Harold Sydney Douglas McNeal MC

(real name Harold Edward George Browne)

A difficult man to follow as he changed his name. He later claimed,correctly, that his father was "Col St. Barbe Brown" . His father was Lt Col William H St Barbe Brown, born 1845 in Karachi died Sep 1927 at Weston super Mare. His obit says he spent most of his life in India. The father is in 1901 census with a new wife, Katy in England. He was baptised Harold Edward George Browne without the St Barbe, but St Barbe was used in another childs birth registration

1888 Mar 23. Born Harold Edward George Browne

1901 census At a boarding school in Southwold , Sussex as Harold E G StB Browne

1905 Jun 26. Enlists in Devonshire Regt, as Private. Gives correct father and mother

1906 Aug 28. Discharged from British Army under para 1805 (x) of Kings Regulations. This is "convicted by civil power of felonious offence before enlistment"

1907 Jul 10. Enlists in US army. He states he was born Cashmere, India. He was discharged 9 Jul 1910 with a good character reference. He was a Clerk on enlisting & gave his age as 21. Harold Sydney Douglas McNeal

1910 USA census In US Army. His father was English and his mother Scots. He emigrated to USA in 1907.

1915 Mar 3. Appointed temp 2nd.Lt. He says in a letter to War Office that he was commissioned in Hong Kong

1915 Apr Married in Cheltenham to Ina M Pegler

1915 Jun 26 Leaves UK for Bombay. He is a 2nd Lt

1916 POW in Mesopotamia. R.F.A. 10/Brigade. He was "exchanged". A Report written by Lieutenant H S D McNeal of the Royal Field Artillery who was trapped in Kut as a member of the garrison on the night of April 24 1916, an extract from the London Gazette of 2 February 1917 and an extract from On the road to Kut which was published anonymously.

WO 32/5204: Report on siege of Kut-al-Amara by Lieutenant H McNeal, Royal Field Artillery, Dec 1915-Apr 1916.

The entry on Lieutenant McNeal's Report from Kut dated 24 April 1916:

"Great excitement prevailed in Kut  when it was heard that the relieving force would attempt to send the steamboat Julnar through with rations. It was decided that if the boat got through and was not disabled, it was to come up to Kut itself and be unloaded, but that if it was hit, it was to be beached at the fort. The artillery made special preparations to cover its arrival, and everyone was on edge with expectation. Shortly after midnight, heavy rifle fire was heard down-river, and we knew that the attempt had begun. For fifteen minutes the firing was very rapid; then it died down and our spirits with it. Another burst of firing came, and our spirits rose accordingly; but this also died away into silence and we knew that the attempt had failed. Afterwards, we heard that every member of the crew was killed by rifle fire.

(This later turned out not to be accurate but  the true picture could not be ascertained at the time of writing. Two officers were killed; all the rest of the men were taken prisoner including five who were wounded.) 

The navigator, Captain Cowley had dropped at the wheel with a bullet through his groin, just as he was steering the ship through the most critical place in the whole river, a hairpin bend. While consciousness lasted, he hung on, but the boat was swept into the bank and grounded. When the Turkish officers boarded the boat, they reported that they found him unconscious with his hands still gripping the steering-wheel and that he had he died without regaining consciousness."

(Evidence was given later by survivors  that he was still alive when captured and was dragged out onto the river bank where he was murdered. His grave is in a small cemetery adjacent to Iraq's former Ministry of Industry. Both he and Lieutenant Firmin received a posthumous award of the Victoria Cross.)

"Esmeralda, my charger, was killed and eaten on April 18. Poor thing! she died in harness all right." For a long time before that date the issue of horseflesh as part of the daily rations had become the normal routine; the trouble was that even this form of food had come to an end. "On April 23 we drew as rations four ounces of bread, one ounce of sugar, and half an ounce of cheese."

On April 26 the garrison at Kut gave up all hope, and proceeded to destroy the remainder of their store of ammunition, by decapping it and dropping it into the river. Negotiations were opened with Khalil Pasha as to the terms of surrender, and at first there was some expectation that the garrison would be allowed to return to India on parole. When, however, word was passed that, in exchange for this concession, the Turkish Commander demanded that all the guns should be handed over to him intact, the officers and men of the garrison unanimously declared that, rather than surrender the guns to be used against their own comrades by the enemy, they would go as prisoners of war to Turkey. On April 29 General Townshend gave orders that the guns were to be destroyed, and sent round word that all, except the extreme cases in the hospitals, would be made prisoners. The last act of the garrison was to destroy the wireless installation.

General Townshend arranged a ceasefire on the 26th and, after failed negotiations, he simply surrendered on 29 April 1916 after a siege of 147 days. Around 13,000 Allied soldiers survived to be made prisoners. 70% of the British and 50% of the Indian troops died of disease or at the hands of their Ottoman guards during captivity

An British officer recalls seeing the exchanged prisoners. "How well I remember seeing the arrival at Busrah of some of the exchanged prisoners, those who were too far emaciated to stand the smallest chance of surviving the long journey which would have been before them, had they been carried into captivity. I saw a batch of human skeletons with a thin covering of skin over their bones, and I shuddered and turned my head away."

1919 Oct 12.The undermentioned to be temp Capts.— Whilst empld. as Asst. Political Officers.—. Temp. Lt. H. S. D. McNeal, R.F.A. 12th Oct. 1919.

1919 Oct 23. MC Gazetted

1920 Dec 6. Relinquishes the rank of Capt, Temp. Lt. H. S. D. McNeal, M.C., R.A., on ceasing to be empld. as Asstl. Political Officer.

1920 Dec 20. Gazetted out as Capt.

1921 Jan 10 . Joined ADRIC with service no 1473 . Posted to Depot Coy

1921 Jan 17. Promoted Section Leader

1921 Feb 9 Promoted DI3

1921 Feb 11. PRI Aux Div (I do not know what this is) and promoted 3DI

1921 Mar 29 Reverts to T/Cadet and posted Depot. Original post as to P Coy , but posting was cancelled, presumably because of health.

1921 Apr 23. Discharged medically unfit, not due to ADRIC service

1927 His father died and he appears to have attended the funeral as Harold Browne

1969 Oct/Dec Died Harringay, London "Harold Stuart D McNeal"


WO 339/25831