Malcolm F. McNeill was born in Edmonton, Alberta, on 3 November 1923, the second son of First World War veteran John McNeill.
Malcolm Ferguson McNeill enlisted with the Royal Canadian Artillery in 1943. After his basic training, Malcolm was taken on strength as a Gunner with the 20th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery. He arrived in Europe in May 1945 in time to participate in the Liberation of Holland.
After the outbreak of war in Korea, Malcolm enlisted again in August 1950 with the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI). He was wounded during the Battle of Kapyong, where against nearly impossible odds, the PPCLI prevented the Communist Chinese offensive from breaking through.
The Second World War
After the Battle of The Scheldt in 1944, the Canadian Army was desperately in need of reinforcements. McNeill enlisted in the Royal Canadian Artillery on 17 Feb 1943 in Edmonton, and was assigned Regimental Number M611053. He was 20 years of age.
McNeill completed his basic training in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, after which he was sent to Eastern Canada, where he was taken on strength as a Gunner with the 20th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery of the Royal Canadian Artillery. He underwent artillery training in Goose Bay Labrador, Bedford, Nova Scotia and at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Upon completion of gunnery training, he was shipped west where he underwent training as an infantry rifleman in Nanaimo, British Columbia. McNeill completed his Canadian Infantry Corps training on 21 Dec 1944 and on 18 Jan 1945, arrived in England ready to become a replacement in either an Infantry Regiment, or as a Gunner in an Artillery Battery.
Private McNeill arrived in Northwest Europe in May 1945 and was assigned as a Rifleman with the Calgary Highlanders. The Battle of the Rhineland had ended and the Canadians were tasked with the Liberation of Holland.
In liberating the Dutch people, the Canadians not only had to fight the Germans, who by now were desperate, but had to fight through the flooded lowlands covered in water. These lowlands, called "polders", were fertile areas that the Dutch had reclaimed from the sea with dikes.
The Germans had destroyed many of the dikes in an attempt to slow the Canadians advance. In response, the Canadians moved their troops in tracked, amphibious armoured vehicles called Buffaloes. McNeill and his comrades must have felt like they were in the Navy!
By the 5 May, 1945, the Liberation of the Netherlands was complete and the German occupiers had surrendered, after which McNeill was re-assigned to the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment.
The Canadians set to work immediately delivering and distributing food to the starving people of Holland. Over 3,000 tons of food was delivered each day to the larger cities. In addition, Canadian soldiers worked on farms, cleared away rubble and debris, while Canadian Engineers helped to rebuild the dikes.
Liberation ceremonies were held and a large parade of Canadian and Dutch troops was presented to Queen Wilhelmina in Amsterdam. It was happy pandemonium!
The Dutch have never forgotten the Canadian sacrifice. During the crossing of the Rhine and the Liberation of Holland, over 1,400 Canadians soldiers had fallen, but the war was over and on the 28 Dec 1945, Private Malcolm McNeill arrived back in England.
His Second World War decorations include the France and Germany Star (for wartime service in Northwest Europe) and the 1939–1945 War Medal. Private McNeill returned to Canada and was released from active service on 9 March 1946 in Edmonton, where he married and resumed his life as a storekeeper.
The Korean War
At the conclusion of the Second World War, Korea was divided into two zones at the 38th parallel; North Korea became a communist state, while South Korea became a democratic state.
On 25 June 1950, Communist North Korea, supported by Communist China and the Soviet Union, carried out a massive, surprise assault against the south. The United Nations authorized force to stop the invasion and the world mobilized once again to stop aggression.
Responding to the call to protect democracy once more, Private Malcolm McNeill re-enlisted on the 28 Aug 1950 and became a member of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the PPCLI.
Meanwhile, the United Nations forces in South Korea, primarily the Americans, had been pushed back to the Pusan Perimeter and the North Koreans were nearly victorious.
United Nations forces, supported by massive re-enforcements from other U.N. member countries, were able to push the enemy back into North Korea after a brilliant military maneuver by the Commander, General Douglas MacArthur, at Inchon.
U.N. Forces pushed the North Korean army out of South Korea, and then into North Korea almost as far as their northern border. It was then that Communist China launched a massive attack into North Korea with over a quarter of a million men.
During this assault, 2nd Battalion PPCLI was positioned in a defensive location on Hill 677, which came to be known as Kapyong. The 2nd Battalion PPCLI, along with the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, were able to hold Kapyong, preventing a breakthrough by the Chinese. The PPCLI and the Australians had held out in a nearly impossible situation. The Battalion was honoured after the Battle of Kapyong by receiving the U.S. Presidential citation, the only Canadian unit to be so honoured.
During the Kapyong attack, Pte. McNeill was wounded, but recovered. Of the battle, McNeill said; "When they hit us, it was thousands of them. The Officer in charge said, the only thing to do is to get down in your hole and stay there. They’re coming by the thousands, but they’re like us. They’ll be scared stiff, he was right."
The Korean War Memorial Statue
On the grounds of The Military Museums of Calgary, Alberta there is a statue titled "Let's Go", in honour of Canada's Veterans of the Korean War. The idea for this tribute came from Duncan McNeill, the brother of Malcolm McNeill, who approached the museum and offered to fund a statue to commemorate the 25,000 Canadians who served during the Korean War. The Statue was unveiled on April 25, 2003, on the anniversary of the Battle of Kapyong.