Monthly Archives: September 2014

Flanders Field American Cemetery and an American with 36th (Ulster) Division

This post is republished to include archive material and photographs that I have rediscovered, some new information and a new image that I received as a result of the original post.

Flanders Field Memorial Chapel

Flanders Field Memorial Chapel

The visit by President Obama to Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial at Waregem in Belgium in March 2014 brought back memories of my own visit there a few years ago. The site of the cemetery is near where the US 91st Division attacked and captured the wooded area of Spitaals Bosschen. It is beautiful and it has a very different ‘feel’ to Commonwealth cemeteries. Well-spaced rows of white crosses surround the chapel, which stands in the centre of the six acre site. Inside the chapel, the altar and walls are marble and the furniture is of carved oak, stained to reflect the black altar. On either side are the Walls of the Missing, inscribed with the names of the 43 men who Continue reading

My Family at War – Part 1: William Neill

14577 Sergeant William Neill DCM

Sergeant William Neill DCM

Sergeant William Neill DCM

It was the stories about my great-grandfather, William Neill, that led me to write Blacker’s Boys. I had been told that he had earned a Distinguished Conduct Medal at Ypres and I embarked on an attempt to separate family myth from fact. I have largely succeeded, with one exception—William Neill believed that he had been awarded a Bar to his Distinguished Conduct Medal but no record of that exists. During his post-war service with the Ulster Special Constabulary he wore a rosette on his ribbon bar, his obituary and his gravestone both state that he had a Bar, and my father’s memory of him was that his Bar was a source of great family pride. It is evident, however, that this second award was never made. Nevertheless, it must have been commonly agreed that he was entitled to it. He served in the USC alongside other former officers and soldiers of the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers and it is hard to believe that a man of his considerable good reputation decided to award it to himself. How he came to believe that he had been awarded that Bar is now lost to history. Continue reading