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William "Fighting Mac" McKenzie, WWI Chaplain Hero and Salvation Army Commander

Heroes from WWI, William “Fighting Mac” McKenzie (12/1869-26/7/1947)


Pstor Col Stringer reveiled the Australian Heros to us by his research, today I share it with you. Who are your personal heroes? Who do you look up to/want to be like?

Why did Aussies want to go to WWI?

It was an honour to serve in the military, an adventure, chance to make a stand.

Initial recruits were called “Dinkum Aussies”

Later recruits were called “Fair Dinkums”

These soldiers were full of zest for life, adventure & fun!

Americanisms-‘cool man, dude & guys’-were never used by ANZACs

Aussie-‘strewth, crikey, mate, cobber’ – were often used by ANZACs


Chaplains with the ANZAC Spirit

• W J Dunbar

• William Dexter

• Spencer Maxted

• Oswald Chambers

• William ‘Fighting Mac’ McKenzie


Born in December 1869 in Biggar, Lanarkshire Scotland

Family was deeply religious, but

Mac was adventurous, fought often & good student

At 12 mac left school to work on his fathers’ farm, but

Adventurous spirit drove him to new life in Australia

Fought on ship with Irish migrants, where the ships’ Captain intervened

At 15 Mac worked on Cattle station, was an accomplished horseman & developed love for Australian Bush

Worked at Bundaberg sugar plantation, where used 50 Kanakas & 20 Chinese labourers-all under Macs’ supervision. These labourers worked better under this 17 y.o. than previous supervisors-leadership qualities already apparent

Mac was regular at pubs & other Bundaberg drinking holes-drinking, fighting & rough life


Pub crawl led to Salvation Army meeting/service, childhood reality of God rekindled, missed past family times-somewhat like Mel Gibson returning to his childhood faith in recent years!

2 well-known Scotsmen, hard-drinkers, fighters & swearers gave testimony how God changed their lives for the better-which impressed Mac

Macs’ youngest sister died, disturbing him, restless sleep for a long time

One morning 4am God spoke audibly, “Go to Bundaberg & join Salvation Army!”

This same voice Mac heard in both Gallipoli & France, spoke 4 consecutive mornings

Mac finally rode 16 miles into Bundaberg, repented & returned home.

Mac studied the Bible, but his fervour & unorthodox ways won over many, conducting services with his younger brother.


Carried books, clothes & other gear walking to meetings throughout Victoria

Transferred to Queensland, successful in Toowoomba, Charters Towers, Townsville & Ipswich. Met Anne in Toowoomba, married in June 1909

Taught chivalry to sons-a real family man! Travelled with family preaching around Australia.

Returning home from Salvation Army Convention in England, heard WWI declared on ship

25/9/1914 volunteered for military service, 1st Salvation Army chaplain in 1 AIF at 44

Given 24 hours notice of departure, enjoyed family time, told them at 21:00-who did same?

Went to Sydney & then shipped out to Gallipoli, not everyone returned home as we know!

Everyone needed to “prove their metal”, Mac was no exception!

Fighting Mac had spiritual insight & bush sense, undefeated boxer onboard for tour duration.

Mac removed “Billijims” out of the brothels physically, reminded these youths how their mothers & sisters may disapprove of their ideas-remember undefeated boxer-incentive to comply! Mac burnt Cairo brothels in Battle of Hazzir.

Mac never forgot his family, wrote & instructed members regularly


Gallipoli & Dardenelles seemed an adventure of a lifetime, but 2 out of 3 were dead, wounded, sick or captured as POW

Mac was recommended for VC, but both officers died before submitting recommendation

Mac charged enemy with shovel, chaplains were not allowed to bear arms, proved himself

Mac said, “Boys, I have lived with you, I’ve preached to you & I’ve prayed with you. Do you think I’m now afraid to die with you? Where my boys go. I go!”

