F/O Henry “Harry” Hector MacKenzie was born on 17th April 1920, at Anyox, British Columbia, Canada. On the 13th August 1941, at the age of 21, he enlisted in the RCAF (Vancouver). After gaining his wings on the 18th August 1942 he was posted to England, just 12 months after enlisting. After conversion courses in the UK on 15th December 1942 he was assigned to 198 Squadron. His new squadron was among the first to re-equip with the Hawker Typhoon and upon arrival at the squadron he soon found himself participating in numerous missions over occupied Europe, usually alongside the famous 609 Squadron of Roland ‘Bee’ Beaumont (although he was not commanding the squadron at this time).
On the 3rd January 1944 198 Squadron were tasked with supplying 4 aircraft for a ‘Ranger’ into France, their destination was Juvincourt Airfield (Aisne). At approx. 11:43 am Hawker Typhoon JR523 piloted by F/O Henry Hector MacKenzie (RCAF) took off from Manston with 3 other aircraft.
As the Typhoons approached Compiègne they were intercepted by 5x BF109s from JG.2 (Creil). In the ensuing dogfight a probable 109 was claimed, the Typhoons split up and they individually made their way back to Manston. However, only 3 of the 4 aircraft returned and JR523 along with F/O MacKenzie was posted missing.
In the early afternoon M. Doré and M. Picard witnessed the dogfight and headed towards the marshes of Sacy-le-Grand. They were the first on the scene and found JR523 with F/O MacKenzie still at the controls. He was carefully retrieved from his aircraft and was laid to rest by the Germans in the Military Cemetery at Beauvais-Marissel, grave number 206.
Following research conducted by members of Association des Sauveteurs d’Aviateurs Alliés, sixty five years after F/O MacKenzie was lost the wreck of Hawker Typhoon JR523 was uncovered in the marshes of Sacy-le-Grand. After a number of days work the Napier Sabre engine was recovered, along with many smaller parts and personal items.
After the recovery of JR523 the team decided on a new adventure, they wanted to create a memorial to honour F/O MacKenzie and the centre piece would be the Napier Sabre engine. After much effort and work by the team, on the 25th June 2011 in the presence of French & Canadian authorities, villagers and members of F/O MacKenzie’s family (who had travelled all the way from Canada) a ceremony was held to unveil the new memorial to F/O MacKenzie, the sacrifice of a young Canadian honoured and never to be forgotten.
The Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group are extremely grateful to Eric Fardel from the Association des Sauveteurs d’Aviateurs Alliés as they have generously donated the front spar recovered from JR523 to help towards the rebuild of RB396. Without this kind of engineering information it will not be possible to return RB to the sky and serve as an active memorial to all the Typhoon crews.