Mr. Mackenzie (on right) with Mr. Ray, a friend from the 48th Highlanders, circa 1990.Gordon MacKenzie
Regimental shoulder patches.Gordon MacKenzie
Mr. MacKenzie in Basic Training, in Quebec, 1942.Gordon MacKenzie
Photo taken on Centre Island, Toronto, Ontario, 1946. At that time, Mr.MacKenzie had been remustered to the permanent force.Gordon MacKenzie
Lading, with code names for units. Note the calculations jotted on the side. The red dot is a blood stain from Mr. MacKenzie's shrapnel injury, 1943-45.Gordon MacKenzie
"And if you got wounded, if it wasn’t bad, like say just a piece of shrapnel, they’d take that out and ship you right back to your unit."
I was brought up a monarchist and to me, the army was important. I wanted infantry, in fact, I asked for infantry. I joined the regiment at Ortona [Italy] just as we were fighting for Ortona. The first time I can remember, I was in a slit trench and I heard something move and I fired the Bren [gun] and I said, “Oh, I heard something.” And they said, “Okay.” And that was the first time I met the boys.
We used to talk when we were back behind the line, and they used to tell me about their father rum running from Jamaica up to the Maritimes. And we used to talk about things like that. Nothing about the war. Nobody ever said anything about the war.
We got the Vickers after Rome. And we were going up. I could give you the dates we got the Vickers and then the flame throwers, but they put me in the carrier platoon because I was the only man in the regiment that was qualified on the Vickers. Now, Vickers is a medium machine gun. It fires 250 rounds per minute. The number one, which I was, carried the tripod and that’s the heaviest part. And then number two carried the gun. And when you went to man it, the number one would open it with the three legs and flick it up in the air and it comes down on three points. It’s a funny way of doing it. And just, you take the pins out and number two put the gun in where the pins go. And you just sit there and fire. It felt bad.
Liri Valley was the most precise because we were on a creeping barrage. And right in front, the 25 pounders were exploding in front of us as we advanced. That was the closest that you’ll ever get to a shell exploding without hitting you.
Well, the Canadians were called the, the ‘Red Patch Devils’ [1st Canadian Infantry Division]. They said, anybody were firing at them, and you see one guy pop up and another guy pop up somewhere else and another guy pop up because we didn’t have a mass attack. We couldn’t go on a mass attack because we didn’t have that many men. Don’t forget, Canada was only 11 million in 1939. And we fought with, well, in Italy, we were all under-strength, all the regiments were under-strength. And if you got wounded, if it wasn’t bad, like say just a piece of shrapnel, they’d take that out and ship you right back to your unit. They wouldn’t evacuate you until you healed up or anything, they’d just bandage it and send you back to your unit.
There’s so many things that the Canadians did. Like Ortona, they were fighting the best of the German Army, the German paratroopers, and they were just all fresh combat. And whenever the Canadian Division, one division went against the Germans, they would shove three divisions against us. And we’d still take our objectives. There was something about the Canadians; there is something about the Canadians still today. They keep advancing. I remember we were once up against the SS and we couldn’t get them to surrender so we had to bury them with a tank. We’d call a tank up and bury them in their slit trench. It’s things like this that you can’t talk about too often.
To get back to Holland now, when I was wounded. We were 30 kilometres behind the German line, taking prisoners. They were laying mines and we took the prisoners and then we got bazookaed. That’s a ‘thunder fist’ that the Germans have. And they fired it and it killed my driver and wounded me.
I, I can picture the explosion, but that’s about all. And my driver that was with me, I remember him going down, not myself, and then they put me in the carrier. I passed out and I don’t remember being evacuated, but I woke up on the way to the hospital. And that’s all I can remember. When I came home, I was the proudest Canadian that ever lived. I’m still a monarchist. In fact, in my living room, I have the queen and the duke’s picture up here that was in Scarborough Town Centre when it was first opened by her. And it was presented to me, I don’t know why.