John Mackenzie, 21 Swordale

Last address in Lewis: 21 Swordale
Son of Mr. and Mrs. Donald MacKenzie, of Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.
Service: Royal Naval Reserve
Service number: D/X10303B
Date of death: 23 November 1939 at the age of 26
Lost on HMS Rawalpindi, sunk in North Atlantic after engaging German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau
Memorial: Plymouth Naval, panel 35, column 3
Local memorial: Point, Garrabost

Stornoway Gazette, 8 December 1939
In the House of Commons last week the Prime Minister paid tribute to the naval reservists and pensioners of HM auxiliary cruiser "Rawalpindi" whose heroic fight against two German pocket battleships has aroused the admiration of the whole world.

"These men might have known as soon as they sighted the enemy that there was no chance", said Mr Chamberlain. "But they had no thought of surrender. They fired their guns until they could be fired no more, and many of them went to their deaths thereby carrying on the great tradition of the Royal Navy. Their example will be an inspiration to those who come after them."

Twelve at least of these gallant men were fellow islanders of ours, and the whole community shares the sorrow of their relatives at home, a sorrow which may be lightened at times by the flickering hope that they are still alive, although prisoners in the hands of the enemy, but which which is more likely to be tormented by fears and doubts that are more poignant than certainty.

There may be those in the crowded cities, lying under the terror of air raids, who turn wistful eyes towards the peaceful islands of the west, out of the danger zone, a sanctuary in the midst of the storm. But while these islands may be relatively safe from direct attack, and there is no need to carry gas masks to one's daily work, or dig air raid shelters in the streets, they are contributing more towards the defence of the Empire than most other communities of the same size.

In the "Courageous", the "Royal Oak", the "Northern Rover" and in other losses the details of which are not known, men from these islands have already forfeited their lives, and in many of the disasters which have overtaken our merchant fleet. Lewis and Harris lads have conducted themselves with tenacity and courage. There were three in the "Athenia", ten in the "Lochavon" out of a total deck complement of sixteen and one in the "Arlington Court", a modest youth from Calbost  who is now at home recuperating at home from the effects of six days' exposure in an open boat.

No one would claim for these men least of themselves, that they are struck from a finer die than the rest of humanity or moulded of a nobler clay, but one can without any sense of boastfulness that when the nation is at war, the small crofting and fishing communities of the northern Scottish seaboard have a contribution to make to the fighting forces which is out of all proportion to their population or their wealth.

The name of "Rawalpindi" is in our minds today. In the past it was known as that of the largest garrison town in the whole of India, "the key to the British system of defence in the North-West Frontier", but now the name has other associations for us and for the world. Let those who today feel pride in the gallant heroes of the "Rawalpindi" remember, when the strife is over and the wounds have healed, that many of those who died in that desperate encounter were men from another North-West frontier, which is seldom mentioned in the history books, but whose sons have done more than most to man the garrisons of the Empire". 

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