal group including his GC is held by the Royal Logistics Corps Museum, Camberley, Surrey.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL LOGISTIC CORPS MUSEUM, CAMBERLEY, SURREY.
BURIAL PLACE: LLWYDCOED CREMATORIUM, ABERDARE, WALES.
Walter Cleall's medals including his George Cross on display at the Royal Logistic Corps Museum, Camberley, Surrey
(Picture - Thomas Stewart).