George McNeill

Rifleman George McNeill of Belfast died on 28th May 1940 serving in the rear guard with 2nd Battalion, Royal Ulster Rifles as the B.E.F. withdrew to Dunkirk.


George McNeill


Rifleman George McNeill (7013035) served in 2nd Battalion, Royal Ulster Rifles during the Second World War. He was the son of George McNeill and Rachel McNeill (née Currie) of Belfast. On 26th October 1939, George married Rose Johnston in his home city of Belfast.

Rifleman McNeill died on 28th May 1940 aged 20 years old while taking part in rear guard action as the British Expeditionary Force retreated toward Dunkirk. Back home in Belfast, Rose was pregnant. George’s daughter named Georgina McNeill was born on 10th July 1940 and never met her father.

On 27th May 1940, British and French commanders had met to establish a strategy for the defence of Dunkirk. British soldiers including 2nd Battalion, Royal Ulster Rifles were responsible for the defensive line east of the town. This outer perimeter of defence was 25 miles long and approximately 8 miles deep, with the British sector running through Bergues, Bulscamp, Furnes, and Nieuport. These soldiers must have known they were reducing their own chances of escape for the greater good. As units retreated, they destroyed vehicles and heavy equipment.

George’s battalion spent a sleepless night before arriving at Boesinghe in the half-light of 28th May 1940. They spent the morning digging in but were soon in close contact with the enemy. Artillery and mortar fire caused casualties among forward platoons and there were afternoon attacks on positions held by C Company and D Company. After a short time at Boesinghe, the battalion was to withdraw overnight for Woesten. Heavy artillery fire fell on the position just vacated by the battalion as they made their way to the next withdrawal point.

Rifleman George McNeill’s grave is in Grave 2 of Woesten Churchyard, West Vlaanderen, Belgium. His younger brother Able Seaman James McNeill (D/SSX 25765) died on 23rd July 1941 while serving on H.M.S. Fearless.

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