Major John Lawson MacKenzie, VC, DCM

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Major John Lawson MacKenzie, VC, DCM

Birthplace: Contin, Ross-Shire, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Death: May 17, 1915 (44)
Festubert, France (WW1 Casualty)
Immediate Family:

Husband of Gladys Leslie MacKenzie
Father of Private and Private

Occupation: 1915 - Major Seaforth Highlanders Black Watch (29 Nov 1900 - 1904) Royal Scots (1904), 1881 - 16, Solicitor's Apprentice
Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About Major John Lawson MacKenzie, VC, DCM


Rank: Major
Date of Death: 17/05/1915
Age: 44
Regiment/Service: Bedfordshire Regiment 1st Bn. attd. 2nd Bn.
Awards: V C Grave Reference: VIII. J. 10.
Additional Information: Native of Contin, Ross-shire.


An extract taken from the London Gazette dated 15th Jan., 1901 records the following: "On the 6th June, 1900, at Dompoassi, in Ashanti, Sergeant Mackenzie, after working two Maxim guns under a hot fire, and being wounded while doing so, volunteered to clear the stockades of the enemy which he did in the most gallant manner, leading the charge himself and driving the enemy headlong into the bush."


VC online

Victoria Cross Recipients 1854-2006

findmypast Transcription

  • First name(s) John
  • Last name Mackenzie
  • Country United Kingdom
  • Medal type Victoria Cross awards, 1854-2006
  • Record set Britain, Campaign, Gallantry & Long Service Medals & Awards
  • Category Armed forces & conflict
  • Subcategory Medal rolls and honours

Medal Index Cards

findmypast Transcription

  • First name(s) John
  • Last name MacKenzie
  • Year 1914-20
  • Service number -
  • Rank Major
  • Regiment Bedfordshire Regiment
  • Service record Rank: Major, Corps: Bedfordshire Regiment
  • Image link
  • Country Great Britain
  • Medal type British Army medal index cards, 1914-1920
  • Archive reference WO372/13

Name: John Lawson Mackenzie

  • Gender: Male
  • Age: 39
  • Birth Date: 1871
  • Marriage Date: 21 Sep 1910
  • Marriage Place: Simgar, Bengal, India
  • Father: Verne H. Ross/Mackenzie
  • Spouse: Gladys Leslie Lasack
  • FHL Film Number: 528131 India, Marriages, 1792-1948. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

From The Bedfordshire Regiment in the Great War - includes an image of Major John Henry MacKenzie.

Major Mackenzie was from the 1st battalion, but attached to the 2nd when he was killed. He started his career as a Private; he won both his Distinguished Conduct Medal and Victoria Cross as a Sergeant in the Seaforth Highlanders.

His DCM was won whilst serving in the Highlanders in the Niger Territories in the Autumn of 1899 and was recorded in the London Gazette 9th January 1900. Page 1 of the London Gazette 2nd January 1900 includes an element of the dispatch from Lt-Colonel James Willcocks which refers to Sergeant Mackenzie's distinguished service:

"I have also to specially mention the good service rendered in September and October 1898, by Sergeant John MacKenzie, Seaforth Highlanders and West African Frontier Force."

Whilst serving in Ashanti (Ghana) in June 1900 John Mackenzie had become a Colour Sergeant and won the Victoria Cross. An extract taken from the London Gazette dated 15th January 1901 records the following:

"On the 6th June, 1900, at Dompoassi, in Ashanti, Sergeant Mackenzie, after working two Maxim guns under a hot fire, and being wounded while doing so, volunteered to clear the stockades of the enemy which he did in the most gallant manner, leading the charge himself and driving the enemy headlong into the bush."

On page 11 of the London Gazette 4th December 1900, the dispatches written by Colonel Sir James Willcocks, K.C.M.G., D S.O., Commanding Ashanti Field Force, to the Secretary of State for the Colonies shows Colour Sergeant Mackenzie's actions in some more detail:

"On 6th June Lieutenant-Colonel Carter and Major (local Lieutenant-Colonel) Wilkinson, Gold Coast Constabulary, with three hundred and eighty men, left Kwissa to join hands with Hall at Bekwai. I reached Prahsu on the 8th June, and the following day received a despatch from Lieutenant-Colonel Carter, stating that he had been opposed by the Adansis at Dompoassi, and had been obliged to return to Kwissa. The enemy had built five stockades about two hundred yards, long and nearly parallel to the road at a distance of only thirty yards from it; lying perfectly still behind the ordinary thick bush, which remained untouched between the stockade and the path, they waited until the advance guard was just opposite, and then opened a terrific fire which staggered our men they also fired from the surrounding trees. The guns and Maxims came into action at once, and a regular duel took place, our men falling fast; no one knew then, as we do now that the enemy were probably behind strong stockades, and there was no indication of it; the officers believed the enemy were firing from the thick bush, and thus swaying backwards and forwards the fight went on for two and a-half hours, by which time Lieutenant-Colonel Carter had received a severe wound, which incapacitated him from command. Lieutenant-Colonel Wilkinson then took command and was himself slightly wounded; Captain Roupell, 3rd West African Frontier Force, was dangerously wounded in several places; Lieutenant Edwards, R.A., West African Frontier Force, received two severe wounds, but continued to work the guns till the entire gun detachment were disabled. It was at this stage that it was found the enemy were posted behind breastworks, as the bush had become partially cut away by the fire. Lieutenant O'Malley, 2nd West African Frontier Force, was severely wounded while working the Maxim, nearly the whole detachment being disabled; Dr. Fletcher, Medical Officer, and Colour-Sergeant Mackenzie (Seaforth Highlanders), 1st West African Frontier Force, were also wounded, a total of seven Europeans hit out of eleven' present; three men were killed and eighty-nine wounded (some of whom have since died). Lieutenant-Colonel Wilkinson, seeing that the gun and Maxims were by this time out of-action, that his ammunition was running short, and the enemy's fire did not slacken, determined to retire, But Colour Sergeant Mackenzie came up to him and volunteered "to carry the stockade with, the bayonet" if his own company (Yoruba Company, 1st. West African Frontier Force) was placed at his disposal. Wilkinson at once ordered the Company, which was to the rear of the column, and on the arrival of the first two sections without hesitation, Mackenzie, charged at their head followed splendidly by his own men and all others in the vicinity, their officers of course leading them. The enemy did not wait the rush, but fled in confusion, and never rallied, and it is perhaps not too much to say a disaster to our arms was thus averted, for a retirement under the circumstances might have ended in a panic.
For this act of distinguished bravery I consider Colour-Sergeant Mackenzie is deserving of the highest reward a soldier can receive, and am making a recommendation accordingly. It was only last year that Colour-Sergeant Mackenzie earned the medal for distinguished service in the field on the Niger. The column then returned to Kwissa, being unable to advance owing to the numbers of wounded."

