Private Albert McKenzie

 

 

Albert McKenzie was born on 14 November 1898 at 7 Roseleigh Street, Belfast, the fourth of five children of painter and decorator William James McKenzie and his wife Jane (nee Millar). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living with his parents and siblings at Ashley View, Parkmount Road, Belfast. He later worked as a ledger clerk for R. J. McConnell & Co. of 37 Royal Avenue, Belfast.

On 3 April 1916 McKenzie enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim (No.2139). After training for a year at Antrim, on 14 June 1917 he transferred to the South Irish Horse (No.3146) and embarked for France, where he was posted to one of the two SIH regiments.

Three months later these regiments were disbanded and re-formed as an infantry battalion, the 7th (South Irish Horse) Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment. McKenzie joined the regiment on 10 November and was issued regimental number 25559.

On 21 March 1918 the 7th (SIH) Battalion was holding the line in front of Ronssoy. Following a sustained bombardment the Germans attacked, beginning their Spring Offensive. By 8.30 that morning every man in the two companies in the front line – A and C – had been killed or captured, and according to the battalion diary:

The enemy had practically surrounded the village [Ronssoy] before HQ and S & B Coys were aware of it, as he had broken through the Division on the right. At this time all the Officers, with the exception of Capt. Bridge had become casualties, also the majority of other ranks. The remainder were ordered to withdraw and fought their way back to St. Emilie ... The strength then was 1 Officer and about 40 Other Ranks.

The survivors became part of a composite battalion of the 16th Division and continued a fighting withdrawal until 27 March, when they took up a position to the east of Hamel Wood.

McKenzie was one of those who survived the retreat, but on 27 March sustained a severe wound to his right leg. He was admitted to the 3rd Australian General Hospital at Abbeville and on 6 April was evacuated to England, where he was treated at the 1st Southern General Hospital in Birmingham.

McKenzie recovered slowly and by 5 January 1919 his level of disability was assessed as 20 per cent. Despite this, on 7 February he was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve and his application for a disability penison was rejected. His character was recorded as being 'very good'.

After the war McKenzie went into the painting business and later worked as an estate agent. On 10 October 1929 he married Jean Wiggins at Castlereagh Presbyterian Church.

 

McKenzie's brother David also served in the war, in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

 

Image from the Belfast Evening Telegraph, kindly provided by Nigel Henderson, Researcher at History Hub Ulster (www.greatwarbelfastclippings.com).