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Remembering World War II
William Murray MacNeill Sergeant R/124630 Supply and Salvage Ship M427 BC Star Royal Canadian Air Force January 27, 1919 Sydney, Cape Breton Co., NS August 21, 1941 Halifax Sydney, NS 5 feet, 10½ inches Fair Blue Brown Single Machinist Apprentice Presbyterian Jean MacNeill (Mother) Sydney, NS July 24, 1943 24 Ottawa Memorial Panel 2, Column 5 Commemorated on Page 185 of the Second World War Book of Remembrance Displayed in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower in Ottawa on April 16 William Murray MacNeill was the son of Hugh Archibald MacNeill (d. 1932) and Jean (Murray) MacNeill and brother of Donald, Gordon, and Marjorie of Sydney, NS. Donald MacNeill served with the RCAF overseas during WWII. William attended school between 1925 and 1938 completing grade eleven. He also completed short course in blue-prints and machine ship work at night school. He was employed with MacDonalds Ltd., a wholesale business, as a salesman in 1938 and 1939 and then was employed with Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation as a machinist apprentice until his enlistment with the RCAF in August 1941. In November and December 1940 William completed basic military training at No. 61 Canadian Army Basic Training Centre in New Glasgow, NS. On enlistment Sergeant MacNeill trained and served in Halifax, Valcartier, and Ancienne Lorette, Quebec. He received his air gunner badge on December 7, 1942. He was stationed at RCAF Yarmouth in March, 1943 before being stationed as a trained Wireless Operator (Ground) assigned to an early warning radar unit in British Columbia. On July 23, 1943, he was serving as a crew member on the Supply and Salvage Ship M427 BC Star when it was lost at sea during a supply mission to Cape St. James in the Queen Charlotte Islands. There were no survivors. Sergeant MacNeill’s name is inscribed on the Ottawa Memorial. The Story of M427 “BC Star” During the build up of the war effort on the West Coast many new remote early warning radar units were built and maintained. The RCAF requisitioned tugs and fishing craft that were then attached to the Marine Section to service these otherwise inaccessible stations. These vessels were the “work horses” that plied back and forth on their unscheduled runs moving construction crews, material, and heavy equipment up and down the coast of British Columbia. To help keep these radar unit units’ existence and location secret radio silence was enforced on these runs and all information regarding the movement of this type of marine vessel was classified and all communications were coded. On July 23, 1943, M 427 BC Star was scheduled for one of these runs. It departed Bella Bella with a 10 man crew and a cargo of 43 tons of gravel and cement and five No. 9 CMU personnel assigned to the construction project. They were bound for the new radar site at Cape St. James in the Queen Charlotte Islands. No. 28 (RU) Cape St James had no way of knowing that the supply boat was on its way as they had not yet received the necessary cypher equipment to decode the movement message. Radio silence was enforced on the ship and no one missed her until 3 August when construction crews queried when their supplies were to arrive. On August 4 a Stranraer from 9 BR Squadron started the search, on August 5, Norseman #2470 was sent from Bella Bella to search area and on 8 August a search was carried out by the M.536 SKEENA MAID. An intense sea and air search covered a wide area during the next several weeks, but only two bodies were recovered and very little wreckage was found. On September 3 an unidentified airman’s body was found on Price Island. A tombstone was erected at the Meadow Island Cemetery, Bella Bella, BC to remember the unknown airman. Speculation and rumours circulated about the vessel being attacked by a Japanese submarine, and this information was enhanced by crew members aboard another RCAF Marine vessel inbound to Alliford Bay. They reported that they were listening to a Ketchikan Alaska radio station when its program was interrupted by a strange and unidentified transmission “Star out of bread and water. Alliford repeat message. Thank you. Good Afternoon” However, no conclusive evidence ever came to light that explained why the Star went down. Evidently the hull had simply opened up under the weight of her cargo and the M-427 sank so quickly that no life boats were launched and no distress signals were sent. This supply mission resulted in the largest loss of life in the history of the Marine Branch. The men are commemorated on panel 2 of the Commonwealth Air Forces Ottawa Memorial dedicated to air force personnel lost without trace in Canada, the US and neighbouring lands and seas during the Second World War. One month after the loss, marine craft procedures were revised to ensure prompt reporting of arrivals and departures. BC Star crew/passenger list July 23, 1943 R128864 Cpl Charles Gordon Glover R186865 LAC Harold Fredrick Dakenfold R173910 LAC George Thornton Stead R213870 AC1 Titus Vollhoffer R220368 AC2 Maurice Daniel Onuski R58625 Sgt Philip Eric Olsen R87823 LAC Clarence James Sherlock P4319 FSgt Roy Henry Drouillard R146033 Sgt Jack Douglas Hearfield R220720 AC2 Gilbert Campbell McFadyen R151826 FSgt William Ernest Mitchell R128695 Sgt Jonathan Charles Slater R255739 AC2 Arthur Garnet Davies R124630 Sgt William Murray MacNeill R56918 Cpl Tadeusz Ledwig Polec
William Murray MacNeill
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