Personal info

  • Name: Thomas Patrick NEELY
  • D.O.B: 26th Aug, 1897
  • D.O.D: 1st Oct, 1918
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Corporal, 8th Battalion The King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment), 76th Brigade, 3rd Division
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 2
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Battle of the Canal du Nord, France 27 September 1918

27 September 1918

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The First World War 1918 

Towards the end of September 1918, during the offensive against the Hindenburg Line, British positions west of Cambrai ran southwards along the west bank of the unfinished and partly waterless Canal du Nord through Moeuvres, traversing it, as had the Hindenburg Line, east of Demicourt and proceeded on to Havrincourt. In the Allied advance on 27 September 1918, the 1st and 4th Canadian Divisions were in the line north of Moeuvres. Crossing the Canal, they captured sections of the Marquion Line and moved against Bourlon Wood, the scene of heavy fighting the previous year. Lieutenant G F Kerr, 3rd Battalion 1st Central Ontario Regiment, distinguished himself by attacking a German position north of Bourlon Wood, near the Arras to Cambrai road. The 4th Division, which was to the south of the 1st, was involved in heavy fighting round Bourlon Wood. It was here that Lieutenants S L Honey and G T Lyall showed conspicuous bravery. In the following days 4th Division pressed on north-east and Honey’s Citation refers to his further gallantry on the 29th, while Lyall distinguished himself again on 1 October near Blécourt, just north of Cambrai. South of Moeuvres, the Guards Division was detailed to capture the high ground between Graincourt and Flesquières as far as Premy Chapel north-west of Marcoing. During the crossing of the Canal Acting Captain C H Frisby, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, led an attack on a German position under a ruined bridge, which was holding up the advance. In this he was assisted by Lance-Corporal T N Jackson, who was, however, killed almost immediately. Meanwhile, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards advanced to cross the Canal du Nord east of Demicourt, heading north of Flesquières. However, Graincourt to the north and Orival Wood to the north-east were still in German hands, as were Beet Trench and a beet factory. Acting Lieutenant Colonel Viscount Gort, commanding 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, attacked these two positions. He then personally led a tank towards the enemy, as his men made for Premy. Though wounded, he refused to leave the field until they had reached its outskirts. To the south of the Guards Division was 3rd Division which included 8th Battalion The King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment which advanced on Flesquières, east of the Canal du Nord. There had been bitter fighting here in November 1917 but the Germans had retaken it in their Spring offensive. It was now recaptured by the British and Corporal T Neely distinguished himself by his gallantry during this action. By nightfall the British had advanced in places over four miles.

Citation

 For most conspicuous bravery during operations at Flesquières on 27th September, 1918. His company was held up during the advance by heavy machine-gun fire from a flank. Cpl. Neeley, realising the seriousness of the situation, at once, under point-blank fire, dashed out with two men and rushed the positions, disposing of the garrisons and capturing three machine guns. Subsequently, on two successive occasions, he rushed concrete strong points, killing or capturing the occupants. The splendid initiative and fighting spirit displayed by this gallant non-commissioned officer in dealing with a series of posts, in some cases single-handed, was largely responsible for the taking and clearing of a heavily fortified and strongly garrisoned position, and enabled his company to advance 3,000 yards along the Hindenburg support line. 

Second Supplement to The London Gazette of 13 December 1918. 14 December 1918, Numb. 31067, p. 14777

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