William McKenzie (1869 – 1947) Salvation Army officer and military chaplain
William McKenzie’s earliest A.I.F. nicknames were ‘Holy Joe’, ‘Salvation Joe’, then ‘Padre Mac’, but he was to become famous as ‘Fighting Mac’. ‘Fighting Mac’ soon became renowned as a soldier as well as a chaplain. Reports abound that he led charges at Gallipoli, often armed only with a shovel.
When World War One broke out, 44 year old William McKenzie was quick to volunteer as a military Chaplain to the A.I.F.
En route to Gallipoli with 2,500 men, he held prayer meetings, Bible studies, sing-a-longs and sporting events. At Gallipoli, he spent most of his time in the trenches. He accompanied the Aussie troops to battlefields in Egypt, France and Belgium, including Pozieres, Passchendale and the Somme.
“Mac” did much more than what was expected of a military chaplain. He held services in the midst of battle, with bullets and shells whistling all around him. He carried heavy packs for exhausted diggers.
He carried water and stretchers, and tended the wounded with both comfort and first aid.
He often went without food or rest himself, putting the needs of other brave men before his own, but being Jesus to these frightened soldiers. On many occasions, he would say the sinner’s prayer with a soldier one night, and bury him the next day. In all, he led around 3,000 men to faith in Christ on the battlefield, and buried hundreds of them.
At the Battle of Lone Pine, Mac took part in the charge. Forbidden by regulations to carry a weapon, he charged the Turkish trenches armed with a shovel. His men had begged him to stay behind, out of their incredible respect for him, but he insisted, out of his incredible respect for them, saying, “Boys, I’ve lived with you, I’ve preached to you and I’ve prayed with you. Do you think I’m afraid to die with you?”
In late 1917 McKenzie was released from active service, his health shattered, not surprising for a man of 48. He had been awarded a Military Cross in June 1916 for ‘distinguished services in the field’, and it was rumoured that he had three times been recommended for the Victoria Cross. He was farewelled officially from the battalion—a most unusual gesture.
7000 people crowded Melbourne’s Exhibition Building to greet him on his return early in 1918; other welcomes followed in every State. But the war had profoundly affected him. He said he was ‘completely unstrung and unnerved—I had seen so many fine chaps killed … I had buried so many, too—that I had to ask myself again and again, is it worthwhile living?’
Even after the war’s end McKenzie remained famous and much in demand. He resumed Salvation Army work in several States until in 1926 he took charge of the Salvationists’ work in North China. He spent more than three years in China and ‘lost his heart to the country’. Again, practical Christianity dominated his approach during an appalling four-year drought with millions dying of starvation. McKenzie returned to Australia with some reluctance in 1930.
The Salvation Army promoted him to command of the ‘southern territory’ (Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia), 1930-32, then as commissioner to command of the ‘eastern territory’ (New South Wales and Queensland), 1932-39. He was appointed O.B.E. in 1935.
Complete article :
Refer also – Australian chaplains at war :
Fighting Mackenzie – Podcasts
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Source: Salvos Media: ANZAC Radio Program, 2006
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