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MacNeill, John, Toronto, Ontario, originally of Parsley, Ontario. Occupation: Clergyman. Military Service: Honorary Captain, Canadian Y.M.C.A. Attestation Papers. Diary References: “address by Dr. John McNeil on fatalism” [at Barlin, 3rd Division Headquarters], 5:4 Aug ’17; “Heard him again at Ruitz,” 5:5 Aug ’17; “Dr. McNeil was also to be there [Y.M.C.A. Tent] but he had to go up [near front lines at Lens] too,” 5:19 Aug ’17; "Received word to visit Capt. McNeil [MacNeill] at Ruitz this afternoon at two. Went down and found him sick in bed. However we had a very good talk together. Told him of the ghostly compact between [Harry] Beaumont and I,” 5:21 Aug ’17.
Additional Biographical Information
In December 2007, a letter described as a “1917 WWI CANADIAN YMCA CEF BEF Letter Signed MacNeil” was auctioned on eBay. The letter was described as handwritten, dated Aug. 8, 1917, by John MacNeill, Capt. “with Canadian Y.M.C.A. France.” Capt. MacNeill was writing to a Miss Roberts regarding his having met and shaken the hand of her brother Pte. [Owen] Roberts, Reg. No. 871511, the previous evening at a religious event (location not stated, but probably at either Barlin or Ruitz). He told her that her brother was in good health, interested in Christian life, and that he prayed with her that her brother would return home safe and soon. The person selling the letter said that he had “looked around on line and found a brief reference to a book Padres in No Man's Land that included a Baptist John MacNeil, who led crusades at Canadian YMCA locations in Europe between 1916 and 1919. The seller described the letter as “10" x 8" ruled Y.M.C.A. British Expeditionary Force stationery. Nice and clean, folded a few times but now lying flat, small edge dings and nicks … . This did not come with an envelope. A random ‘rescue’ at a show in a U.S. city bordering Canada, found with no other items for the family or other WWI Canadian items, and I'm assuming that the soldier was from Canada and serving with the CEF.” One never knows where the research will lead! This letter was written just three days after Frank Whiting heard Dr. MacNeill speak at Ruitz. It provides insights into Dr. MacNeill’s character and a source for additional information about his career in WWI. Moreover, it indicates a link to another soldier, a young Welsh immigrant named Roberts, who enlisted in Winnipeg, 16 March 1916.