John McNeill (British Army officer)

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Sir John Carstairs McNeill
Born (1831-03-28)28 March 1831
Colonsay, Argyllshire
Died 25 May 1904(1904-05-25) (aged 73)
St James's Palace, London
Buried Oronsay Priory
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Bengal Army
British Army
Rank Major General

Indian Mutiny
New Zealand Land Wars

Ashanti War
Mahdist War
1882 Anglo-Egyptian War

Awards Victoria Cross
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order[1]
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
Relations Alexander McNeill (brother)
Duncan McNeill, Lord Colonsay (uncle)
Sir John McNeill (uncle)
Other work Equerry to Queen Victoria

Major General Sir John Carstairs McNeill, VC, GCVO, KCB, KCMG (28 March 1831 – 25 May 1904) was a senior British Army officer and Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Early life[edit]

He was the son of Anne Elizabeth McNeill née Carstairs, and Alexander McNeill (1791–1850), brother of Duncan McNeill, Lord Colonsay (1793–1874) and of Sir John McNeill (1795–1883). His own brother was Alexander McNeill.[2] He was educated at St Andrews and at Addiscombe Military Seminary.[3]


McNeill was 33 years old, and a lieutenant colonel in the 107th Regiment of Foot (Bengal Light Infantry) – later The Royal Sussex Regiment), while serving as an Aide-de-Camp to Lieutenant General Sir Duncan Cameron during the Invasion of Waikato (one of the campaigns in the New Zealand Wars), when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

For the valour and presence of mind which he displayed in New Zealand, on the 30th of March, 1864, which is thus described by Private Vesper, of the Colonial Defence Force.

Private Vosper states that he was sent on that day with Private Gibson, of the same Force, as an escort to Major (now Lieutenant- Colonel) McNeill, Aide-de-Camp to Lieutenant-General Sir Duncan Cameron. Lieutenant-Colonel McNeill was proceeding to Te Awamutu on duty at the time. On returning from that place, and about a mile on this side of Ohanpu, this Officer, having seen a body of the enemy in front, sent Private Gibson back to bring up Infantry from Ohanpu, and he and Private Vosper proceeded leisurely to the top of a rise to watch the enemy. Suddenly they were attacked by about 50 natives, who were concealed in the fern close at hand. Their only chance of escape was by riding for their lives, and as they turned to gallop, Private Vesper's horse fell and threw him. The natives thereupon rushed forward to seize him, but Lieutenant-Colonel McNeill, on perceiving that Private Vosper was not following him, returned, caught his horse, and helped him to mount. The natives were firing sharply at them, and were so near that, according to Private Vesper's statement, it was only by galloping as hard as they could that they escaped. He says that he owes his life entirely to Lieutenant-Colonel McNeill's assistance, for he could not have caught his horse alone, and in a few minutes must have been killed.[4]

On 22 March 1885, Maj. Gen. Sir John McNeill commanded a detachment of the Suakin Field Force, which fought an action against Mahdist insurgents led by Osman Digna at Tofrek, a few miles inland from Suakin. The action is also referred to as "the Battle of McNeill's Zeriba". [Note: in 19th century records, McNeill name is sometimes spelled M'Neill.]

Later life[edit]

McNeill later achieved the rank of major general, and in retirement became an equerry to Queen Victoria.


British honours
Foreign honours


  1. ^ "No. 27285". The London Gazette. 15 February 1901. p. 1145.
  2. ^ "The Passing of a Veteran". Wanganui Chronicle (20358). 18 May 1915. p. 4. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  3. ^ Philip A. Wilkins, The History of the Victoria Cross: Being an account of the 520 acts of bravery for which the decoration has been awarded and portraits of 392 recipients, Andrews UK Limited, 2012, ISBN 1781516731, 9781781516737
  4. ^ a b "No. 22885". The London Gazette. 16 August 1864. p. 4027.
  5. ^ "Court Circular". The Times (36068). London. 17 February 1900. p. 11.

External links[edit]

Heraldic offices
Preceded by
Sir Lynedoch Gardiner
King of Arms of the Order of the Bath
Succeeded by
Sir Spencer Ponsonby-Fane