Veteran Stories:
Don MacKenzie

Army

  • The North Nova Scotia Highlanders Signal Platoon prior to going overseas, July 1941. The 25 men are wearing respirators and steel helmets. These men landed together in Normandy on D-Day.

  • Donald MacKenzie's Disembarkation Tag from LCT 1727. One tag was issued to every man sailing for Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944.

  • 5 Francs and 10 Francs paper money issued to Allied soldiers landing in Normandy on 6 June 1944 only after ships had left England's shores. On the back of the money, Don wrote the names of the boys who took the journey with him.

  • Diagram of 4 CDN Base Nijmegen, a Canadian camp for homecoming Canadians at the end of the war in Europe. The front cover displayed a personal message from Commander 1st CDN Army General H.D.G Crerar.

  • Group of men from Oxford, NS at Debert, NS on July 19, 1941. Known as "The boys from the woollen town," Don and friends were departing that day for Halifax to board the S.S. Orion on their way to England. Photo courtesy of Don MacKenzie.

Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"Well, we just got out of Halifax harbour when we found that there were U-boats waiting there, so we had little run-ins with those."

Transcript

My name is Don MacKenzie, and I'm a Nova Scotian. I never was away from home for the first twenty years of my life, and war broke out so I volunteered. I joined the North Nova Scotia Highlanders. There were about twenty from my hometown that joined at the same time. We started off in Amherst, Nova Scotia. I believe it was Stanfield's Underwear, a big company, that gave us a big Nova Scotia flag before we left home. And we went to Debert, and from there overseas. And we thought that when we left Halifax the water would be clear and nice. Well, we just got out of Halifax harbour when we found that there were U-boats waiting there, so we had little run-ins with those. We made it to Britain. We started to train in Britain. We were out on the English Channel more times than I think we were on land in our years we spent in Britain. In my time, I found a friend along the way. An older man, he was thirty-four when I was twenty. He had left a wife and five little children back here. He and I made out quite well. We seemed to have a lot in common. Neither one of us smoked in those days and everybody else pretty well did. We went on our leaves together. Every place we went, we went together. And then the Battalion went to northern Scotland, up in the highlands, to train for the D-Day landings. This was commando training given by the best commandos in the world, and it was some tough. After we got on the boats they gave us a map of France and it had all different names on it... Paris was Moscow. So we finally found out we were going to France. Other than that we thought we might go to Norway, we weren't sure. But we made it across, and that morning going in was something else. I've never seen anything like it with all the stuff that was going on. It was hard to believe that that much stuff could go on. Our first day in there was something new all the time. Things that we thought we had been taught really didn't work that way. At the end of the day darkness had come, but we didn't know too much else. The casualty list was coming up, and we'd never seen that before. This was all new to us. So that was our first day in a battle zone.
Follow us