Private James McNeil

Photo of a PoppyPhoto of Private James McNeilPrivate James McNeil

5th Battalion, Kings Own Scottish Borderers

Died 14 July 1915

Private 993, James McNeil, served with the 1st/5th Battalion, Kings Own Scottish Borderers, the fourth child of Andrew and Margaret McNeil of Bladnoch. Prior to enlistment James lived at 10 North Main Street and worked as a cooper and lorry driver at Bladnoch Creamery. Like many local young men he enlisted with the local regiment, the Kings Own Scottish Borderers.

On 24 May the 1st/5th Battalion sailed from Liverpool for service at Gallipoli, landing there on 6th June. Only a few weeks after landing at Gallipoli, aged only 22, James McNeil was dead. A letter to the family (below) was published in the Galloway Gazette. Although it is apparent from Major McIntosh’s letter that James McNeil was buried in a small graveyard, official records indicate that he has no known, official grave, and he is commemorated on the Helles Memorial in Turkey which bears more than 21,000 names.

Dear Mr McNeil,

I feel I would like to write to you just a few lines about your poor boy James, as I was with him just after he was struck, having been covered with the earth and dust from the same shell. He was busy working in the kitchen “dug-out” at the time, doing all he could to add to our comforts, so you may well say “He died doing his duty”. It is the highest praise one can give any soldier, and none ever deserve it more than he did. Although he was Major Chino’s personal servant, I knew him very well too, and I have to thank him for many a kind service and many a cheery word. When he accidentally cut his hand a few weeks ago, he showed me what stuff he was made of, for he never said a word when I stitched it up for him, and, in spite of my orders to the contrary, did most of his duties for Major Chino. He was struck in the neck by a shrapnel bullet, and by God’s will it struck a vital nerve, and he died within a few minutes, but I am glad to be able to say that he suffered no pain. Just when the bullet struck him he said, “Good-bye, chaps” so that he probably realised he was severely wounded. He almost immediately lost consciousness, and passed away very quietly and peacefully three or four minutes later. I think this is all I can tell you about him, except to say that we all liked him, for he was always bright and cheery, going about with a smile on his face and a kind word for everybody. We brought his body down from the gulley, and buried him in the little graveyard we have formed in the open beside the camp, in full view of the hill he, like us all, wished to get to the top of, and which we will ultimately gain and so avenge the losses we have sustained.

I am yours faithfully

(signed) A M McIntosh Major