Normandy Voices: Private Vic Mackenzie

'When I get together with other veterans, it all seems unreal to us now'

Share
Related Topics

Private Vic
Mackenzie, 89, was a driver with Royal Army Service Corps, attached to 7th
Armoured Division. Mr Mackenzie came ashore at |Arromanches, on Gold Beach, on
D-Day plus two on 8 June, 1944.

He began the war as a teenaged private in a Home Guard (“Dad’s Army”) unit “which had  NCO’s just like Corporal Jones”. He ended the war “a much older man”, after his unit was one of the first to stumble on the Belsen concentration camp in the spring of 1945.

“Excitement is what I remember when we stepped ashore. Excitement, not fear. We had been trained. Now we were doing out job.. It didn’t take long to discover that training was not like the real thing. I remember seeing a group of our soldiers lying in a ditch, looking out for the enemy. We came up and we found that they were dead British paratroopers who had been killed a couple of days before.”

“I was the driver of a truck bringing shells for tanks and other ammunition right into the front line…The division moved forward, a huge column, to capture a town called Villers-Bocage (on 13 June). We thought we were doing fine until we ran into German tanks, just a handful of them. They took out the first tank in our column and the last vehicle and they pounded and pounded us. We lost 200 vehicles in two days.”

 “Later, crossing the river Orne, a shell hit the truck in front of mine. The driver, Corporal Archie, “Johnny” Ellis, was my best friend. He was our joker, the man who could always make us laugh. He was blown to bits. A piece of shrapnel came through the front window of my truck and grazed my head. I still have it.”

 “When I get together  with other veterans, it all seems unreal to us now, like a dream. Did we really do those things? Was it really us?  There were 75 members of my branch of the Normandy Veterans’ Association (the Hackney branch) when I joined. Now we get six or seven along to a meeting.”

 “It’s important that people should remember but I’m not sure that young people these days understand or want to know. It’s all a long time ago for them.”

 “What I would like them to know is this: we were fighting for our lives, for everything we had. I never heard anyone express any doubts about why we there. The wars we fight nowadays - |Libya, Afghanistan – seem to be wars in which we interfere in other countries. Maybe it is justified; maybe it is not.”

“But then we knew we that we were fighting against something monstrous and for everything that was dear to us. After I saw those heaps of bodies at Belsen I never wanted to go back to Germany again.”        

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Lib Dem MPs have criticised David Cameron's decision to ask the retail tycoon Sir Philip Green (above) to lead a spending review when his Arcadia company is registered in the name of his Monaco-based wife  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
Crofter's cottages on Lewis. The island's low population density makes it a good candidate for a spaceport (Alamy)  

My Scottish awakening, helped by horizontal sleet

Simon Kelner
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat