Keith Wemyes MACKENZIE MC+Bar

MACKENZIE, Keith Wemyes

Service Number: 633
Enlisted: 6 January 1915, Liverpool, New South Wales
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: 17th Infantry Battalion
Born: Bombay, India, July 1887
Home Town: Rouse Hill, Blacktown, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Accountant
Died: Natural causes, Crows Nest, New South Wales, 23 February 1958
Cemetery: Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens and Crematorium, NSW
South-West Terrace; Wall 29
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World War 1 Service

6 Jan 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 633, Liverpool, New South Wales
12 May 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 633, 17th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
12 May 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 633, 17th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Themistocles, Sydney
20 Aug 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 633, 17th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
1 Oct 1915: Promoted AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 17th Infantry Battalion
15 Mar 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 17th Infantry Battalion
26 Jul 1916: Wounded Lieutenant, 17th Infantry Battalion, Pozières
26 Jul 1916: Honoured Military Cross, Pozières, For conspicuous gallantry in action at Pozieres on 26 July 1916. He lead his men with great dash, and later, when the enemy entered the trench he led a counter attack which quickly cleared them out.
13 Feb 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Captain, 17th Infantry Battalion
9 Oct 1917: Honoured Military Cross and bar, Raid on Celtic Wood, For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty at Broodseine Ridge on 9 October 1917. When in command of his company he displayed fine leadership and great dash in leading his company to the attack. He quickly reached his objective and consolidated the position under the heaviest shell fire.
9 Oct 1917: Wounded AIF WW1, Captain, 17th Infantry Battalion, Raid on Celtic Wood, Broodseine Ridge, GSW left shoulder.
3 Oct 1918: Wounded AIF WW1, Captain, 17th Infantry Battalion, Breaching the Hindenburg Line - Cambrai / St Quentin Canal, Gassed
25 Apr 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Captain, 17th Infantry Battalion

Help us honour Keith Wemyes Mackenzie's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Michael Silver

The son of Arthur Donald and Arthuretta MacKenzie, Keith Wemyes Mackenzie was born in Bombay in 1887. During his time in India he served with the Bombay Volunteer Rifles before migrating to New Zealand.

He resided in the Waitematta district of Auckland in the early 1900s, working as a clerk and joined the 1st Battalion Auckland Infantry. Shortly before the outbreak of World War 1 he migrated to Australia residing in western Sydney.

Enlisting for service in the AIF just after new year in 1915, he married his fiance Mary Marsh at Parramatta shortly before embarking with the 17th Battalion on 12 May 1915 for the war zone. After training in Egypt, Sergeant Keith MacKenzie landed on Gallipoli at dawn on 20 August 1915.

The Battalion moved into reserve trenches, before being thrust into action at Hill 60 on the 27th. MacKenzie's No 8 Platoon was ordered to take up a position as a support for an attack near Kaiajik Dere. At 4.30 pm the order was given to fix bayonets and the men were 'legged' up the deep trench to go 'over the top'. Under a storm of lead, there were heavy casualties. The support platoon, No 8 was not called on to attack. 

Thus ended the first combat for the Seventeenth. The venture was ill-prepared and launched in the face of point blank fire. Ironically, the Hill 60 assault was the last major operation of the Gallipoli campaign until the evacuation.

Elevated to 2nd Lieutenant in October, Keith Mackenzie remained at Gallipoli until the evacuation. Together with 18 other ranks of his 'B' Company he left the peninsula at 11.45pm on 19 December 1915. By 3.00am on the 20th the last of the Seventeenth's garrison at Quinn's Post had made its way to the beach.

Transferred with the Seventeenth to the Western Front, he was promoted to Lieutenant before being engaged in the mincing machine that was the Battle of the Somme. At Poziers in late July 1916 he displayed great courage in clearing enemy from a trench despite being wounded. For his actions he was awarded the Military Cross.

Elevated to the rank of Captain he was wounded on two more occassions during the conflict. On 9 October 1917 when leading his company in an attack on Broodseine Ridge he suffered a gun shot wound to the left shoulder. For his conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in this action he was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross. 

Just prior to the end of hostilities, at Joncourt on 2 October 1918 the enemy  heavily shell the village, mid morning, with mustard gas resulting in the area being literally saturated with gas as the battalion prepared for an attack early on 3 October. The gas took sometime to take effect, but by late in the day many of the senior officers of the Seventeenth were evactuated with gas poisoning, including Captain MacKenzie and the CO Lieutenant Colonel Sadlier. The result was that only 5 officers and 60 other ranks of the battalion answered the role call on October 4.

Captain Keith Wemyes MacKenzie MC & Bar returned to Australia in the 'Orsova' in early 1919.

Resuming his business career, Keith MacKenzie took up a position in 1925 with the Returned Services League as its Employment Officer, being responsible for supporting veterans in seeking employment.

He also became involved in the formation of the 17th Battalion Association in 1930 and subsequently authored 'The Story of the Seventeenth Battalion AIF in The Great War' which was published in 1946.

Maintaining his links with the militia, Keith MacKenzie rose to the rank of Lieutentant Colonel between and wars.

Keith MacKenzie, decorated soldier and champion of the veterans, died at his home in Sinclair Street, Crows Nest in 1958.