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The Airmen's Stories - P/O K W Mackenzie

Kenneth William Mackenzie was born in Belfast on 8th June 1916 and educated at the Methodist College there. He started an engineering apprenticeship at Harland and Wolff while studying for an engineering degree at Queen’s University, Belfast.

In 1935 Mackenzie learned to fly at the Airwork School of Flying at Newtownards and was awarded Aero Certificate 12733 on 3rd May 1935.



In early 1939 he joined the RAFVR as an Airman u/t Pilot and started training at 24 E&RFTS at Sydenham.

Called up at the outbreak of war, Mackenzie was sent to 3 ITW Hastings on 28th December 1939. He moved to 5 EFTS Hanworth on 25th February 1940 and then to 3 FTS South Cerney on 25th May.

With his training completed, Mackenzie was posted to 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 31st August to convert to Hurricanes. He joined 43 Squadron at Usworth on 21st September. After sixteen training flights and two operational patrols, Mackenzie was posted to 501 Squadron at Kenley on the 29th.



501 Squadron

Above (L to R): Sgt. JH Lacey, P/O KW Mackenzie, Sgt. SAH Whitehouse, P/O RC Dafforn, Sgt. VH Ekins.


He shared in the destruction of a Ju88 on 4th October, claimed a Me109 destroyed on the 5th and another destroyed and a second shared on the 7th. The Me109 destroyed on this day was attacked by Mackenzie with no apparent result. He followed it down to almost sea level and when it did not ditch he struck the tailplane with one of his wings and the enemy fighter crashed into the sea. Mackenzie then made a forced-landing at Hope Farm, west of Capel-le-Ferne outside Folkestone, in Hurricane V6799, with slight facial injuries (report below).



On 25th October Mackenzie claimed a Me109 destroyed, another shared and another damaged. In a later patrol that day he was in collision with P/O V Goth of 501, as he manoeuvred his section to attack a formation of Me109s. Mackenzie, in Hurricane V6806, baled out unhurt but Goth, in P2903, was killed when he crashed in Bridgehurst Wood, Marden.

Mackenzie was awarded the DFC (gazetted 25th. October 1940). On 27th, 29th and 30th October he claimed Me109s destroyed, on 8th November a Me109 destroyed, on the 12th a Ju88 shared and on the 15th a Me109 destroyed and another damaged.

Mackenzie was posted to 247 Squadron at Predannack on 19th June 1941 as a Flight Commander. He destroyed a Ju88 at night on 6th/7th July and a He111 at night over a convoy on the 12th/13th.

On 29th September Mackenzie led a strafing attack on Lannion airfield in Brittany. Mackenzie was hit by heavy flak from the ground defences and ditched in the sea. He took to his dinghy, paddled to the shore and was captured.

On his way to a PoW camp, Mackenzie gave his guard the slip on a crowded Paris railway station but was soon recaptured. At Oflag VIB at Warburg, northern Germany, which was predominantly an army camp, escape attempts were a major industry and Mackenzie joined the tunnelling team. Working 24 hours a day, they reached the perimeter wire but flooding prevented further work until the spring. On resuming in April 1942, Mackenzie was fortunate not to be buried alive when a ton of clay fell from the roof, he just managed to scramble clear. With rumours that the PoW's were to be transferred to another camp, the prisoners decided to risk breaking open the tunnel early. As the first prisoner crawled from the tunnel exit, a guard spotted him.

Mackenzie and a colleague decided to build a one-use tunnel from a ditch close to the perimeter fence. A diversion was set up and the two men reached the ditch unseen. Hiding under blankets, they waited for nightfall when they planned to dig a shallow tunnel under the wire.

As night fell a guard was seen taking a close interest in the area so another diversion was created and the two men were recalled into the compound. A few weeks later, Mackenzie was transferred to Stalag Luft III at Sagan.

Over a long period of time he feigned madness and developed a severe stammer for the purpose, which subsequently he never completely lost.

Mackenzie was repatriated to the UK in October 1944, arriving at Liverpool on the 10th. He was posted to 53 OTU Kirton-in-Lindsey on 19th December as an instructor. On 17th June 1945 Mackenzie went to 61 OTU Keevil, as a Flight Commander.

In July 1951 he was promoted to command the Meteor fighter wing at Stradishall in Suffolk, where he was also the chief instructor. He was awarded the AFC (gazetted 1st January 1953).

In 1965 he was serving in Kenya when Ian Smith declared UDI in Southern Rhodesia. The following year, the RAF mounted a major airlift of fuel into Zambia and Mackenzie served in the hastily-created headquarters in Lusaka where he remained for three months.

Mackenzie retired from the RAF on 1st July 1967 as a Wing Commander.

Because of his service in Zambia he was invited to join the newly-independent Zambian Air Force as the deputy commander, a post he held until April 1970. He then ran Air Kenya in Nairobi as managing director until his retirement in 1973 when he moved to Cyprus before returning to the UK in 2000.

Mackenzie died on 4th June 2009 aged 92.


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