George William Mackay was born in Skinnet Melness in 1889, the son
of Hugh Mackay a crofter at Achimore and Marion Mackay. They were married in Thurso in 1885. Shortly before George emigrated to Canada in 1911 he is listed in the Census at Skinnet with his parents. He joined the Canadian Army at the outbreak of World War One in 1914.
enlisted into the 16 Battalion, Canadian Scottish alongside other
Scotsmen who had lived and worked in Canada, prior to the war (see also Donald
Munro, Tongue and David Campbell, Melness). He trained at Valcarter on the
Jacques Cartier River near Quebec, then came to the United Kingdom in October
1914 with the rest of his battalion, as part of the 1 Canadian
On the 3
of October 1914 the 1 Canadian Division sailed from Gaspe Basin
Quebec, in a thirty-three ship convoy with an eight warship escort, this was
the largest military convoy to have sailed up until that time. The convoy
arrived in Plymouth to a huge welcome, once the Canadians had disembarked from
the ships they were sent to Salisbury Plain.
soldiers lived in tents on Salisbury Plain in a quagmire of mud and water; good
training for the trenches they would have in the future. Whilst at camp on
Salisbury Plain Cameron Company, from the 16 Battalion marched
thirty-one miles to the ‘Kirk’ in Salisbury, they told their superiors they had
done it to keep fit
Canadian Division was sent across to France in February 1915 and was
immediately moved up to the front, to help the hard-pressed British to hold the
lines close to Ypres.
1915, the 16 Battalion Canadian Scottish was in the reserve
trenches close to the Ypres to Roulers Railway line, when the Germans launched
the first gas attack of the war. French Algerian troops in the front line close
to Langemark, had no protection from the gas and were forced to flee from their
Canadians then moved forward in to the gap left in the front and held the enemy
attack with no protective clothing. In this area today North of Ypres, stands
the Canadian Memorial at Vancouver Corner; a figure of a soldier with his arms
reversed dominates the area. An inscription on the memorial states “this column
marks the battlefield where 18,000 Canadians on the British left withstood the
German Gas attacks from the 22 to 24 of April 1915,
2,000 fell and lie buried near by.”
1916 the Canadians were tasked with launching diversionary attacks on the enemy
lines in the northern part of the front, in preparation for the Battle of the
Somme. The 1 Canadian Division attacked the Germans in the Lens
area, then on the Souchez River at Avion and took part in the Battle of Mount
Sorrel close to Ypres.
George Mackay was wounded in action during this fighting and taken to a
casualty clearing station at ‘Remi’ Farm near to the village of Lijssenhoek. He
died from his wounds in the casualty clearing station aged 27 years, his family
in Melness received a letter of condolence from Major General Sir Sam Hughes
Minister of Defence for Canada.
George had a
brother Alex, who served with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in
Salonika; Alex survived the war and returned home to Melness.
SCOTTISH NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL EDINBURGH CASTLE Mackay.
George William. 420089. Canadian Forces. Died of Wounds 30-7-16.
COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES COMMISSION
Mackay Private G.W. 420089. 16
Battalion Canadian Infantry (Manitoba) Regiment.
Died of Wounds 30 July 1916. Plot VIII.
Row D. Grave 14A.
Private George William Mackay 420089, 16
Battalion Canadian Scottish is buried in a war grave in LIJSSENTHOEK MILITARY