McNeilly, William John
No. 7007543, 5 Battery, 2 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery
Killed in action on Thursday 25 September 1941 (aged 39)
Tobruk War Cemetery, Libya (Grave 6. K. 12)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Mark’s)
In some records his surname is spelt Meneely.
William John McNeilly was born on 13 July 1902 and he was a son of William John and Eleanor (Ellen) McNeilly (nee Taylor) who were married on 6 April 1885 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Mark’s). William John McNeilly, a labourer from Ballysallagh, Newtownards was a son of John McNeilly, a labourer. Ellen Taylor (aged 20) from Georges Street, Newtownards was a daughter of James Taylor, a shoemaker.
The McNeilly family lived in Greenwell Street, Newtownards.
William John and Ellen McNeilly (nee Taylor) had at least five children:
David (born 1 October 1887 in Ballygilbert; died of convulsions in Clandeboye Cottages 24 August 1888)
Hugh Henry (born 26 August 1890 in Ballyleidy)
Ellen (born 1 December 1899 in East Street, Newtownards)
William John (born 13 July 1902 in Greenwell Street, Newtownards)
Margaret (Maggie, born 15 June 1904 in East Street, Newtownards; died of bronchitis 2 March 1905)
William John was four years old when his mother, Eleanor (Ellen), died of tuberculosis on 27 March 1907. His father, William John, was working as a carter when he and Anne (Annie) Beale (nee Collins) were married on 5 June 1907 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Mark’s). Annie Beale, a widowed charwoman, was a daughter of David Collins, a labourer. Annie Beale had at least seven children including Maggie, John, William James, Henry, Lizzie, and Alexander.
William John and Annie McNeilly (formerly Beale, nee Collins) lived at 124 East Street, Newtownards with two of William John’s children – Ellen and William John – and four of Annie’s children – William James, Henry, Lizzie, and Alexander.
William John McNeilly Junior joined the Royal Ulster Rifles pre-war and had extensive service in Mesopotamia. Before that he worked as a railway plate layer and he and Margaret Kathleen McRoberts were married on 22 August 1934 in Ballyblack Presbyterian Church.
William John and Kathleen McNeilly lived at 3 Pound Street, Newtownards and they had two children – Wilmer and Maureen.
During the Second World War Bombardier William John McNeilly (No. 7007543) served with the Royal Artillery and he was killed in action on 25 September 1941 during the siege of Tobruk. There were five Killed in Action notices in the 18 October 1941 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle: from his wife and two children; from his sister Ella Hawkins and family of 54 Mark Street, Newtownards; from his brother James and his sister and brother-in-law Mary and Isaac Dorrian of 3 John Street Lane, Newtownards; from Unity Masonic Lodge No. 443 and from Royal Arch Chapter No. 443, Newtownards.
The notices contained the following verses:
Wife and children, Wilmer, and Maureen:
We little thought when he left home,
That he would ne’er return;
That he so soon in death would sleep,
And leave us here to mourn.
Sister Ella Hawkins and her family:
Had we but seen him at the last,
Or raised his drooping head,
Our hearts would not have felt so sore,
The bitter tears we shed.
Brother Robert and his wife Mary:
When on the field of battle,
He calmly took his place,
And fought and died for Britain
And the honour of his race.
Bombardier William John McNeilly (No. 7007543) was 39 when he was killed in action along with three other men from Newtownards – Gunner Joseph Dalzell, Gunner Samuel Graham and Gunner James Meredith. He was buried in Tobruk War Cemetery, Libya and there is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:
Bombardier William John McNeilly (No. 7007543) is commemorated on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Mark’s).