Wilson Havelock McNeill was born on 18 February, 1922 in Edmonton, Alberta.
Wilson Havelock McNeill was born in 1922 in Edmonton, Alberta. He joined the Royal Canadian Navy in 1942 at the age of twenty. While serving in Halifax, Wilson was diagnosed with a medical condition that forced his discharge from the Navy in 1943. Discouraged, but not defeated and determined to continue life as a sailor in the service of Canada, he then entered the Merchant Marine.
Referred to as "the indispensables," merchant seamen frequently suffered cold, wet, dangerous voyages of endurance to supply the nations of the allied forces with fuel, food and war materials, without which the war may have been lost.
Royal Canadian Navy
Wilson McNeill’s father John McNeill, was a veteran soldier of the First World War, while his brother Malcolm served in the army during the liberation of Holland in the Second World War and also in Korea.
Not to be left out and having an interest in all things naval, Wilson joined the Royal Canadian Navy on 19 February 1942 at the age of twenty years.
Assigned service number V-12972, he underwent naval training at Esquimalt in British Columbia, where he attained the rating of Stoker, Second Class, with the pay rate of $1.35 per day. Upon completion of training on 14 July 1942, he was assigned to HMCS Walker and sent to sea.
Unfortunately, while serving in Halifax, McNeill was diagnosed with a severe medical condition. McNeill’s medical report stated; “There is no reason to hope that this medical condition can be cured while in a fighting force.” The files also indicated that because McNeill had not disclosed the condition upon enlistment, he was considered for court martial. Such was his determination to serve his country.
Thus it was that young Wilson McNeill, Stoker, Second Class, was discharged from the Canadian Navy on 19 January 1943. His military service medals include the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with clasp and the 1939–45 War medal. His war service gratuity was $91.50, while his rehabilitation grant equalled $48.00.
Discouraged, but not defeated and determined to continue life as a sailor in the service of Canada, McNeill entered the employ of Park Steamships, the Crown Corporation that operated Canada’s wartime fleet of 176 Cargo ships and tankers. Each of these merchant vessels was named after a Canadian Park and from 1943 to 1947, McNeill served on several of these Canadian merchant marine ships, among them; the Mount Douglas Park and the Sapperton Park.
Operating out of Vancouver, McNeill’s merchant marine sea voyages took him to Australia, South East Asia and across the North Atlantic, all the while dodging the U boats of the German navy. Merchant seamen frequently suffered harsh conditions while as sea to supply the nations of the allied forces with necessary supplies and material.
Indeed, one of Canada’s merchant ships, the Point Pleasant Park out of Halifax, was sent to the bottom by a German torpedo on 23 February 1945, killing nine merchant seamen. Years later, in 1967, a cairn was dedicated to Canada’s merchant mariners in Halifax harbour. The plaque is dedicated to the memory of these nine "gallant and unsung men of the Merchant Navy and to the happy ship in which they served Canada and died for her freedom."
Although this plaque was prepared for the men of the lost ship Point Pleasant Park, it is a fitting tribute to all of the men of the merchant navy, including Wilson Havelock McNeill, Stoker, Second Class, who died in a car crash in 1965 at the age of 43.