Ronald George MCKAIL

MCKAIL, Ronald George

Service Number: 4174
Enlisted: 1 July 1915, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: 48th Infantry Battalion
Born: Albany, Western Australia, 4 March 1889
Home Town: Adelaide, South Australia
Schooling: St. Peters College, Adelaide
Occupation: Forester
Died: Killed in Action, France, 6 August 1916, aged 27 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, Picardie, France
Memorials: Adelaide Attorney General's Department WW1 Honour Board , Adelaide National War Memorial, Adelaide University of Adelaide WW1 Honour Roll, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Hackney St Peter's College Fallen Honour Board, Millicent War Memorial, North Adelaide Christ Church Roll of Honour, North Adelaide Christ Church Honour Board, North Adelaide St Peter's Cathedral WW1 Honour Roll, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial (Australian National Memorial - France)
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World War 1 Service

1 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Adelaide, South Australia
11 Jan 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 4174, 16th Infantry Battalion (WW1), Enlistment/Embarkation WW1,

--- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '12' embarkation_place: Adelaide embarkation_ship: HMAT Borda embarkation_ship_number: A30 public_note: ''

11 Jan 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 4174, 16th Infantry Battalion (WW1), HMAT Borda, Adelaide
23 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Battle for Pozières
6 Aug 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, 4174, 48th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières ,

--- :awm_ww1_roll_of_honour_import: awm_service_number: 4174 awm_unit: 48 Battalion awm_rank: Sergeant awm_died_date: 1916-08-06

AUFC & AUCC - Anzac Day 2015

Extract from the Adelaide University Football Club and Adelaide University Cricket Club document honouring "The Fallen" Anzac Day 2015.

Ronald played Intervarsity Football in 1912. He also played for AUFC in 1912 and 1915. He completed a BSc (Forrestry). Ronald played 63 league football games for North Adelaide from 1907-13 and was captain for the latter half of the 1913 season.

Ronald enlisted 9th July 1915. He was initially a member of the 16th Battalion but during the establishment of the 4th Division, he and half of the 16th were transferred to the new 48th Battalion. On 6th August 1916, the Germans broke through the lines at Pozieres and caught the 48th by surprise. 40 were captured and were being escorted back by more than 80 Germans. The Germans were attacked by Albert Jacka VC and a few members of his platoon (8 men in total). This panicked the Germans and the members of the 48th broke free and started to fight the Germans as well. McKail had his leg blown off by a bomb but lay in the trench encouraging his men until he died.

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Mrs. E. L. McKail, of North Adelaide, has been notified that her son, Sgt. Ronald C. McKail, was killed in action in France on August 6. Sgt. McKail was born in Western Australia, but at an early age came to South Australia with his family. He was educated at St Peter's College, and after leaving that institution joined the staff of the Eastern Extension Cable Company, in which he served for several years. When the Government instituted a Forestry Department at the University, he was one of three success ful applicants chosen for the course, which he completed in three years. At the same time, he gained his B.Sc. Degree.

When he enlisted he was Assistant Forester at the Mount Burr Forest Reserve, Millicent. While at college Sgt. McKail was keenly interested in all sports, and captained the teams at both football and cricket in the intercollegiate matches. He will be remembered by many as a member of the North Adelaide football team, of which he was captain during his last season before leaving the city." - from the Adelaide Register 09 Sep 1916 (


From the book Fallen Saints  - Ronald George McKail of North Adelaide was born in Albany, Western Australia in 1889. While at St Peters College  he was a good all round student and sportsman and during the three years he served in the senior cadets was promoted to the rank of sergeant.

He left the School in 1907 and after graduating (BSc) from Adelaide University was employed as a Forrester; he subsequently joined the Eastern Extension Cable Company as a Training Officer.

He enlisted at Keswick on 13 July 1915 and attended the Mitcham Camp NCO School 21 July - 31 August. On 1 September he was posted to the 32nd Battalion and in October was made an acting sergeant. Throughout November, he attended No 10 Officers School and at the beginning of December joined the 13th quota of reinforcements for the 16th Battalion.

He sailed from Adelaide aboard HMAT Borda on 11 January 1916 was made an acting sergeant for the voyage but upon reaching to Egypt was reverted to his substantive rank; he but was made a temporary sergeant again in March.

 When the 48th Battalion was raised from the 16th Battalion he was taken on the battalion’s strength as a substantive sergeant and sailed from Alexandria with the battalion aboard HMT Caledonian on 2 June; Sergeant McKail was killed in action on 5 August; he was 27 years of age.

When completing the Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour circular in 1928 his mother offered the Australian War Memorial her son’s diary and wrote a number of brief notes.

 … led B Company of the 48th into the trenches in the vicinity of the Windmill at Pozières and gained his objective before a German bomb tore his leg off at the thigh. In spite of his horrific injuries he continued to command his men until he died. [i]

In a letter to Base Records dated 12 Jan 1923, Ronald’s mother said her son had been killed during the taking of the last two trenches taken at Pozières.

… He was in command of the men operating there & 2 of his men informed me in 1917 when in London – that they dug his grave at the top of the trench near the Wind mill…. [ii]

The following excerpt is from a letter written by Ronald’s brother Sapper John McKail (OS) 4th Field Company, Engineers.

Before the Brigade went into action at Pozières, Pepper had been Brigade Gas Sergeant, a job that possessed the merit of being fairly safe. He threw it up to go with his platoon, who bore the brunt of the heaviest artillery fire possible, for the enemy threw a barrage behind and another in front, where they dropped with absolute accuracy in the shell craters, and holes that the 48th Battalion had as their only cover. Pepper was killed by high explosive carrying away his lower limbs; he had been wounded previously, but applied first aid and carried on. His platoon has told me that they considered him a hero. No aid from the A.M.C. could come up as a barrage in the rear prevented it. [iii]

On 30 September 1916, with one son dead and another still at the front Mrs McKail wrote to Base Records seeking a death certificate for her son. She needed it urgently so she could probate his Will and set his affairs in order before sailing to England to visit and support her daughter whose husband, a doctor in the British Army, had been listed as missing in action for three and a half months. [iv]

Lieutenant George Dean (Old Scholar) specifically mentioned Ronald in a letter dated 4 April 1917.

Many I have met are dead – poor old Sgt. Pepper McKail, a tip top chap. [v]

[i] Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour Cards 145, 1914-1918 War, Army - McKail, Ronald George viewed 5 October 2005
[ii] National Archives of Australia: B 2455, McKail, R G / 1947799, viewed 5 October 2005
[iii] St Peter’s School Magazine - W K Thomas & Co, Adelaide, May 1917, p. 59
[iv] National Archives of Australia: B 2455, McKail, R G / 1947799, viewed 4 February 2006
[v] St Peter’s School Magazine - W K Thomas & Co, Adelaide, August 1917, p. 42-43