Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Son of James O'Neil
Roman Catholic
Service number
1944-07-22, France
Date of death
Killed in action, Belgium
Regiment (Fallen buddies)
Algonquin Regiment, R.C.I.C.
Cemetery reference
Plot 3 | Row A | Grave 2
Military grave
Additional info

Parents deceased in 1933 (mother) and 1941 (father).

1943-12-07 Voluntary Blood Donor.

Letter to Mona Evans: ...A/61552 Private John Henry O'Neil was reported missing on the 14th day of September 1944. His section was apparently pulling out from the Leopold Canal and going over the canal he ran through a barbed wire fence where he got shot by a burst of automatic gun fire. Private Rogers was with him and he also got tangled up in the barbed wire fence and fell but he got up and helped your brother a few feet when your brother fell unconscious from serious wounds in the chest. Private Rogers had to leave him there and did not see him again. R.T.E. Hick-Lyne, Colonel.

The Algonquin War Diary reports (partition): Moerkerke/Sysele September 14th, 1944. (Known as the battle that took place at "Molentje" at the Leopold Canal, north of Moerkerke.)

The following is an eyewitness account of the battle by Cap. Herbert. "After crossing the canal the two remaining platoons of "B" Coy ran through the town and dug in fifty yds from the crossroads. They were always under fire from every direction as the enemy had not been cleared out of the town. The position became isolated and enemy infiltrated on every side. The Coy with the help of two sections from "A" Coy fought the Germans less than 20 yards away. They broke up all attempts of enemy reinforcements reaching the town and had to leave their weapon slits every once in a while to clear the buildings behind them from which snipers were picking the men off. Ammunition ran out and under this extreme fire several men ran around and picked ammunition from the wounded and dead. Even the mortar was fired at point blank low angle until ammunition was finished. The order was a German for every round of ammunition. Lt. Roberts was killed by shrapnel while sitting in the same slit trench as myself. The Germans had then our positions and were dropping shells right into our lines. Fifty percent of the men were wounded and this information was passed back to Comd Post. An order arrived to withdraw fighting from house to house. This was done until we fought our way back into the central perimeter of town. A new perimeter was formed and then the order came to withdraw. All wounded from the forward areas were taken out."

The following is another eyewitness account of the battle by Major A.K. Stirling, who was also on the scene. "At approx 2230 hrs 14 Sep 44 "C" Coy which was under my comd accompanied the three other rifle coys of the bn (battalion) in the crossing of the Leopold Canal at Moerkerke Map Ref 935036, 1/25.000, sheet 21 SW Zeebrugge SW. The Coy made a successful assault crossing and attacked the enemy positions on the far bank. One platoon lined the bank while the other two went forward clearing the enemy and taking up a position along a line of trees stretching from a point about 20 yds from the canal to point approx 200 yds further inland. Just before daybreak the enemy started counter-attacking the position and under cover of darkness succeeded in infiltrating between the forward platoons and the one on the bank. These counter attacks continued throughout the morning. These attacks were accompanied by heavy mortar and artillery fire. I had been with the two forward platoons and thad returned to the platoon on the canal bank just before the counter attacks started. We fought off various enemy attacks on our position observing and firing upon the enemy who had succeeded in occupying part of one of the forwarded platoons position along the line of trees directly between us and the forward platoons. At any sign of movement from our position the enemy would open up with SAA automatic fire accompanied by mortar and shelling. Attempts were made to contact the forward platoons by shouting, but this no results. By this time the platoon along the bank had suffered 12 casualties and a few were shocked by the mortar and shelling fire. A smoke screen was laid down by our own arty accompanied by HE both from our own and from the enemy. This fire came down directly on our position and on our forward platoons. During the time this was laid down we observed the men from the other coys withdrawing across the canal about 300 yds from us. Since the others were withdrawing and we had so few able-bodied men left we were forced to do likewise taking our wounded with us. The two forwarded platoons being cut off were unable to witdraw."

A reckoning was taken of the casualties and the following figure at the time was as follows: 7 Officers and 138 Other Ranks. Two entire platoons of C Coy are listed as missing. Lt Roberts killed, Lt Hunter missing, Lt Dutcher, Lt Peart, Lt Butler W., Capt McKenzie, Capt Valentine, Lt Gartley were wounded.

The men who returned said that the German losses must have been many times as heavy. Some ventured a guess that the Germans may have lost as many as 750 men.