WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2007-06 > 1182532132
From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [W-OBITS] MACKENZIE: Russell Merriman Mackenzie 5.june,2002
Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2007 18:08:52 +0100
Wg Cdr Russell 'Rusty' MacKenzie
Last Updated: 10:50pm BST 04/09/2002
Wing Commander Russell "Rusty" MacKenzie, who has died in New Zealand aged
85, was awarded the DFC and DSO in less than a year for his exploits as a
Beaufighter pilot and squadron commander in the Western Desert and Middle
Although the two-engine Bristol Beaufighter lacked the performance of
single-engine fighters, such as the Spitfire, MacKenzie's flying skills and
tenacity enabled him to destroy at least five enemy aircraft between April
1942 and May 1943.
He arrived in Egypt in March 1942, and joined No 89. Two months later his
flight became part of No 46 Squadron where, as a flight lieutenant, he was
very soon recognised as a keen and skilful leader.
When, in April 1943, MacKenzie was awarded the DFC, the citation hailed him
as "a first class leader" who had taken part in numerous attacks on rail and
road transport. It commended him for subsequent participation in many convoy
patrols over the Mediterranean and intruder sorties over Sicily. The
citation noted his destruction of four enemy aircraft, including a Heinkel
111 and Junkers 88.
MacKenzie's fifth kill followed after he received command of No 227 in
February 1943. In April the next year the citation for his DSO paid tribute
to the "exemplary manner" in which he had administered his squadron in
addition to being "an excellent operational leader".
He was also cited for leading strikes and performing "many meritorious
flying feats", which included flying his Beaufighter from the Aegean Sea to
Cyprus on one engine.
But MacKenzie's most valuable contribution to the successful completion of
the North African, Sicilian and Italian campaigns was his part in
interrupting German supplies to the Dodecanese Islands. In one action
MacKenzie's part in an attack on a large armed merchant ship in the face of
heavy shore and ship-based anti-aircraft fire resulted in the destruction of
the enemy vessel.
However, MacKenzie never sought to take all the credit for his combat
success in a wartime total of almost 100 operational sorties. Justly, he
insisted on sharing the plaudits with Flight Lieutenant Alexander Craig DFC,
an English-born Kiwi who was his navigator throughout.
Russell Merriman MacKenzie was born on September 8 1916 at Taitapu, a
farming community near Christchurch, New Zealand. He was educated at
Christchurch Boys' High School and in August 1937 sailed for Britain to join
the RAF. In October he received a short service commission and the next
autumn, after receiving his wings, was posted to No 108, a Bristol Blenheim
light bomber squadron.
MacKenzie's flying skill and cool patience singled him out as a natural
instructor. After attending the Central Flying School he began to help to
train volunteers responding to the Munich crisis of 1938. After two and half
years MacKenzie's fine record as an instructor was recognised with the award
of the AFC and, in June 1941, he was, to his delight, posted to an
As he arrived at No 141, a night fighter squadron in Scotland, it was in the
process of converting from the obsolescent Boulton-Paul power-turreted
Defiant to the Beaufighter.
In September MacKenzie moved to No 409, where he found himself a New
Zealander among the Canadians of this Royal Canadian Air Force squadron,
responsible for the night defence of the East Coast.
Following his desert and Mediterranean exploits MacKenzie was rested in the
region, with staff appointments and a spell at the staff college at Haifa,
before a posting to Cyprus as chief instructor at No 79 Operational Training
In May 1945, MacKenzie returned to Britain. Having recently transferred to
the Royal New Zealand Air Force he was posted back to the dominion where, in
1947, he was demobilised, only to resume with the RAF in the same year.
Setting out on his peacetime career MacKenzie resumed much as he had started
and, after serving as a flying instructor, received a succession of station
and staff appointments.
In 1958 he opted for early retirement and repatriation to New Zealand with
his English wife. Purchasing land at Horotane Valley, near Christchurch,
they established the South Island's first commercial mushroom farm.
The MacKenzies became active and popular members of the local church,
agricultural and returned servicemen's communities, and the wing commander
skied and played golf until late in life.
MacKenzie, who died on June 5, married Jeanie Holloway in 1950. They had two
sons and two daughters.
|[W-OBITS] MACKENZIE: Russell Merriman Mackenzie 5.june,2002 by "Peter McCrae" <>|