Vernon Scott O'Neill

Regimental number: 
Unit at enlistment: 
19th Battalion
Volunteered or conscripted: 
Survived the war: 
Date of death: 
October 30th, 1915
Ridge Wood Cemetery - Ypres, Belgium - II.L.10
Commemorated at: 
First Baptist Church, Grace Anglican Church, St. Jude's Anglican Church, St. James Anglican Church (Paris)
Birth country: 
Birth county: 
Birth city: 
Chatham, Ontario
Address at enlistment: 
48 Colborne Street, Brantford, Ontario
Next of kin address: 
202 John Street North, Hamilton, Ontario
Trade or calling: 
Harvey Knitting Mill, Woodstock
Religious denominations: 
Church of England
Marital status: 
Age at enlistment: 

Letters and documents

Circumstances of Casualty: Killed in Action. Whilst with his Company on duty in the trenches South West of St. Eloi, at about 5.00 p.m. on October 30th 1915, an enemy shell exploded close to the dugout he occupied, killing him instantly.

BX November 18, 1915

Privates Percy and Vernon O’Neill Killed in Action – Well-Known Local Men Apparently Victims of Same Shell, Which Killed Pte. J. Lowes Reported Yesterday – All Three Were Members of Major E.H. Newman’s Company of the 19th Battalion – O’Neill’s Were Fine Type of Manhood 

Percy Ray O’Neill and Vernon Scott O’Neill, brothers, formerly of this city, have been killed in action. This was the sad news conveyed here through the medium of the official casualty list from Ottawa this morning.

The two young men were members of Major Newman’s company of the 19th Battalion, in which Pte. J.H. Lowes, reported killed yesterday, was also a member. Apparently the 19th has been in heavy fighting, but it is possible that the same shell which killed Lowes may have killed the other two, as it was reported yesterday from the front that at the time that Lowes was killed, three other members of the same company were also killed by the same shell, and in the official casualty list this morning these four names are given, with one other.

The better known of the two young men was Percy O’Neill. He was proprietor of The Senate barbershop on Colborne Street, was single and a member of Harmony Lodge, I.O.O.F.

Vernon Scott O’Neill, his brother, was a foreman at the Harvey Knitting Mills, Woodstock. When he heard that his brother had enlisted, he gave up his position there, and came to this city, enlisting with the same group of men in which his brother was. They were bright young Canadians of the highest type of manhood, and their loss will be keenly felt. 

Major Newman’s company left Brantford in October 1914, for Toronto, where it became part of the 19th Battalion. They wintered at the Exhibition grounds, in the Government building, just inside the Dufferin Street entrance to the grounds, where many Brantford people visited them during their long stay. Early this year the battalion went to England and was trained at Shorncliffe, leaving for France but a couple of months ago, and going almost immediately into the firing line. The casualties have already been heavy in this battalion.

In the official casualty lists the next of kin of Pte. Percy O’Neill is given as being at Vancouver and of Vernon Scott O’Neill as at Hamilton. The reason for this is that they have two sisters, one in each of these places, and to these the official notification was first sent. Another sister, Mrs. James Wilson, resides on Terrace Hill, in this city. His brother-in-law works as a moulder at Buck’s.
The official announcement of the death of Private James H. Lowes was made in the midnight casualty list. They were members of Grace Anglican Church here and sang in the choir of the First Baptist Church.

BX November 5, 1914

Were Given A Great Farewell – Members of Local Company of Second Contingent Attended Brant Theatre Performance

The pent-up enthusiasm of hundreds of Brantford citizens was let loose last evening when the Brant Theatre gave a patriotic complimentary farewell performance to the members of the Dufferin Rifles active service contingent, which will leave on Friday for the training camp at Toronto.  Up to strength in every way the boys marched in soldierly formation into the theatre singing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” and with the orchestra picking up the refrain, the whole audience joined in the chorus and the roof of the theatre was almost raised from its setting.  From that moment until the finale, when the audience rose and sang “God Save the King,” with an enthusiasm rarely shown in phlegmatic Brantford, enthusiasm reigned supreme, and Brantford’s soldier boys will undoubtedly long remember the occasion.

The performance which Manager Moule had arranged was an augmented one, over that which had held the boards for the first two days of the week.  The house was packed, not a seat being vacant, while the S.R.O. sign was displayed before the curtain went up.  The show went off with a snap, such as is seldom seen on the stage.

