Episode 106 – Don Mackenzie AFC

Guest: Don Mackenzie

Hosts: Dave Homewood

Recorded: 2nd of September 2009

Duration: 1 hour 20 minutes 39 seconds

In this episode Dave Homewood has delved into his archive and pulled out one of his early interviews from back in September 2009 with the late Flight Lieutenant Donald Malcolm Mackenzie AFC, mid, RNZAF, retired (NZ401776) of Hamilton.

Don joined the RNZAF on the 2nd of July 1940, and was on the third pilot’s War Course learning to fly on Tiger Moths and Vildebeest, before he was posted to Singapore in early 1941. Following several months there with No. 100 Squadron RAF he was then posted to Ceylon in July 1941 where he flew operational coastal patrols in Vickers Vildebeests and Fairey Seals. He also sometimes patrolled in borrowed Fairey Swordfish and Fairy Fulmars.
Don was at Ceylon when the aircraft of five Japanese aircraft carriers attacked the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force bases on the 25th of April 1942.
He was later posted to No. 22 Ferry Control Unit as a test pilot for aircraft following major servicing and repairs, and as a ferry pilot, which took him all over India and Burma.
Later Don was posted to London, England, and joined the Metropolitan Communications Flight of No. 510 Squadron based at Hendon, which was a VIP transport unit.

Don passed away on December 27th, 2013, following a short illness.

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Don Mackenzie above left at the time of the interview in 2008, and right during his
service in the RNZAF during WWII


Don beside the stained glass artwork he had installed when he built his house of
the  beloved Vickers Vildebeest he spent so many hours flying in during WWII


The Walrus propeller blade he talks about in the interview


Don’s course members at RNZAF Bell Block, New Plymouth, where he learned to fly in 1940.
He is seated centre, marked with an ‘x’


RNZAF Vickers Vincents of No. 2 Flying Training School at RNZAF Station Woodbourne on
which Don did his advanced flying training before he headed to Singapore. The Vincent was
practically identical to the Vildebeest type he flew in Singapore and Ceylon.


Don dropping a torpedo in Singapore during his operational training on the Vildebeest


Don next to a Fairey Fulmar, one of the types he flew in Ceylon


The Vildebeest Don talked about in the interview that a pilot took on a drunken joyride, and
managed to damage the wheel strut on the airfield fence before landing


Trincomalee Harbour, Home of the Royal Navy’s British Eastern Fleet before April 1942



Trincomalee Harbour, Ceylon


Trincomalee Harbour, Ceylon


The RAF station at Ratmalana, near Colombo


Colombo from the air, showing Galle Face Green, the business district and the harbour.


The Queen Mary troopship entering Trincomalee Harbour


Above: The new barracks at China Bay, Trincomalee, Ceylon, and below the aftermath of the
Japanese air attack on the 25th of April 1942.

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The Sigiriya Rock and the Ceylon jungle


Above: A wide variety of aircraft types that Don encountered at the Karachi in India

Having left New Zealand Don’s postings in the back of his second logbook were thus:

No. 100 Squadron (Vildebeest) – Seletar, Singapore: 12 March 1941 – 17 July 1941
No. 273 Squadron (Vildebeest, Seal) China Bay, Ceylon: 30 July 1941 – 26 Dec 1941
No. “X” Fleet Air Arm Squadron, China Bay, Ceylon: 27 Dec 1941 – 15 Feb 1942
No. 273 Squadron (Vildebeest, Seal) China Bay, Ceylon: 16 Feb 1942 – 11 March 1942
No. 273 Squadron (Vildebeest, Seal) Detachment Ratmalana – 12 Feb 1942 – 18 May 1942
Ratmalana Station Flight 19 May 1942 – 21 Nov 1942
No. 217 Squadron, Minnereya, Ceylon – 21 Nov 1942 – 21 Jan 1943
Air Reinforcement Centre, Karachi, India – 22 Jan 1943 – 24 April 1943
No. 21 Ferry Command, Mauripur Sind, India – 24 April 1943 – 30 June 1943
No. 2 Reserve Aircraft Pool, Dum Dum, India – 1 July 1943 – 10 Dec 1943
Ferry Flight, Dum Dum – Calcutta – 11 Dec 1943 – 29 Jan 1944
Ferry Flight, Dhubalia – Benghal – 30 Jan 1944 – 24 Feb 1944
Ferry Flight, Red Road, Calcutta – 25 Feb 1944 – 31 May 1944
En Route to UK, and Leave – 1 June 1944 – 26 July 1944
Refresher Course, AFU, No. 17 SFTF Caistor 26 July – 5 Sept 44
No. 510 Squadron, Hendon, London – 10 Sept 1944 – 10 April 1945
No. 10 PDRC, Brighton (Final Leave) 11 Apr 1945 – 31 May 1945
En route to New Zealand – 1 June 1945 – 29 Aug 1945

