John Carstairs McNeill VC

Name: John Carstairs McNeill

Conflict: Maori Wars

Gazetted: August 16, 1864

Service: Indian Army/Army

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John Carstairs McNeill VC
John Carstairs McNeill Medals
Medal group

Rank when awarded VC (and later highest rank): Colonel (later Major General and Sir)

Place/date of birth: Isle of Colonsay, Argyllshire/March 28, 1831

Date of bravery: March 30, 1864

London Gazette citation:

107th Regiment. Lieutenant-Colonel John Carstairs McNeill. Date of Act of Bravery, March 30th, 1864.

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 Vosper, 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 Vosper’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 Vosper’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.

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Other decorations: GCVO, KCB, KCMG

Place/date of death: St James’s Palace, London/May 25, 1904

Grave/memorials:  Oronsay Priory, Isle of Oronsay, Argyll and Bute

Origin of VC to the Lord Ashcroft collection: Purchased at auction, Spink, London, 1997

Current location of VC: Displayed on rotation at The Lord Ashcroft Gallery: Extraordinary Heroes exhibition, Imperial War Museum