In addition to the regular program, Manager Ernest Moule had arranged for two special artists, these being James Whittaker, the well known local singer, and Vernon O’Neill, of Woodstock, who has joined the local contingent and will leave with “the boys.”  James Whitaker was in splendid voice and his song, “The British Lion is Angered, so Beware,” was received with uproarious applause, which did not subside until the orchestra started the strains of “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.”  He sang the verses in his accustomed style but was drowned out in the chorus, the soldiers and audiences joining in most heartily, and even after the music ceased, the audience still kept singing the familiar song of the British soldiers on the march.  Mr. O’Neill sang “the Boys of the King,” one of the latest patriotic airs, and that old fighting song, “Heroes and Gentlemen,” his reception being more than gratifying.

Slides of the late Queen Victoria and King Edward were received by the soldiers standing at the salute, and others of the King and Queen were received with cheers.  All greeted the pictures of the Belgian and British soldiers in Belgium with hearty cheers, and throughout the evening could be heard the question “Are ye down-hearted?” to which came the stentorian answer “No!”

The theatre setting was of a splendid order.  Decorated photos of the King and Queen were placed at the sides of the stage, while flags were artistically draped in the wings and around the theatre.

It is safe to say that the night will be one long remembered by the members of the second active service contingent of the Dufferin Rifles and those citizens fortunate enough to be present.

BX November 22, 1915

Memorial Service Held at First Baptist Church – James Lowes, Percy O’Neill, and Vernon O’Neill Honored in their Heroic Death – Feeling Tributes by Rev. L. Brown to Their Sterling Character and Their Splendid Sacrifice for Liberty

The choral memorial service in the First Baptist Church in memory of three of the church’s young men who have fallen in battle – James Lowes, Percy O’Neill and Vernon O’Neill was marked by impressive solemnity. The church was packed to the doors with a representative congregation desirous of paying a last tribute to the memory of the young men. Many had to be turned away and all the aisles had chairs in them.

Very feeling and impressive was the sermon by the pastor, Rev. Llewellyn Brown, who spoke most highly of the three deceased heroes, who had all been killed by an enemy shell while doing their little bit. Appropriate and special music was furnished by the choir, which was assisted by the well-known Toronto vocalist Mr. Edgar Fewiston. Mr. Byers also sang, as did Mrs. Arthur Secord.

“The war is just beginning to come home to us,” said the pastor in beginning his sermon. “It is just beginning to hit us when the lists of dead and wounded come to us. We then realize more seriously the consequences than when we see the soldiers marching away to the station. Every day we pick up the papers and read in cold type the names of those we loved recorded amongst those lost in battle. Then the real seriousness of the situation begins to come home to us.”

Rev. Mr. Brown referred at some length to thoughts that come in connection with the pathetic passing of the three young men for whom the memorial service was held.

The first thought was – they did not die in vain. “Surely they died a noble and heroic death. They did not see the victory for which we pray, for which we are making our contributions both in money and men, but they did their bit to the desired end and died doing their duty. Many such lads have already fallen and more will fall before the last shot that will end the war is fired. These boys did not die in vain. Their death made it possible that the varied liberties and the perpetuation of these and those who have not enjoyed these liberties will come into them through their sacrifice. He who gives his life for his country will never have his name forgotten.

“It is by such men as we honor tonight at the post of duty, striking the last blow and being faithful unto death that the final victory will come and come no other way.”

The second thought was the price of victory – sacrifice. “The awful price of victory comes home to us as the losses are known. Values of money fade away before the toll of precious life. It stirs us to the deepest depths to think that we shall not see them again, shake their hand or enjoy their companionship. Yet in the love, as great as it is, there is a certain compensation that we would do well to ponder. Now how would it be if these and thousands of others were safe with us by our firesides tonight and we and our country doing nothing to save the situation?  There is such a thing as a man or nation saving his life to lose his soul. Thank God this cannot be said of Canada. Belgium can never say to Canada we called you and you refused, we stretched out our hand to you and you regarded us not.”

The third thought was the value of a good name. “It is such young men as these that make our Empire great. What more can I say of James Lowe, Percy O’Neill and Vernon O’Neill than that they were clean, honorable, good young men, Christian boys, every one of them, regular in their attendance at church, helpful in its works and faithful to their families, friends, their country and their God, “the memory of the just is blessed.”

The fourth and last thought was, “they have passed on to a blessed life to the world beyond of a faithful service here. While the future is largely wrapped up in mystery, there is something we know about it. We know that there is beyond this life a continuity of life, continuity of personality, a continuity of service. Before this they have received from their Captain these words that follow upon duty done – well done. “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee the crown of life.”  The pastor closed with these fitting words from Byron:

Britain’s awake,
The dead have been awakened, shall I sleep,
The worlds at war with tyrants, shall I crouch,
The harvest ripe shall I pause to reap,
I slumber not the thorn is in my couch,
Each day a trumpet soundeth in my ear,
The echo in my heart,
Who will go to take their place?