Royal Garrison Artillery
No1 Company, Lancashire & Cheshire RGA
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:
Central Recruiting Office, Whitehall, London
Age at death:
Cemetery or memorial:
Name of mother:
Sarah Jane McNeill (nee Bond)
Name of spouse:
Maud Daisy McNeill (nee Skinner)
25 Wray Crescent (1911 census)
57 Holloway Road (1916)
23 Morning Lane, Hackney (1918)
14 Brookfield Raod, Clapton Park (1919)
Frank McNeill was one of five McNeill brothers who are commemorated at St Mellitus. All five returned safely from the war.
Born in May 1886, Frank Hugh was the third son of Archibald Thomas McNeill and his wife Sarah Jane, nee Bond. In the 1911 census Frank, aged 24, was still living at home at 25 Wray Crescent, and working as a bookseller, as was his older brother Norman. His father was a Stockbroker’s Managing Clerk and his two younger brothers, Cyril and Percy, were also clerks in stockbroking firms.
On Christmas Day 1916 Frank married Maud Daisy Skinner at St John’s Church in Hackney. Frank was 30 years old and the family home was now at 57 Holloway Road. At the beginning of 1916 conscription had been introduced for single men aged 18-41, and extended to married men in May of that year. Frank seems to have been called up some time in 1916. His younger brother Percy had volunteered for the Army very soon after the outbreak of war, and Cyril in 1915.
Frank enlisted on 27 December 1916 at the Central Recruiting Office in Whitehall as a Private in the Royal Garrison Artillery, a regiment for which he expressed a preference. He was posted to Cannock Chase, Staffordshire as Gunner, a rank equivalent to Private. His medical examination form records ‘‘Slight defects but not enough to cause rejection’ and he was classed as B1, fit for all kinds of service after training. In 1917 another examination at the military hospital at Seaforth on Merseyside found that he had myopic astigmatism and he was prescribed glasses.
In January 1917 Frank was posted to No1 Company, Lancashire & Cheshire Royal Garrison Artillery in Liverpool. This regiment was protecting the River Mersey and Merseyside from German attack, including manning the Crosby Battery on the coastal sand dunes at Crosby, north of Liverpool. The battery had three gun emplacements with an original complement of two 6- inch breech-loading Mark VII guns. Behind the positions were two barracks and soldiers’ quarters.
It seems Frank may have been a cook at this battery. In March 1917, he received a certificate from the School of Cookery, Western Command, in Warrington certifying that he had passed a course in cooking at the Army School of Cookery and was ‘considered competent to superintend the cooking of any Regular Unit.’ In April 1918 Frank was absent without leave ‘from 11.30 pm on 23.4.18 to 6.20 am on 24.4.18’ for which he was punished by the Officer Commanding No 1 Company by being confined to barracks for four days.
In May 1918 Frank was posted to another Royal Garrison Artillery station, the Experimental Battery at Shoeburyness in Essex. Here the Army was developing and testing new forms of weapons. Frank thus ended his military service in Eastern Command, having served only in the UK, and not having experienced the horrors of the front line overseas.
Frank was demobilised via Crystal Palace, like so many others from London, in February 1919. He declared that he did not have a disability caused by his military service. In March he was transferred to Class Z Army Reserve, which was a Reserve contingent, created in December 1918, consisting of previously enlisted soldiers, now discharged, who had to be ready to serve again if required. When expected problems with violations of the Armistice in Germany did not materialise, the Z Reserve was abolished on 31 March 1920.
As a married man Frank could apply for the separation allowance. This was a portion of a soldier’s pay which was matched by the government and sent to his dependents to make sure they were not left destitute while he was on active service. In 1916 the rate for a wife of a private or corporal with no children, which was the case for Maud at the time, was 12s.6d. Frank was a bookseller at the time he enlisted and one record in his service file suggests that he already owned his own business, which was certainly the case in the 1930s.
Some time during Frank’s service, he and Maud moved house from 23 Morning Lane in Hackney to 14 Brookfield Road, Clapton Park, east London, and in 1919 they again lived in Hackney at 22 Moundfield Road. Their first child, Doris, was born in 1919, with a son, Colin, in 1925. By 1933, the family had moved to Canvey Island in Essex where Frank had a stationer’s shop in Leigh Beck. Frank died in 1971.