LCol Donald A MacKenzie - Oil painting in Officers' Mess

Lieutenant Colonel D. A. (Don) Mackenzie, DSO (Distinguished Service Cross – USA)

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.

March 24th, 1945
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)

“At 2130 hours, 10 December, 1944, the 48th Highlanders of Canada, under command the 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade, commenced the crossing of the Lamone River. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Mackenzie, though still suffering from the effects of a severe case of jaundice, nevertheless came forward from ‘B’ Echelon to assume active command of the Battalion for this operation. Although pressed for time, owing to his recent arrival, he showed such an immediate grasp of the tactical situation and such energy and determination in reconnaissance, that he was able immediately to formulate a plan which, when put into execution, was a complete success. By 2230 hours that night two companies were over complete, and the bridgehead so firmly established that it was made available to another Battalion which had not been able to cross on its own front. By 0700 hours, 11 December, the entire Battalion had consolidated across the river.”

Distinguished Service Cross - US (DSC)

“For extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy on 12 April 1945. When the 48th Highlanders of Canada had crossed the Ijssel River and gained their initial objectives on the Wilp-Deventer Road, Lieutenant Colonel Mackenzie, realizing that this was the turning point of the battle, went forward fearlessly in the face of heavy enemy fire to make a personal reconnaissance in preparation for the second phase of the attack. His plan of attack, based on the information he gained, was eminently successful, and his unsurpassed leadership and daring resulted in the complete rout of the enemy.”

Headquarters, European Theater of Operations, U.S. Army, General Orders No. 271 -Posthumously awarded

Militia / Reserve Bn, 48th First Bn (WW 2)
Service number
Killed in action
Date of death
Cemetery or memorial name
Grave or panel reference
I. C. 11.
Cemetery or memorial country
Age on date of death
Cause of death
Killed in action


Data source(s)

*Reinforcement Draft 10 Jun 1940
Major D.A. Mackenzie - G.S.0.2 H.Q.Cdn.Army
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