• Howard Douglas McKenzie

Army / Flying Corps
  • 17th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Unknown
  • Lance-Corporal

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  • 1914–1915 Star
  • British War Medal
  • Enlistment - WW1

    Liverpool, New South Wales, Australia

  • Birth

    Maitland, NSW, Australia

  • Admitted as an Attorney Solicitor and Proctor to the Supreme Court of New South Wales

    Monday, 20 October 1913

  • KIA

    Wednesday, 26 July 1916

Stories and comments
    • Biography
    • Posted by coalfacesally, Monday, 4 May 2020

    Howard Douglas McKenzie was born in West Maitland New South Wales in 1886. His mother and father, Martha Elizabeth McKenzie nee Hughes and Archibald Daniel McKenzie, came from the Molong and Singleton areas respectively. His maternal grandparents hailed from Ireland and England. His paternal grandparents came from the west coast of Scotland near Oban. One of six children Howard was always called ‘Doug’. Both Doug’s parents were public school teachers and the year Doug was born his father Archibald was the Head Teacher at the West Maitland Superior Public School. Music and singalongs around the piano were part of Doug’s home life and two of Doug’s siblings, Warwick and Ella, went on to become world-class musicians. Doug initially followed in his parent’s footsteps. On the 23rd of June 1904 when he was nearly eighteen he was ‘appointed as a Probationary Teacher from date of entry on duty’ and taught at the Cleveland Street Public School, Sydney. After exams December 1904 he was promoted to ‘Class II’ teacher then, after more exams September 1905 he became a ‘Class I’ teacher. Doug must have decided teaching wasn’t his vocation and he resigned from his position as a Probationary Teacher in 1906 to study law. On the 20th October 1913, Doug was admitted as an Attorney Solicitor and Proctor to the Supreme Court of New South Wales. Doug was a Solicitor, when at the age of 28 years and 9 months, he enlisted for ‘Service Abroad’ on the 10th April 1915. His Australian Imperial Force papers describe him as being 170 pounds and standing 5 foot 10 ½ inches tall. Doug was to be killed a few days after his 30th birthday in the early days of the Battle of Poziéres, France, a battle in which Australia’s loss of life was one of the highest during WW1. The Australian official historian Charles Bean wrote that the Poziéres ridge ‘is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice that any other place on earth’. Martha and Archibald fought their own battle after Doug was Killed In Action. They believed their son’s death should be honoured by a medal. Their letters to a range of authorities including the Military Commander, Victoria Barracks Sydney, are testimony not only to their grief at losing their ‘boy’ but also the injustice they acutely felt that his death was not dignified by a medal being awarded to Doug posthumously. No doubt this gesture would have given them some closure. Doug’s father Archibald wrote that ‘Doug’ was a ‘manly, cheerful boy, good in athletic sports; keen sense of honour; [who] joined in this war because he could never respect himself again otherwise. He gave his life freely for the cause of humanity’. One of Doug’s comrades Private Neil Roy Bailey wrote an eye-witness account of Doug’s final hours: ‘We went to France together; he was in charge of my section, No. 6 of the 6th Platoon, B. Company. We were four months at Armentieres and then went to Pozieres. We were in the 1st attack made by the 2nd. Division and McKenzie was bombing. We were fighting in a trench, which led at right angles out of our trench. He got out into the open above the German trench when there was a slight wave back on the part of our men - he rallied them and called out not to give way. He was in the act of throwing a bomb when he was shot through the heart. He fell and died at once, and was buried later. Had he lived he would have had an honour. I would like to communicate with his people’. It is heartening to reflect that Doug spent time with his brother Major John Bernard Francis McKenzie before he was killed. John served as a Medical Officer during the war and the two brothers met up when both stationed in Gallipoli, November and December 1915. On the 25th November 1915 John wrote in the diary he kept during the war: ‘Very calm for last 3 days - saw Doug today no waterbottle issue for 8 days - ½ rations’. On 3rd December 1915 he wrote: ‘Saw Doug - filled his water-bottle - had yarn with him - shell cap dropped at my feet - kept it - left old Doug and came home’. And then on the 8th December 1915 John wrote: ‘Had Doug down this morning - old boy getting a bit fatter and looking better - gave him gramophone selection for an hour’. I like to reflect that rather than the sound of bullets ringing in Doug’s ears when he was reportedly killed by a sniper on 26th July 1916, that the strains of a Chopin piano composition reminiscent of his days as a West Maitland lad singing with his family took Doug to his premature grave somewhere in Munster Alley, Poziéres France. Sally McKenzie April 2020

    Howard Douglas McKenzie's entry on the Roll of Honour, Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France