Case study

WW1 Canadian VC recipient Hugh McDonald McKenzie

The story of Canadian First World War Victoria Cross recipient Hugh McDonald McKenzie.

Hugh McDonald McKenzie
Credit: National Defence Canada

70 men from Canada received the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry, during the First World War. As part of the Centenary Commemorations the people of the United Kingdom marked their gratitude to those courageous men by presenting a bronze memorial plaque to their home country engraved with their names. The plaque is now displayed at the British High Commission Ottawa. This archive tells their stories.

Name: Hugh McDonald McKenzie

DOB: 5 December 1885

Place of Birth: LIverpool

Date of Action: 30 October 1917

Place of Action: Passchendaele, Belgium

Rank: Lieutenant

Regiment: Canadian Machine Gun Corps, Canadian Expedition Force

Hugh McDonald McKenzie was born in Liverpool on 5 December 1885 but emigrated to Canada in 1911. He enlisted as a private in the Canadian Expeditionary Force upon the outbreak of the First World War and was on the Western Front by December 1914. In 1916, he received the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the French Croix de Guerre, and in early 1917 he was commissioned as an officer.

Lieutenant McKenzie was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery and leadership with the Canadian Machine Gun Corps on 30 October 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium. His citation explains:

For most conspicuous bravery and leading when in charge of a section of four machine guns accompanying the infantry in an attack. Seeing that all the officers and most of the non-commissioned officers of an infantry company had become casualties, and that the men were hesitating before a nest of enemy machine guns, which were on commanding ground and causing them severe casualties, he handed over command of his guns to an N.C.O., rallied the infantry, organised an attack, and captured the strong point.Finding that the position was swept by machine-gun fire from a ‘pill-box’ which dominated all the ground over which the troops were advancing, Lt. MacKenzie made a reconnaissance and detailed flanking and frontal attacking parties which captured the ‘pill-box,’ he himself being killed while leading the frontal attack. By his valour and leadership this gallant officer ensured the capture of these strong points and so saved the lives of many men and enabled the objectives to be attained.

Lieutenant McKenzie has no known grave but is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium.

Published 20 June 2016