In the back of Don’s logbook it says he flew the:
Tiger Moth
Gipsy Moth
Moth Minor
Moth Major
Puss Moth
Miles Hawk
Miles Magister
Vickers Vincent
Vickers Vildebeest
Vickers Walrus
BA Swallow
Fairey Seal
Fairey Seafox
Gloster Gladiator
Fairchild Argus
Fox Moth
Hawker Hurricane Ic, IIC, IId, IVc, IVe
Westland Lysander
Westland Wapiti
NA Harvard III
Vultee Vengeance I & II
Curtiss P35 Hawk
Supermarine Spitfire I, II, Vc, VIII
Hawker Audax
Fairey Battle
Auster III
Percival Proctor
Lockheed Hudson III, V, VI, IIIa
Vickers Wellington III
Bristol Blenheim IV
Bristol Bisley
North American B-25 Mitchell
Consolidated B-24 Liberator
Douglas C-47 Dakota
Avro Anson
de Havilland Dominie
de Havilland Mosquito VI
Airspeed Oxford
Lockheed 12A
Percival Q6
Lockheed Electra

From Colin Hanson’s By Such Deeds – Honours and Awards in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, 1923-1999 :

MacKENZIE, Flight Lieutenant Donald Malcolm, AFC, mid. NZ401776; Born Te Kuiti, 24 Feb 1920; RNZAF 2 Jul 1940 to 10 Feb 1946; Pilot.
Citation Mention in Despatches (KB1944): For distinguished service and devotion to duty.
Citation Air Force Cross (NY1945): [Metropolitan Communication Sqn RAF] Until recently Flight Lieutenant MacKenzie was employed in No 22 Ferry Control Unit in India where he was a flight commander ferrying aircraft from a storage unit to squadrons in the front line. On this work he flew 634 hours and much of this was done within a few miles of the enemy lines. He has shown determination and courage in ensuring that aircraft have been delivered promptly and he has piloted unarmed aircraft bringing other pilots back to base. He has shown outstanding qualities of leadership and set an example of the highest order. During the summer of 1944, this officer transferred to the United Kingdom. On the 20th October 1944, he was detailed to convey passengers to Eindhoven. Whilst in sight of Eindhoven at a height of 1,200 feet this officer’s aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and the port engine and ailerons were damaged. Flight Lieutenant MacKenzie took successful evasive action and although having only one serviceable engine and no aileron control he managed to fly the aircraft back to the nearest suitable airfield and landed successfully without further damage to the aircraft.
Flt Lt MacKenzie first served with 100 Sqn RAF (Vildebeest) in Singapore before a posting to Ceylon in Jul 1941. He then flew with 273 and 217 Sqns RAF carrying out maritime patrols around the coasts of southern India and Ceylon. Service with 22 Ferry Control Unit as a test pilot and ferrying aircraft to Burma followed before being posted to the Metropolitan Communication Sqn RAF in England. Previous to the Eindhoven incident mentioned above he was slightly injured in a crash, following an engine failure in India on 25 Aug 1943. He flew a total of nearly 2300 hours on 52 different types.

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