William McKenzie

Information about birth

Date of birth:
Place of birth:
Penicuik, Midlothian, Scotland, United Kingdom

General information

Last known residence:
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Army information

Canadian Expeditionary Force
Service number:
Enlistment date:
Enlistment place:
Valcartier Camp, Quebec, Canada
 —  Canadian Field Artillery, 3rd Bde.  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Potyze, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)


Distinctions and medals 3

Points of interest 4

#1 Place of birth
#2 Last known residence
#3 Enlistment place
#4 Place of death (approximate)

My story

William was born on 21 April 1886 at Penicuik, Midlothian, Scotland. As a young man William emigrated to Toronto, Canada, where he worked as a carpenter.

In 1914, as a British Dominion, Canada was drawn into an unprecedented worldwide conflagration. Canada had no army of its own. Its permanent militia had a total of only 3,000 troops. To swell the ranks, volunteers were recruited from all over the vast country. There was no shortage of candidates. Tens of thousands wanted to join the Expeditionary Force and as a result only the best qualified were selected. William enlisted on 24 September 1914 at the Valcartier Military Camp in Quebec. With three years of service with the Royal Field Artillery behind him, he was exactly what the Canadian Army was looking for. William was taken on by the 3rd Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery.

In April 1915 the Canadians were deployed for the first time at Ypres. After days of bombardment, on 22 April 1915 a cloud of gas drifted in the direction of the French and Algerian lines. It was the first time poison gas had been deployed on a large scale. Hundreds suffocated in their trenches and the survivors took to their heels. In the early hours of 24 April, another gas cloud made a breach, now in the Canadian lines. The Canadian positions were impossible to hold. Chaos prevailed. There was not enough artillery support. Practically all lines of communication had been severed and to make matters worse the Canadian Ross Rifles proved unreliable. After the drama of 24 April the Canadians were in a desperate state. The troops had been on the go for more than eighty-five hours, so they were exhausted, filthy and hungry. Many were wounded. Relief came not a moment too soon.

After the Canadian Infantry was relieved, the Canadian artillery remained active, supporting British and French units in the frontline. The 3rd Canadian Artillery Brigade was positioned east of Ypres. at Potijze and Sint-Jan, from where they targeted German troops advancing on St. Julien.

William was killed on 1 May 1915, when the batteries of the brigade were withdrawn to the Westbank of the Yser canal. He was buried at Potijze, along the road to Zonnebeke. William has no known grave and is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

Sources 5

"Obituary William McKenzie” (Dalkeith, Dalkeith Advertiser, 23/05/1915).
Sources used
Personnel Records of the First World War (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC) RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 6984 - 33).
Sources used
War diaries: 3rd Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC), RG9-III-D-3, Volume number: 4966, Microfilm reel number: T-10786--T-10787, File number: 532).
Sources used
War Graves Registers: Circumstances of Death (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC), RG 150, 1992-93/314; Volume Number: 221).
Sources used
War Graves Registry: Commonwealth War Graves (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC): RG150, 1992-1993/314, Box 39-244; Box: 102).
Sources used