10th Battalion; 6th Battalion
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; Frank Hugh; Cyril
Name(s) of children:
Date of birth:
Place of enlistment:
City of London
Age at death:
Cemetery or memorial:
Name of mother:
Sarah Jane McNeill (nee Bond)
Name of spouse:
25 Wray Crescent (1911 Census)
57 Holloway Road (1917)
Percy Colin McNeill was the youngest of five brothers commemorated at St Mellitus, all of whom returned safely from the war.
Born on 16 April 1894, Percy was baptised at New Court Congregational Chapel on 11 April 1897 together with Cyril, his brother, who was two years older. His parents were Archibald Thomas McNeill, and his wife Sarah Jane, nee Bond. The family lived at 25 Wray Crescent, very close to the Chapel. Archibald was a Stockbroker’s Managing Clerk, and Percy, aged 16 in 1911, had already followed his father into the profession.
Percy’s occupation is key to his military service in the war. On 21 August 1914, just 17 days after war was declared, hundreds of men from the City of London, many employed in the Stock Exchange, volunteered to serve in the New Army, responding to the call from Lord Kitchener to take up arms. They formed what became 10th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, and Percy volunteered as a Private just eight days later, aged 20.
Percy’s was a locally raised battalion, not under the control of the War Office, and it bore the unofficial name ‘The Stockbrokers’. Members of the Stock Exchange from well-known families, like the Rothschilds, served in the ranks alongside clerks from their firms like Percy. The City of London supported the battalion; for example, the Corporation offered to buy two machine guns, and the Musicians Company of the City of London provided instruments for the band. A wealthy private individual offered £3,000 (equivalent to almost £200,000 today) as a fund to provide equipment and comforts for the men.
The battalion was also the first ‘Pals Battalion’. Britain was the only major power not to begin the First World War with a mass conscripted army; after the war broke out, it quickly became clear that the small professional British Army was not large enough for a global conflict. Men were encouraged to join up to serve alongside their relatives, friends, neighbours and workmates. ‘The Pals’ became synonymous with battalions from northern towns like Accrington and Leeds, but it applied equally to Percy and the hundreds of fellow clerks who joined ‘The Stockbrokers’ in August 1914.
The battalion left from Liverpool Street station on 3 September 1914 bound for initial training in Colchester, and then in Andover in Hampshire, and they were sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force on 31 July 1915. At Armentières – a place made famous by the wartime song ‘Mademoiselle from Armentieres’ with its pseudo-French line ‘Inky Pinky Parlez Vous’- they became familiar with life in the trenches and trench warfare. Percy was to spend the next year on the Western Front in France.
In 1916 the battalion saw action at Bailleulval, Mezerolles, Berles au Bois and in the Battle of the Somme, which began on 1 July. On 15 July, they were part of the attacks on Pozieres from the La Boisselle-Contalmaison road, and were subjected to heavy shelling. Records show that Percy was wounded on that day and sent back to England shortly afterwards. On 5 August he was transferred to the 6th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, a Reserve battalion that remained in Britain throughout the war.
It seems that Percy’s injuries at the front were severe and limited his service even in the new battalion: he was transferred to Class P Army Reserve in April 1917. Introduced in 1916, this class consisted of men whose services were deemed to be temporarily of more value to the country in civil life rather than in the Army; who were not lower than medical grade Ciii [ie only suitable for sedentary work]; and as a result of having served in the Army would, if discharged, be eligible for a pension on the grounds of disability or length of service. Percy was discharged from the Army ‘no longer physically fit for war service’ on 20 July 1917. He was then exempt from any future military service.
As a result of his disability, Percy received a pension based on total service of 2 years 238 days. He was also awarded the Silver War badge, instituted in 1916 as an award of ‘King’s silver’ for having been wounded in the course of duty. Each badge was uniquely numbered on the reverse; Percy’s badge was Number 181760. Percy was awarded three medals: the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal.
Percy returned home to London, where his family was now living at 57 Holloway Road. His brothers were all away serving in the military: Cyril on the Western Front and soon to be sent to Italy; Norman and Frank in different places in the UK; and Archibald recently enlisted in the air service. They all returned to London in 1919, and later that year Percy’s father, Archibald Thomas McNeill, died.
In 1927 Percy set sail for Australia accompanied by his mother, Sarah Jane. They then went to live in New Zealand, where Sarah Jane died in 1929. Percy is recorded in 1946 living in Waitoa, on North Island, and working as an apiarist. He died in New Zealand in 1960.