After seeing the first light of day in Eureka, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, on 2 May 17, RSM MacNeil soon made himself known in the neighbourhood.

Early in his school days at Colchester County Academy Mr. MacNeil displayed great interest in military matters, and in 1932 joined the N.P.A.M. as a private. His Coy — “C” Coy, 106 Cdn Machine Gun Corps — was then commanded by Capt. Mitchell who later became Col. Mitchell, commandant of the Officers’ Training Unit at Brockville.

Some amusing stories came out of these early army days. A favourite one concerns machine-gun drill which was done from a horse-drawn “limber”. The shortage of horses imposed severe hardships and since Mr. MacNeil was the youngest and greenest member of the squad, he was detailed as assistant horse for the duration of the training period.

After his initiation into army ways, Mr. MacNeil forged ahead. In 1935 he was promoted to Corporal and attended “C” Wing, Connaught Ranges, Ottawa. At Aldershot in 1937 he attended a sergeants’ course of instruction and the R.S.I. and M.G.; and in 1939 he returned to Connaught Ranges, Ottawa, where he attended “B” Wing course.

Raising the North Novas Battle Flag on German soil are (l to r): Sgt. Kelly Grant and R.S.M. J.L. MacNeil
Raising the North Novas Battle Flag on German soil are (l to r): Sgt. Kelly Grant and R.S.M. J.L. MacNeil

On 27 Aug 39 MacNeil was called out of active service, and on 1 Sept 39 relieved Sgt (now Lieut.) F.E. Anthony as Guard Commander as Debert Airport. He spent the rest of the year and early 1940 on coast duty in the North Sydney area.

In 1941 Sgt McNeil joined the North N. S. Highlanders in which he was promoted to CSM soon afterwards. He proceeded overseas with the Unit, and in February, 1944 was appointed RSM. D-Day found Mr. MacNeil busily engaged with the ammunition problem in the beachhead. He was wounded at Les Buissons, evacuated to U.K., and returned to the Unit in September. In June, 1945, he transferred to the 3/North Nova Scotia Highlanders, CAOF. He has just achieved one great ambition–to attend the Guard School at Caterham.

Mr. MacNeil has done an excellent job throughout his army career. He is respected and admired by officer and OR alike, and is, like any good RSM, a mobile reference library.

(This article first appeared in Vol. 1, No. 21, of THE MAYFLOWER on Sunday, February 17, 1946. THE MAYFLOWER was the overseas newspaper of the Nova Scotia Highlanders.)

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