John Bernard (Jack) MACKEY VC

MACKEY, John Bernard

Service Number: NX20317
Enlisted: 5 June 1940
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion
Born: Leichhardt, New South Wales, 16 May 1922
Home Town: Portland, Lithgow, New South Wales
Schooling: St. Columba's School, Christian Brothers' High School, St Joseph's Convent School
Occupation: Baker's labourer
Died: Killed in Action, Tarakan, Borneo, 12 May 1945, aged 22 years
Cemetery: Labuan War Cemetery
Plot. 27 Row. C Grave. 9, Labuan War Cemetery, Labuan, Malaysia
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Keith Payne VC Memorial Park, Kokoda Track Memorial Rose Garden, Leichhardt War Memorial, North Bondi War Memorial, Portland District War Memorial
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World War 2 Service

5 Jun 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Corporal, NX20317, 2nd/2nd Pioneer Battalion
5 Jun 1940: Enlisted Private, NX20317, Paddington, New South Wales
6 Jun 1940: Involvement Private, NX20317
15 Aug 1940: Transferred Private, 2 Recruit Depot, Posted to 2 Recruit Reinforcement Battalion
4 Sep 1940: Transferred Private, 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion
1 Nov 1941: Embarked Private, NX20317, 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion, Embarked Sydney (for Middle East)
1 Jul 1942: Involvement Private, NX20317, 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion, El Alamein
25 Jan 1943: Embarked Private, NX20317, 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion, Embarked Middle East (for Sydney)
3 Aug 1943: Embarked Private, NX20317, 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion, Embarked Cairns (for Milne Bay)
16 Aug 1943: Promoted Lance Corporal, 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion
23 Jun 1944: Promoted Corporal, 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion
22 Feb 1945: Embarked Corporal, NX20317, 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion, Embarked Morotai (for Tarakan)
12 May 1945: Honoured Victoria Cross, Borneo - Operation Oboe July - August 1945, for "Conspicuous bravery at The Helen, Tarakan, 12 May 1945"
12 May 1945: Involvement Corporal, NX20317, 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion, Borneo - Operation Oboe July - August 1945

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Biography contributed by Paul Trevor

Mackey, John Bernard (Jack) (1922–1945)
by Harry Taplin

John Bernard (Jack) Mackey, baker's mate and soldier, was born on 16 May 1922 at Leichhardt, Sydney, only son and eldest of four children of native-born parents Stanislaus Mackey, baker, and his wife Bridget Catherine, née Smyth. After attending St Columba's School, Leichhardt, and Christian Brothers' High School, Lewisham, Jack moved with his family to Portland in 1936. Aged 14, he finished his formal education at St Joseph's Convent School that year.

Because jobs were scarce, young Mackey was apprenticed in his father's bakery. Of average height, stockily built and weighing about 13 stone (83 kg), he had blue eyes, reddish hair, and a humorous and exuberant nature. He played Rugby League football for the local junior team (and later for his battalion) and proved an excellent swimmer, but he disliked working in the bakery and living in the country. His relationship with his father became strained, particularly after his mother died in 1939. Defying his father, Jack overstated his age and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 4 June 1940. Stanislaus reluctantly accepted the situation.

Posted to the 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion, Mackey served in Darwin in 1941 before being sent to the Middle East where he saw action in the battle of El Alamein, Egypt (October-November 1942). He returned to Australia in February 1943, then sailed for Papua in August. During operations around Finschhafen, New Guinea, he was promoted acting corporal in October (substantive June 1944). His company commander described him as an outstanding junior leader who exhibited moral and physical courage. Mackey was hospitalized with malaria in November 1943-January 1944, and again in May-June and August-September 1944. With his battalion, he embarked for the invasion of Tarakan Island, Borneo, in April 1945 and landed on 1 May.

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