(Service number )
|First Rank||Lance Corporal||Last Rank||Corporal|
|Date||27 December 1892||Place of Birth||Woodstock, Westland|
|Address at Enlistment||Fiji|
|Previous Military Experience|
|Next of Kin|
|Served with||Fijian Forces; English Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship|
|Other Units Served With||King's Royal Rifle Regiment|
|Last Unit Served With|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
June 1915 wounded – bullet broke bone in right forearm; admitted to French hospital; transferred to Third Southern Military Hospital, Oxford. 1916 in hospital in England – rheumatism.
|Date||11 January 1969||Age||76 years|
|Place of Death||Tauranga|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Tauranga Catholic Cemetery|
|Memorial Reference||Section 28, Row 16, Plot 22|
|New Zealand Memorials|
John Mackay, known as Jack, was born on 27 December 1892 at Woodstock, Westland, the youngest son of William Donald and Ida Octavia (née Kildahl) Mackay. He would have grown up at Woodstock on the West Coast, where his father was well known as a school teacher. In March 1901, little Jack Mackay, of Woodstock, gave one shilling to the Fallen Soldiers Memorial Fund. Jack started out with the Bank of New South Wales at Hokitika. He was afterwards posted to Geraldine and while there, he served three years in the Territorials (South Canterbury Regiment). He had previously served in the First Westland Rifles at Hokitika. Rising rapidly in the banking service, he was promoted in 1913 to the position of second in charge of the Bank of Levuka, Fiji – a very important position. He was off to Fiji, from Geraldine, in early Sepetember to take up his new duties.
And so, stationed in Fiji when war broke out, John Mackay enlisted there. When Lord Kitchener put out a call to arms to the British Empire, Fiji responded disproportionately to its size. At the beginning of the war only white Fijians of European descent were allowed to serve. He had gone with the Fijian Contingent to the Front in December 1914. Most of the Fijian men joined the King's Royal Rifle Regiment and left from England for France, John Mackay among them. The men of the Fijian contingent were permitted to retain their Fijian flag and their identity as a separate body inside the main regiment. There was a very high casualty rate in the contingent of 56 men who went from Fiji to England to the Western Front.
In June 1915, J. Mackay was reported wounded in action in France on 8 May 1915, at the battle of Neuve Chapelle, a cable to his father conveying this news. The Governor of Fiji, Bickham Escott, and Lady Escott conveyed to Jack’s father their sympathy for Jack, “your gallant son”, and best wishes for his speedy recovery. Although he was convalescent, he had suffered a disabling wound – a bullet broke a bone in his right forearm. He was admitted to a French hospital for a short time before being transferred to the Third Southern Military Hospital at Oxford. Mr Mackay, Jack’s father, received a letter written on Jack’s behalf, which included a letter from the doctor stating that Jack was not seriously wounded. The writer also remarked: “I have heard from another source that he acted very bravely taking a wounded officer out of the trench. His companions admire him immensely.”
Some time after, Jack himself was able to write from the hospital at Oxford. He gave a detailed account of the action he had been involved in. In one part he wrote: “Things were fairly critical at this time and the Shropshires, who relieved us were badly gassed. We got the fringe of it and it was far from pleasant. I felt suffocated and my eyes smarted badly. The Huns are inhuman brutes. Well, we had to again go up into the trenches to relieve the “Shrops” and then the second Battle of Ypres started, and we were in the thick of it. I was wounded on the first day, . . . . We had in front of us an iron fence embedded in cement, a belt of trees five yards wide, then barbed wire entanglements, then the trench. Well they simply mowed fence, wood, entanglements and trench down until there was hardly any left and our poor lads were falling in all directions. . . . . I suppose you would like to know how I was wounded. While the Germans were pouring a heavy fire into our supports as they came up, and after most of them had got into the trench, one chap about 50 yards behind on a very exposed hill had his leg broken with a piece of shell. An officer of our company and a Scotty who was next to me started to go back for him, so I went too. Just as we got there the officer was badly wounded with a shot through the chest, in fact so badly that we thought he was dying and turned our attention to the other chap. He didn’t want to move but it was no place for ceremony, so I hoisted him on to the back of the Scotty who started with him to the dressing station, which was in dug-outs about 200 yards away. That left the officer and myself alone. I gave him a drink of water and although suffering horribly he seemed to recover a bit. I asked him if he could hang on to me but he could not move, so I ran back to the dressing station and got a stretcher. Luckily there I met a Fiji chap and he offered to help me which offer I gladly accepted. We got back to the wounded man through a perfect tornado of shells, and bullets, as we had been spotted by the enemy, and just as we had got him on the stretcher and ready to move off both of us were hit, they had turned a machine gun on us. As both of us had fractured arms it was out of the question to carry him so we eased him down into an old hole out of the way of bullets and then, after giving him our water bottles, we went back to the dressing station.”
Receiving word that Jack would reach Wellington on 25 September 1916, Mrs Mackay left to meet her son. He had been through most of the severe fighting on the Western Front and he was very much “shattered in health” because of his experiences. He had been hospitalized in England for some time, suffering rheumatism, and was being invalided home. In October the residents of Woodstock and Rimu held a social gathering at the Rimu Public Hall to welcome Jack home.
John’s brother, Donald Eric Caithness Mackay, died of wounds in 1916 in France. Back in New Zealand, John Mackay married Alice Dora Maud Dorrington, known as Dora, on 27 December 1916 at St Peter’s Church, Wellington. Dora died in 1964 and John on 11 January 1969 at Tauranga. He was buried in the local Catholic Cemetery.
NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [12 October 2020]; West Coast Times, 6 September 1913, 24 August 1915, 25 September 1916, 20 October 1916, Grey River Argus, 17 December 1914, 26 June 1915, Press, 24 June 1915, 26 July 1916, North Otago Times, 26 June 1915, Greymouth Evening Star, 1 & 22 July 1915, 20 June 1916, Timaru Herald, 2 August 1915, Hokitika Guardian, 3 January 1917 (Papers Past) [26 February 2014; 14 March 2015; 11 & 12 October 2020]; Tauranga Cemetery headstone image & burial record (Tauranga City Council) [12 October 2020]; NZ Electoral rolls (ancestry.com.au) [14 October 2020]
No documents available.
Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG
Currently Assigned to
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.
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