Topic: William Louis McKenzie

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A soldier of the Great War killed in action during the fighting at Passchendaele.

McKenzie, W. L.

Private William Louis – 44619

William was born 1st May 1885 at Dunsandel, second son Samuel and Janet (known as Jessie) McKenzie. He was educated at the local school. At age of 19 years he joined the railway service and served mainly at Christchurch but finally at Wellington as a guard. He also studied for and passed the St. John Ambulance Society certicate. He had previous military experience with the “N” Battery at Lyttleton. William  was described as “a young man of a fine, generous, sympathetic nature, highly respected by all who knew him as a friend, and esteemed by all his fellow workers in the railway service”. He was 5ft 8 ¾ in tall but his complexion and eye colour were not recorded.

William enlisted on16th November 1916 and was assigned to the 25th Reinforcementsof the Wellington Infantry Regiment, for which he had volunteered, but was then transferred to the 24th. He embarked from Wellington on 5th April 1917 on board the Devon via Capetown and arrived in Devonport  on 10th June. Whilst on board he was admitted to hospital on 20th May with influenza being discharged 6 days later. He arrived in England 11 June 1917 and marched into Sling Camp. After a short leave in Glasgow he crossed to France on 6th July and into camp at Etaples on 9th. He joined the Battalion and was posted to 7th Company on 24th. On October 4th he was reported wounded and later was posted as missing, but finally was declared by a Court of Enquiry on 25th November to have been killed in action during the fighting at Passchendaele, aged 32. His section commander at the time reported that he was with William when he was wounded in the forehead and that William spoke to him and he said “come over here I am dying” but that was the last he saw of him. His body was not found or identified so his name is inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing, Ypres. In New Zealand William is remembered on the Dunsandel War Memorial.             


CWGC Cemetery  locale history: The Tyne Cot Memorial is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. Broadly speaking, the Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south, but it varied in area and shape throughout the war. The Salient was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing the German forces back to the Passchendaele Ridge. The Second Battle of Ypres began in April 1915 when the Germans released poison gas into the Allied lines north of Ypres. This was the first time gas had been used by either side and the violence of the attack forced an Allied withdrawal and a shortening of the line of defence. There was little more significant activity on this front until 1917, when in the Third Battle of Ypres an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south. The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge was a complete success, but the main assault north-eastward, which began at the end of July, quickly became a dogged struggle against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather. The campaign finally came to a close in November with the capture of Passchendaele. The German offensive of March 1918 met with some initial success, but was eventually checked and repulsed in a combined effort by the Allies in September. The battles of the Ypres Salient claimed many lives on both sides and it quickly became clear that the commemoration of members of the Commonwealth forces with no known grave would have to be divided between several different sites. The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. It commemorates those of all Commonwealth nations, except New Zealand, who died in the Salient, in the case of United Kingdom casualties before 16 August 1917 (with some exceptions). Those United Kingdom and New Zealand servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot, a site which marks the furthest point reached by Commonwealth forces in Belgium until nearly the end of the war. Other New Zealand casualties are commemorated on memorials at Buttes New British Cemetery and Messines Ridge British Cemetery. The TYNE COT MEMORIAL now bears the names of almost 35,000 officers and men whose graves are not known. The memorial, designed by Sir Herbert Baker with sculpture by Joseph Armitage and F.V. Blundstone, was unveiled by Sir Gilbert Dyett 20 June 1927. The memorial forms the north-eastern boundary of TYNE COT CEMETERY, which was established around a captured German blockhouse or pill-box used as an advanced dressing station. The original battlefield cemetery of 343 graves was greatly enlarged after the Armistice when remains were brought in from the battlefields of Passchendaele and Langemarck, and from a few small burial grounds. It is now the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the world in terms of burials. At the suggestion of King George V, who visited the cemetery in 1922, the Cross of Sacrifice was placed on the original large pill-box. There are three other pill-boxes in the cemetery. There are now 11,952 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in Tyne Cot Cemetery. 8,365 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to more than 80 casualties known or believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials commemorate 20 casualties whose graves were destroyed by shell fire. The cemetery was designed by Sir Herbert Baker.

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William Louis McKenzie

First Names:William Louis
Last Name:McKenzie
Date of Birth:1 May 1885
Place of Birth:Dunsandel, Canterbury
Date of Death:4 October 1917
Place of Death:Ypres, Belgium
Memorial or Cemetery:Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing, Belgium
Age at death:32
User Name:Selwyn Library
Other names known by:William Lewis
Occupation before enlisting:Railway Guard
Marital Status:Single
Nominal Roll:59/9
Regiment or Service:Wellington Infantry Regiment
Country:New Zealand
Enlistment details:16 November 1916
Parents or Next of Kin:Son of Samuel and Janet/Jessie McKenzie, of Killinchy, Canterbury.
Service Number:44619
Rank last held:Private
Embarkation:5 April 1917
Place of Embarkation:Wellington
Theatres of War:Western Front
Cause of Death:Killed in action
Other biographical information:NOK S. McKenzie, Dunsandel, Canterbury.