Sergeant Gilbert MacKenzie
It is not clear exactly when Gilbert MacKenzie joined No.253 (Hyderabad) Squadron, but he formed part of “B” Flight which was detached to France from RAF Kenley on 16 May 1940.
Up to that point 253 Squadron had had a brief but varied history. Initially formed to be a Blenheim fighter unit on 30 October 1939, by the end of the year they were equipped with the Battle and during February 1940 became a Hurricane squadron, at this time they were based at RAF Northolt. By 9 May, they had arrived at RAF Kenley.
With the German invasion of Holland and Belgium on 10 May, the situation on the Continent deteriorated rapidly, resulting in the need for the rapid reinforcement of the fighter force there. Hence 253 Squadron was one of several split with one of their Flights sent to France.
On 17 May, “B” Flight, led by Flight Lieutenant Harry Anderson, was launched to intercept formation of German aircraft, but no contact was made. “B” Flight was launched again on 18 May to intercept a mixed formation of Do.215s and Me.110s. This time they were successful. In the combat that followed, “B” Flight were credited with the confirmed downing of three Do.215s, plus unconfirmed claims for two Do.215s and a Me.110. Gilbert MacKenzie submitted an unconfirmed claim for a Do.215:
In company with 15 other Hurricanes the flight carried out a patrol and were attacked from rear by Me.110. A large formation of Do.215 were intercepted which broke and attempted to attain security in a layer of cloud. I put 3 bursts into a Do.215. The starboard engine emitted a cloud of black smoke and dived. I followed down to 3000’. I spotted another Do.215 which I gave a burst.
Although “B” Flight only comprised six aircraft, it was operating in company with those from other squadrons.
The next day, “B” Flight, led by Anderson but with only four aircraft, took off again from Lille and were directed to attack Me.109s that had shot down a Lysander. As a result of the combat, they made one confirmed and one unconfirmed claim, however Flight Lieutenant Anderson and Sergeant Mackenzie were both shot down and killed. “B” Flight had tangled with about ten Me.109s and paid a heavy price.
Gilbert Mackenzie was born on 1 July 1916. His father, also Gilbert, was a soldier and had married Eva Woodhams in January 1915. After Gilbert senior’s death, Eva married Alan G. Clark in 1934 and became a shopkeeper in Buckinghamshire. Eva Clark died in October 1941.
Sergeant Gilbert Mackenzie is buried in Cysoing Communal Cemetery. The inscription on his headstone reads:
“He gave his life for his country”
He is also remembered on the Olney War Memorial, Buckinghamshire.
“In Token of Sorrow for their Loss, Of Pride in their Valour 1939-1945”
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.