Said of Mac that he “…served both his Lord & his ‘boys’ with every ounce of courage & strength he possessed.” & that “Men realised as never before that the most manly thing to do is to worship & glorify God”, especially in troubled times such as these.


After battles Mac would stay behind & collect ID Tags & pay books from the dead to write & inform their families of the bravery & sacrifice made, often loosing sleep to finish these.

Mac loved his boys as a father, big-hearted & always cheerful.

Mac said, “I know why you follow so close behind me boys! It was because I had your pay packets in my pocket!”

Said of Mac that “He made religion live & lived it himself, never ramming it down tired men’s throats”

Mac started the “Letters to Lonely Soldiers” by asking newspapers to have readers write in.

Overwhelmed by 1st request, averaged 1000 letters per week, to soldiers by readers in support


Mac was awarded Military Cross by King George & promoted to LCOL by Salvation Army GEN Booth

Gallipoli cost 250 000 (dead, wounded & missing)

1916 Mac shipped to France with 4th Battalion, served in Pozieres, Bullecourt, Polygon, Wood, Passchedaele & “The Somme” (gateway to hell)

330 000 Aussies served, 215 000 killed, wounded, POW

(65% killed, 1 in 5 killed. In relation to today’s population 1000 000)

Mac’s guardian angel saved him at least 6 times (told move, wait, retreat, advance, stop…ect)

Mud, walked on duckboards, 2 soldiers sank, retrieved by Mac, dead on rescue due to exhaustion, cold, sickness & malnutrition


War took its toll on Mac personally-PTSD, sleep disorders…etc,

Returned to Australia, battle-hardened cried at the executive decision.

Awarded Salvation Army highest honour, Order of the Founder, by GEN Booth

Departed with brass bands, flags, cheers & tears from hardened officers & soldiers

Shook hands with everyone present at formal parade

Welcomed home at Melbourne’s Exhibition Building, 7000 packed inside (1500 RSL)

Tent erected for interviews, diggers travelled 100’s miles to thank Mac,

Women with tears, often gripping letters that Mac wrote to them, waited in line & thank the one who’d buried/shown kindness to their son, father, husband.



1927 Mac appointed to Command the Salvation Army in China

Arrived during famine, war, shootings civil war & death were rife

Human flesh publicly sold as food on Yellow River

Mac held up by bandits-responded, passport guaranteed safe passage by president

1930 returned to Australia during the Depression

Called for courage & tenacity, using ANZAC analogy, stating,

“We must put our backs to the burden. Think not of what you can get, but what you can give to help Australia..." ”Typical of selfless attitude of ANZAC’s, not of today’s “you owe me”


Mac died on 26/7/1947, with family present

Funeral held at Congress Hall, Salvation Army Commissioner James Hay conducted service

Donald McKenzie (Son) tribute

“…my hero, a knight in shining armour, who had taught his children the highest ideals, particularly chivalry. He walked & talked with Jesus, & Jesus was his master, he combined humility, purity, goodness & gentleness of a saint. It is a very great honour to be his son &, a great responsibility. He set a standard which is extremely hard to maintain…”

Brigadier McIlveen tribute

“I leaned over him & kissed his forehead & said, ‘Fighting Mac’, I am kissing you for a multitude of men, who would love to do it, for all that you did for them.”

Funeral procession brought city to standstill

Commissioner Hay, Band, SA Officers, returned soldiers marched 6 abreast down Wentworth Ave, mounted police escorted the ‘long cortege’ to Rookwood

Flag draped coffin with the warriors service cap & Bible on it

Standing room only at cemetery, 21 gun salute

Sun sank into western sky as 2 khaki –clad soldiers sounded Last Post & Reveille

We too will stand for Last Post, 3 minutes silence & Reveille in honour of all ANZAC’s, whom paid the price, many the ultimate price, for the freedom we now too often take for granted! LEST WE FORGET!

From a sermon by Peter McInnes, Hero For Jesus, 6/4/2010

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