Colour Sergeant Mackenzie was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Black Watch the year he won his VC. On the 29th November 1900 he was given the local rank of Lieutenant whilst serving in the West African Force and went on to become a Captain in the Royal Scots 22nd January 1904, later serving in the Northern Nigeria Regiment. He was mentioned in dispatches 12th September 1902 for his involvement during the Aro Expedition in the Anglo-Aro War of 1901 to 1902, his activities in the Kano-Sokoto Expedition of 1903 and again during 1906 when he was staff officer of the Munster Field Force. He also appears in the London Gazette under the following dates:

  • 3rd May 1910 "Captain John Mackenzie, V.C., is seconded for service as an Adjutant of Indian Volunteers. Dated 8th April, 1910."
  • 18th September 1908 "The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment), Captain John Mackenzie, V.C., is placed on temporary half-pay on account of ill-health. Dated 18th September, 1908."
  • 29th December 1908 "The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment}, Supernumerary Captain John Mackenzie, V.C., to be Captain, vice G.W.G. Neill, deceased. Dated 16th December, 1908."
  • 4th August 1911 "To be Brigade-Majors. Captain J. H. Mackenzie, 1st Battalion, The Royal Scots, vice Captain L. Hume-Spry, D.S.O., West Yorkshire Regiment. Dated 6th June, 1911."

WW1 He was mobilised and arrived on the Western Front 23rd November 1914, initially serving in the 1st Battalion. He moved to command the 2nd battalion on the 20th March 1915 as a replacement officer for the battalion's losses during the Battle of Neuve Chapelle and remained in charge until the 17th April. During the opening day of the Battle of Festubert (16th May 1915), he led D Company until the battalion were relieved and given a few hours rest in support positions. The following evening saw the battalion launch an assault in the dark against well defended German lines. Major Mackenzie put himself at the front of his Company and led their charge but as soon as they appeared from their trenches, the entire line was met by a wall of bullets and artillery fire.

Major John Mackenzie, V.C., D.C.M. was killed at the head of his men, where he had always been.He lies in the Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy, 7km east of Bethune.

His Victoria Cross can be seen in the Regimental Museum of Queens Own Highlanders at Fort George in Scotland and his pipe banner is on display at the Edinburgh Castle Museum in Scotland.

Scotland Births and Baptisms

  • Name: John Mckenzie
  • Gender: Male
  • Birth Date: 22 Nov 1870
  • Father's Name: Kenneth Mckenzie
  • Mother's Name: Margaret Lawson

1871 Scotland Census

Name Age

  • Kenneth Mckenzie 34
  • Margaret Mckenzie 30
  • Donald Mckenzie 6
  • Christina Mckenzie 4
  • Kenneth Mckenzie 2
  • John Mckenzie 4 Mo
  • Hector Mckenzie 45
  • Duncan Mckenzie 39
  • Donald Mcdonald 24
  • Alexander Mckenzie 20

The occupation of Kenneth is Railway surfaceman.

1881 Census -

The Huts Contin; ED: 3; Page: 4; Line: 16; Roll: cssct1881_18 Name Age

  • Kenneth McKenzie 42
  • Margaret McKenzie 40
  • Donald McKenzie 16
  • Kenneth McKenzie 12
  • John McKenzie 10
  • Marjory McKenzie 8
  • George McKenzie 7
  • Annabella McKenzie 5
  • William McKenzie 2
  • Margaret I McKenzie 3 M

1891 Census

Contin; ED: 3; Page: 3; Line: 15; Roll: CSSCT1891_19 Name Age

  • Kenneth Mackenzie 52
  • Margaret Mackenzie 50
  • William Mackenzie 12 Scholar
  • Margaret Jane Mackenzie 10 Scholar
  • Duncan Mackenzie 7 Scholar
  • Donald Ross Mackenzie 1 Grandson
  • Anabella Mackenzie 1 Granddaughter
  • Kenneth McLennan 27 son-in-law Railway Surfaceman
  • Christina McLennan 24 daughter

1901 Census

Contin; ED: 3; Page: 4; Line: 3; Roll: CSSCT1901_16

  • Name Age
  • Kenneth Mackenzie 60 Foreman Surfaceman born Aultbea
  • Margaret Mackenzie 59
  • Margaret Jane Mackenzie 20 Dressmaker
  • Donald Mackenzie 11 Grandson
  • Annabella Mackenzie 11 Grandaughter

Ancestry tree -

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Major John Lawson MacKenzie, VC, DCM's Timeline

November 22, 1870
Contin, Ross-Shire, Scotland (United Kingdom)
May 17, 1915
Age 44
Festubert, France