McNess was 24 years old, and a lance-sergeant in the 1st Battalion, Scots Guards, British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 15 September 1916 near Ginchy, France, during a period of severe fighting, Lance-Sergeant McNess led his men with great dash in the face of heavy shell and machine-gun fire. When the first line of the enemy trenches was reached, it was found that the left flank was exposed and that the enemy were bombing down the trench. Sergeant McNess thereupon organised and led a counter-attack and although he was very severely wounded in the neck and jaw, did not give up. Finally he established a “block” and continued encouraging his men and throwing bombs until exhausted by loss of blood.
He later achieved the rank of sergeant. The severe nature of his wounds left Ness in lifelong pain which eventually led him to take his own life. His Victoria Cross is displayed at Scots Guards Regimental Headquarters, Wellington Barracks, London, England.