Scottish hero's, Uncategorized

Sgt. Mackenzie – the unknown Scottish hero

The last known picture of Sgt. Mackenzie

Sgt Charles Stuart Mackenzie 

Scotland has had more than it’s fair share of heroes from the past to present. From popular and famous warrior’s such as William Wallace to Robert the Bruce, to famous writers such as Robert Burns and Walter Scott. The list is endless. But one of the most inspiring and unsung heroes of our country is virtually unknown to many, the infamous Sgt. Charles Stuart Mackenzie.

The sad truth about Charles Mackenzie is that not much is known about him. No date of birth nor any information about his younger years are available. What we do know however is the harrowing tale of how he gave his life defending and saving his fallen friend and comrades on the battlefield.

During the years of ww1, Sgt Charles Stuart Mackenzie departed for France with the Seaforth Highlanders. His time spent there was cut short however after he was shot in the shoulder and ordered to return home for treatment. Whilst being treated by the surgeon, he was told that he was going to have to have his arm amputated. Sgt Mackenzie refused however, emphasising the fact he had to get back to his men in France. His loyalty to his men is something that would never leave him.

His loyalty wasn’t the only thing that makes him such an inspiration. On returning home from France after he was shot he was asked the question “what’s it like to kill the hun?” (Hun being a reference for German) to which he replied “what a waste of a fine body of men”. The respect and humanity he showed even towards his enemy after he had been shot showed the type of character he had.

After refusing to get his arm amputated, he embarked for France to meet up with his brothers in arms for one last final time. During a firefight with the Germans one of his soldiers who was also a close friend fell, badly injured. Knowing that the Germans were closing in and that they would almost certainly overrun their position he was left with a decision to make, stay and defend his fallen friend or flee and fall back to an area of safety. In what can only be described as an act of heroics, he stood his ground and fixed a bayonet to his gun. As the Germans began to charge, he stood and fought them in close combat using the bayonet on his rifle and his bare hands and feet. After killing several German soldiers he was inevitably and eventually struck down. He died on the battlefield due to bayonet wounds at the age of 35.

Due to his bravery and sacrifice that day he saved the life of his fallen friend and also of many more injured soldiers who lay behind him. Below is a quote from his great grandson Joseph Kilna Mackenzie.

“To the best of my knowledge, and taken from reports of the returning soldiers, one of his close friends fell, badly wounded. Charles stood his ground and fought until he was overcome and died from bayonet wounds. On that day, my great grandmother and my grandmother were sitting at the fire when the picture fell from the wall. My great grandmother looked, and said to my grandmother “Oh, my bonnie Charlie’s dead”. Sure enough a few days passed, and the local policeman brought the news – that Sgt. Charles Stuart MacKenzie had been killed in action. This same picture now hangs above my fireplace. A few years back my wife Christine died of cancer, and in my grief I looked at his picture to ask what gave him the strength to go on. It was then, in my mind, that I saw him lying on the field and wondered what his final thoughts were. The words and music just appeared into my head. I believe the men and women like yourself who are prepared to stand their ground for their family – for their friends – and for their country; deserve to be remembered, respected and honoured.” – Joseph Kilna Mackenzie

Joseph Kilna Mackenzie wrote a lament for his grandfather, named Sgt. Mackenzie. You may have heard some of it before if you have watched we were soldiers or end of watch in which the tune has been featured in. The words and the beautiful music of the bagpipes will send shivers down your back, it is a touching and beautiful tribute to such a great man. There is a copy of the lyrics at the bottom and a translation to English as it is written in Scots.

Although little is known about Charles Stuart Mackenzie, what we do know clearly show us the type of man he was. His courage, bravery, and loyalty even in his final moments, the fact he was willing to sacrifice and lay down his life to try and save a fallen friend is something that has to be admired. The humility, respect and dignity he conducted himself with is an inspiration in itself and to us all. The legend of Sgt Mackenzie will hopefully be remembered for a number of years to come. They say that “not all heroes wear capes”, which is true, as they tend to wear kilts instead.

Sgt. Mackenzie lament by Joseph Kilna Mackenzie:

Lay me doon in the caul caul groon

(Lay me down in the cold cold ground)

Whaur afore monie mair huv gaun

(Where before many more have gone)

Lay me doon in the caul caul groon

(Lay me down in the cold cold ground)

Whaur afore monie mair huv gaun

(Where before many more have gone)

When they come a wull staun ma groon

(When they come I will stand my ground)

Staun ma groon al nae be afraid

(Stand my ground I’ll not be afraid)

Thoughts awe hame tak awa ma fear

(Thoughts of home take away my fear)

Sweat an bluid hide ma veil awe tears

(Sweat and blood hide my veil of tears)

Ains a year say a prayer faur me

(Once a year say a prayer for me)

Close yir een an remember me

(Close your eyes and remember me)

Nair mair shall a see the sun

(Never more shall I see the sun)

For a fell tae a Germans gun

(For I fell to a Germans gun)

Lay me doon in the caul caul groon

(Lay me down in the cold cold ground)

Whaur afore monie mair huv gaun

(Where before many more have gone)

Lay me doon in the caul caul groon

(Lay me down in the cold cold ground)

Whaur afore monie mair huv gaun

(Where before many more have gone)

Whaur afore monie mair huv gaun

(Where before many more have gone)



1 thought on “Sgt. Mackenzie – the unknown Scottish hero”

  1. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but Sgt Charles Mackenzie is mentioned a couple of times by the character Brick in the US comedy The Middle. Brick is the younger child and an avid reader, and Charles seems to be a bit of a hero to him.

    Liked by 1 person

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