Military History

The Highest Honour #29 | Jack Mackey | Robert Mactier

By The Cove August 2, 2021


Corporal John Bernard 'Jack' Mackey VC (1922 - 1945, 22yo)

Jack Mackey was born on 16 May 1922 at Leichardt, New South Wales. At the completion of schooling he worked in his father's bakery. Defying his father, he lied about his age and joined the Australian Imperial Force on 04 June 1940.

Mackey was posted to the 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion and served in the Middle East where he saw action at El Alamein, Egypt. He returned to Australia in February 1943 and then departed for Papua in August 1943. He was promoted to acting Corporal where his Company Commander described him as an outstanding junior leader who exhibited moral and physical courage. Mackey was hospitalised with malaria in November 1943 and again in May-June and August-September 1944. With his battalion, he embarked for the invasion of Tarakan Island, Borneo, in April 1945 and landed on 01 May 1945.

The citation for his VC read:

Corporal Mackey was in charge of a section of the 2/3rd Australian Pioneer Battalion in the attack on the feature known as Helen, east of Tarakan town. Led by Corporal Mackey the section moved along a narrow spur with scarcely width for more than one man when it came under fire from three well-sited positions near the top of a very steep, razor-backed ridge. The ground fell away almost sheer on each side of the track making it almost impossible to move to a flank so Corporal Mackey led his men forward. He charged the first Light Machine-Gun position but slipped and after wrestling with one enemy, bayoneted him, and charged straight on to the Heavy Machine-Gun which was firing from a bunker position six yards to his right. He rushed this post and killed the crew with grenades. He then jumped back and changing his rifle for a sub-machine-gun he attacked further up the steep slope another Light Machine-Gun position which was firing on his platoon. Whilst charging, he fired his gun and reached with a few feet of the enemy position when he was killed by Light Machine-Gun fire but not before he had killed two more enemy. By his exceptional bravery and complete disregard for his own life, Corporal Mackey was largely responsible for the killing of seven Japanese and the elimination of two machine-gun posts, which enabled his platoon to gain its objective, from which the Company continued to engage the enemy. His fearless action and outstanding courage were an inspiration to the whole battalion.

Buried where he fell, Mackey was finally laid to rest in Labuan war cemetery. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. His sister Pat received the decoration from the Governor-General and it was later presented to the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Private Robert (Bob) Mactier VC (1890 - 1918. 28 yo)

Robert Mactier was born on 17 May 1890 at Tatura, Victoria. At the completion of his education he worked on his father's properties at Tatura and Caniambo. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 01 March 1917 and embarked for England with the 19th Reinforcements for the 23rd Battalion.

Posted to 'B' Company, in April 1918 he was involved in heavy fighting around Albert on the Somme and was gassed. In May 1918 he was a scout at Company Headquarters. He fought in the battle of Hamel in July and in the August offensive. On 01 September 1918, north of Péronne, Mactier won his battalion's only Victoria Cross. The 23rd were moving into position for the early morning assault on Mont St Quentin. With only twenty minutes left until H hour, it was stopped by an enemy machine-gun behind a barbed-wire barricade. Two similar posts could be seen further on. An attack on the first position failed and Private Mactier, his company's runner, was sent to investigate. Armed with bombs and a revolver, he ran forward, sized up the situation and dashed to the barricade. He threw a bomb, climbed over the wire and toppled the machine-gun out of the trench. His comrades then advanced, found the eight-man gun-crew dead and saw Mactier capturing all occupants of the next post. He charged the third post, bombing and killing the garrison and discovered yet another obstacle. To avoid wire in the trench he ran into the open and was rushing in for his fourth attack when shot by a gunner on his flank, though one of his friends said that he was 'killed by concussion from a hand grenade'. Through his actions the assaulting companies filed into position just as the barrage fell on Mont St Quentin.

Mactier was buried nearby but was reinterred in the Hem Farm cemetery, Hem-Monacu. In 1983 his family donated his V.C. to the Australian War Memorial. His name is commemorated in a Soldier's Club at Watsonia Barracks, Melbourne.


Portrait

Biography

The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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