John Mackay was born in Skinnet Talmine in 1888, son of John Mackay of Talmine, and Jessie Ann Clouston from Stromness Orkney.. They had married in 1886 in Orkney. John was
one of several men from Melness who joined the Lovat Scouts prior to the
outbreak of the First World War.
He was called up in August 1914, when the
Lovat Scouts were mobilised and sent to Huntingdon in England. (See also L/Cpl
Donald Mackay, Melness.) John Mackay then served with Lovat Scouts in Gallipoli
in 1915, seeing action at Suvla Bay. In December 1915 the campaign in the
Dardanelles was ended and the Lovat Scouts were withdrawn from the beaches.
The Lovat Scouts arrived in Egypt via Lemnos
Island Greece, in January 1916 and were immediately sent to guard the Suez
Canal against Turkish attack. On February 11 the Scouts were sent
out into the desert, to deal with a threat from a tribe of Bedouin called the
Senussi. The battalion spent six months patrolling the desert but did not see
many of the Senussi tribesmen.
On the 1 of October 1916 the 1
Battalion, Lovat Scouts was renamed the 10 Battalion Cameron
Highlanders and was embarked for Salonika, Greece. The Allies had landed in
Salonika in neutral Greece on the 5 of October to try and open a
new front, hopefully drawing German forces away from the Western Front. The
Bulgarian Army invaded Macedonia and then Salonika, a new front had now been
formed which would involve a half million French and British troops.
The British Army in Salonika was now involved
in trench warfare on a new front in the Balkans, becoming bogged down in its
fight with the Bulgarian Army. The German High Command had no interest in what
was happening in the Balkans and did not commit any troops to the fight, the
British aims were a failure.
The 10 Cameron Highlanders
landed in Salonika on the 20 of October 1916 and marched North
along the main supply route to the Sturma Front, for six days. The battalion
carried infantry packs; all transport was by pack mule as they marched until
they reached the front line stretching two hundred from Albania to the Gulf of
Rendina on the Aegean coastline.
At the front, the battalion joined the 82
Infantry Brigade in the 27 Infantry Division supplying six hundred
men for road building and bridge repairs. On the 7 of November a
mounted patrol led by Lieutenant Cameron, crossed the Sturma River under orders
from Brigade headquarters. This was to be the first of many patrols undertake
by the battalion towards the Bulgarian and newly arrived Turkish Army lines.
In November, the battalion was told to build
a pontoon bridge across the Virhani River, then attack across it. The task
proved to be impossible, due to severe weather and the fact the river was to
wide and too deep for an attack; the plan was rejected. In December the
battalion attacked Tumbitsa but failed to take the objective, losing one
hundred and eighteen men, twenty-eight of them being killed.
The battalion now held the line for the next
five months east of the Struma between Homodos and Jeminah in conditions of
heavy rain and mud, sending out patrols on a frequent basis. The patrols were
tasked with harassing the enemy, ambushing enemy patrols and taking prisoners.
In May 1917 the battalion was moved West of
the River Struma onto higher ground but suffered badly from malaria.
Mosquitoes, which badly affected the valley in which the 10th Cameron’s held
the line, caused the malaria; the battalion remained in this area until October
and the Salmah offensive.
The Lovat Scout Battalion remained in
Salonika fighting the Turkish and Bulgarian Army until the 21 of
June when they were sent to the Western Front. Prior to leaving the Salonika
battlefield the battalion was renamed the Observer Groups, Lovat Scout
Private John Mackay was wounded in action
on the Salonika front and evacuated to a field hospital on the Island of Malta
where he died from his wounds; he was twenty-nine years of age.
SCOTTISH NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL
(b)Tongue, Sutherlandshire. 225533. Private. Died of Wounds 26-5-17
Queens Own Cameron Highlanders.
COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES
Mackay Private John 225533.
10 Battalion Cameron Highlanders. Died of Wounds
26 May 1917. Age 29. Son of John
William and Jessie A Mackay of Talmine, Lairg, Sutherland. Plot C. Row XIV.
Private John Mackay 225533,
10(Lovat Scout) Battalion Cameron Highlanders is buried in a war
grave at PIETA MILITARY CEMETERY on the Island of Malta.
More information on Pieta Cemetery in Malta an be found here