Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion 48th Highlanders of Canada, 1944 – 1945.
Killed in action at Wilp, The Netherlands, 12 April, 1945
Donald Mackenzie joined the the 48th Highlanders in 1937. At the outbreak of the Second World War he proceeded overseas as Battalion Transport Officer (TO) with the 1st Battalion in December 1939. He was still TO and during the “Foray to France” in June 1940 played a major role in getting his transport platoon safely back via small pleasure craft that took them to Falmouth after having missed the ship carrying the main body. In the UK he served in various appointments, up to company commander. In 1940 he married Miss Louise Oxley at St Andrew’s Church in Aldershot. Major Don Mackenzie left in early 1942 to attend the Canadian War Staff Course and was selected as the only Canadian officer to instruct on the Imperial Staff College Course at Camberly. During this time he also served as Personal Assistant to Field Marshal Montgomery while his good friend Maj Trum Warren attended the staff college course. In early 1944 he returned to the 48th as Bn 2iC. Before taking that appointment he commanded “A” Coy for a short while before becoming taking up the appointment as 2IC. In June 1944 he succeeded LCol Ian Johnston who had been appointed Brigadier and sent to command 11 Canadian Infantry Brigade (CIB). 48th officers.
LCol Mackenzie commanded the unit for the remainder of the campaign in Italy, which included the fierce battles of the Gothic Line, Rimini, Po Valley, the Lamone River. He distinguished himself for his sure and brilliant handling of the Battalion in these operations. He continued in command during the move to Northwest Europe and during the fighting in Holland.
On 11-Apr-45, the first day of Operation Cannonshot whose goal was the liberation of Apeldoorn, The Netherlands the battalion crossed the Ijssel River near Wilp. When communications faltered and lead companies appeared to be held up. Mackenzie, impatient for news and the need to make battlefield adjustments that might be needed closer to the leading company, crossed the Ijssel River accompanied by his Information Officer, Lt Jack Pickering and entered Wilp. Seeing a Canadian tank he decided to use the telephone on the rear of the tank to reestablish communication with his companies. The events of that day are described beginning on page 747 of the Regimental History-Dileas.
“Just at 3:00 o’clock it happened. A shell shrieked: it smashed into the earth close to the two. Lt. Pickering was wounded and shaken, but as he reached on his hands and knees he saw the Colonel was motionless. He crawled to him. As bit of earth were still pattering back to earth from the explosion, he heard him say painfully: ‘See where I’m hit, Jack.” … and instantaneously death came to the 30 year old Colonel. The battle, now under command of the Second in Command Major Jim Counsell , carried on to its goal of Twello, on time and on objective.
LCol DA Mackenzie was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his courage and leadership in Command of the Highlanders during the battles on the Lamone River in December 1944 and posthumously awarded the United States Distinguished Cross for his courage and leadership during Operation Cannonshot. The central square in Wilp was named “Mackenzie Platz” in his honour.