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McKENZIE, Kenneth Allan DSO (1893-1948)

McKENZIE, Kenneth Allan DSO (1893-1948)

Born in Brunswick, Melbourne on 6 June 1893, Kenneth Allan McKenzie was the son of George McKenzie and Martha Ekin nee Williams.

He was enrolled as a day student at Geelong College in 1907 departing in 1911. His address at entry was Mt Pleasant Rd, Belmont.

During World War I, he enlisted in the AIF on 21 September 1914, and graduated from the Royal Miliary College, Duntroon. He served in Gallipoli, and Palestine.

According to an article in the Geelong Advertiser he was the only officer of his regiment who landed on 8 May 1915 to survive the horrific day.

Peter Burness in The Nek wrote of his service on that fateful day, 7 August 1915:
'It was now Lieutenant-Colonel Brazier’s task to signal each of the two lines of his regiment forward. He had no vainglorious notions of leading his regiment in the attack. The timings were to be indicated by officers from the headquarters. Two or three officers were assigned to this work; one was Bill Kent Hughes (Sergeant Wilfred Selwyn Kent-Hughes, of Toorak, embarked with B Company, 7th Battalion AIF, Mentioned in Despatches at Atawinah on 19th April 1917), and Kenneth McKenzie, a young Duntroon officer who had come over with the 9th Light Horse, was another. . . The other staff officer, Kenneth McKenzie, kept a diary on Gallipoli, but his brief entries reveal very few of his personal thoughts about the campaign. He says nothing of his and Kent Hughes’ role on 7 August, and only ponders why the artillery did not fire throughout the attack.'

He was later awarded Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, gazetted 3 March 1917, the citation read in part:
'On the 23rd December 1916 at Magdhaba he led his squadron in the attack with great gallantry, and was the first to reach the enemy’s position. In the assault he had his squadron so well in hand that after the trenches to the north-east of the position were taken, fifty men were obtained from him at a moment’s notice to send on to the assistance of the 10th Light Horse regiment, he taking command. He had on many previous occasions done fine work.'

H S Gullett wrote of his efforts at Second Gaza on 19 April 1917 in the Official History:
'In this engagement the 4th Light Horse Brigade under Meredith, operating between the Camels and Royston’s brigade, had only the 11th and 12th Regiments. It was nevertheless given a full brigade sector, and Meredith from the outset had only two squadrons in reserve. Major K A McKenzie, a capable young Duntroon youngster, was this day winning his spurs as brigade-major. . . . Up to this time the advance of the 11th and 12th had gone with great vigour. The Camels and the infantry on the left had attracted most of the enemy’s gunfire, and, for the moment, the prospect that Meredith’s brigade would reach its objectives appeared promising. But suddenly the enemy machine-gun and rifle fire became much heavier and more deadly, and the artillery fire also increased. The brigade had only about 500 men, now all in the firing line, on a front of about 1,000 yards, and was powerless to sustain resistance against losses. McKenzie said afterwards, 'All seemed to be going well, when suddenly the whole show melted away - due to sheer dissolution by casualties.'

Gullett also wrote at length about K A McKenzie's service at Beersheba on 31 October. He was Mentioned in Despatches on two occasions, by General A J Murray on 6 July 1917, and by General E H H Allenby on 14 June 1918. He was G S O (II) Desert Mounted Corps 1918-19. McKenzie returned to Australia, embarking on 15 August 1919.

During the Second World War he served with the Australian Staff Corps as a Lieutenant-Colonel up to the time of his discharge on 25 April 1947. He died the following year, on 5 November 1948.

Pegasus in June 1948 reported his death of 11 May 1948: 'Kenneth Alan McKenzie left Geelong College in 1911 to enter the Royal Military College, Duntroon. In the 1914-18 war he served in the Light Horse both at Gallipoli and in Palestine, where he was awarded the DSO and was twice Mentioned in Despatches. In the 1939-45 war, he commanded the Third Motor Brigade and was later Director of Personnel Services at Army Headquarters. He retired from the army last year with the rank of Brigadier. He died at Melbourne on May 11, and was buried with full military honours.'

His brothers, Louis Evander McKenzie DSO (1885-1954), Colin Ernest McKenzie (1884-1959), Andrew Norman McKenzie (1889-1962), and George Houston McKenzie (1890-1965), were also educated at Geelong College.

His diaries are held at 4th/19th Price of Wales Light Hores Regiment History, Simpson Barracks, Macleod, Victoria.

Sources: Pegasus June 1948 p45; Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck. p 253-54 (citing H S Gullett, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918: Vol. VII Sinai and Palestine; Peter Burness, The Nek: The Tragic Charge of the Light Horse at Gallipoli; Pegasus; National Archives).

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