John Bernard (Jack) MACKEY VC

Poppy

MACKEY, John Bernard

Service Number: NX20317
Enlisted: 5 June 1940, Paddington, New South Wales
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
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Keith Payne VC Memorial Park, Leichhardt War Memorial, North Bondi War Memorial, Portland District War Memorial
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World War 2 Service

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

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Biography contributed by Paul Trevor

'John Bernard 'Jack' MACKEY was born on 16 May 1922 at Leichhardt, Sydney, and until his enlistment worked in his father's bakery. He embarked with the 2/3rd Pioneer Battalion in November 1941, serving in Syria and in the later operations at El Alamein. He also took part in the New Guinea campaign. The landing on Tarakan Island, Borneo, was the battalion's final campaign.

Mackey had already been recognised as an outstanding and brave junior leader. On 12 May 1945 he displayed those qualities again on Tarakan Island, Netherlands East Indies. Together with his lance corporal, Mackey approached a well-defended position along a steep and narrow spur. Reaching a Japanese light machine-gun post, the two men killed four enemy soldiers, but Mackey's companion was wounded. Mackey killed the remaining Japanese, then dealt with a heavy machine-gun crew in an adjacent bunker. Taking up an Owen gun, he moved towards another heavy machine-gun nest, and managed to silence it before he was mortally wounded. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. The recommendation for the award reads:

'For most conspicuous bravery in the face of strong enemy resistance in the attack on the HELEN feature at TARAKAN on 12 May 1945.
Cpl MACKEY was in charge of 3 section 16 Platoon D Coy 2/3 Aust Pnr Bn in the company attack on the feature known as HELEN East of TARAKAN town.
This section was in the van and led by Cpl MACKEY moved along a narrow spur with scarcely width for more than one man when it came under fire from 3 well sited positions near the top of a very steep razor-backed ridge. The ground fell away almost sheer on each side of the track making it almost impossible to move to a flank so Cpl MACKEY led his men forward.

He charged the first LMG [Light Machine Gun] position but slipped and after wrestling with one enemy bayoneted him and charged straight on to the HMG [Heavy Machine Gun] which was firing from a bunker position six yards to his right. He rushed this post and killed the crew with grenades.
He then jumped back and changing his rifle for his comrades [sic] submachine gun he attacked further up the steep slope to another LMG position which was firing on his platoon. Whilst charging he fired his gun and reached within a few feet of the enemy position when he was killed by LMG fire but not before accounting for two more enemy.

By his exceptional bravery and complete disregard for and the sacrifice of his own life Cpl MACKEY was largely responsible for the killing of 7 Japanese and the elimination of two machine gun posts which enabled his platoon to gain its objective from which the coy continued to engage the enemy. His fearless action was an inspiration to the whole battalion and although he was killed his name is legendary.’ 'Commonwealth Gazette' Page 2459, position 1 Date: 15 November 1945

He was eventually buried in the Labuan War Cemetery." - SOURCE (www.awm.gov.au)

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