Honourable Artillery Company
Place of birth:
Date of death:
Cause of death:
Grave or panel reference:
Name of father:
Archibald Thomas McNeill
Name of siblings:
Archibald Joseph; Norman; Cyril; Percy Colin
Name(s) of children:
Date of birth:
Place of enlistment:
Armoury House, Finsbury, City of London
France; Flanders; Italy; Austria
Age at death:
Cemetery or memorial:
Name of mother:
Sarah Jane McNeill (nee Bond)
Name of spouse:
Grace BeatriceMcNeill (nee Jackson)
25 Wray Crescent (1911 Census)
57 Holloway Road (1915)
Cyril McNeill was one of five brothers commemorated at St Mellitus, all of whom returned home safely from their war service.
Born in July 1892, Cyril was the fourth son of Archibald Thomas McNeill and his wife Sarah Jane, nee Bond. The family lived at 25 Wray Crescent, close to New Court Congregational Church, where Cyril was baptised in April 1897 together with his brother Percy. By the time of the 1911 census, Cyril, aged 18, was a stockbroker’s clerk, following his father, who was a Managing Clerk, into the profession. Some time before May 1915 the family moved to 57 Holloway Road.
Cyril’s brother Percy enlisted very quickly after the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914, but Cyril himself waited until the next year. On 19 May 1915 he enlisted for four years in the Territorial Force as a Private in the Honourable Artillery Company at their headquarters, Armoury House, at Finsbury in the City of London. The Honourable Artillery Company is the oldest surviving regiment in the British Army, tracing its origins to 1296.
As a member of the 2nd Battalion, Cyril was first sent for training and then served in England until October 1916. He spent 20 days in the Kent 108 Voluntary Aid Detachment hospital at Orpington in June/July 1916 receiving treatment for synovitis of the knee.
Cyril’s unit, 4th Company, embarked as part of the British Expeditionary Force at Southampton on 1 October 1916; disembarked at Le Havre on 3 October; and proceeded to the front the next day. They saw active service in France until November 1917, including the Battle of Arras in May. Cyril’s older brother Norman was serving in the 1st battalion of the same regiment and was also in action at Arras; he was wounded and returned to the UK.
In September 1917 Cyril was appointed Lance Corporal; at first he was ‘unpaid’, i.e. not receiving additional pay for the promotion, but he became a paid Lance Corporal on 9 October 1917. Shortly afterwards he was granted ‘3d per diem Proficiency Pay’, which would have augmented his daily pay of 1s 9d. Cyril’s first action as a Non-Commissioned Officer would have been in the 3rd Battle of Ypres that same month.
On 26 November 1917 Cyril’s battalion was sent, as part of 7th Division, to Italy. French and British troops were reinforcements for the Italian Army following their heavy losses that autumn; and Britain also wanted to ensure Italy did not withdraw from the war. British troops first saw action in December 1917.
In October 1918 Cyril’s battalion was part of a force of 65,000 Italians, Americans and British that defeated Austria-Hungary at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, near Venice. This was the decisive action that ended the war on the Italian Front with Austria-Hungary signing an Armistice on 4 November 1918, a week before the Armistice on the Western Front.
After the Armistice, all four companies of Cyril’s Battalion were sent north, over the mountains, from Italy to Imst in the Austrian Tyrol as part of the post-war occupation force. They arrived on 30 November 1918 and stayed until the last units were replaced by 22nd Manchester Regiment in February 1919. The battalion’s duties seem to have include mounting a guard every time a train approached the railway station.
A postcard sent by another soldier to a relative in Devon on 4 December 1918 reads ‘Having a jolly good time here at present in the Austrian Tyrol, plenty of tobogganing, we get up a fine speed too.’ Perhaps Cyril took part in the tobogganing as that month he seems to have been hospitalised briefly for a problem with his foot. However, it cannot have been serious as he was given a medical examination at Imst on 6 January 1919 and classed as A1 (the fittest), the same as on enlistment nearly four years earlier, and later he affirmed that he had no disability arising from his war service.
Cyril was among the first soldiers of his regiment to set off on the long train journey home to Britain on 22 January 1919, arriving on 3 February, and he served for one final month at home. He collected the standard advance of £2 and was demobilised on 5 March 1919. Cyril’s total war service was 3 years and 291 days and he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, which he received in August 1921.
Cyril returned to live at 57 Holloway Road after the war and is among the Members of New Court Congregational Church in the Roll of 1 January 1920, having been admitted in 1913. In 1927 he married Grace Beatrice Jackson in Islington. By 1935 Cyril and his wife had moved to Barnet, and in the 1939 Register Cyril is recorded living in Cheltenham, working as a Map Constructor for the War Office, whilst Grace is at home in Barnet. Cyril died in 1967.