Letter belonging to WWI hero found after 100 years

Another letter sent by John Donald Mackenzie to his brother detailing life in the trenches was also discovered. Picture: Contributed

Another letter sent by John Donald Mackenzie to his brother detailing life in the trenches was also discovered. Picture: Contributed

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A LONG-FORGOTTEN letter of a WW1 hero has been unearthed after being lost for 100 years, it was revealed today.

The fascinating discovery, dated February 23, 1915, documents the moment Lance Corporal John Donald Mackenzie was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal during the war.

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It was found by his niece Sandra Morgan among a pile of old papers, who had no idea of her uncle’s exemplary service in the trenches.

The Distinguished Conduct Medal is second in prestige only to the Victoria Cross, and was awarded for “gallant conduct” at St Eloi, near Ypres on February 20 1915.

The letter explains how L/Cpl Mackenzie was recognised for his heroic efforts after “leading a relieving party to his trench, in going back under heavy fire which had been opened by the enemy, killing and wounding eight men.”

A second page of the letter was sent to his brother, Angie, in America, which described the horrors of experiencing the fighting.

He wrote: “I had quite an experience the other night.

“I was guiding the relief party into our trench when only about 20 yards off it the Germans opened rapid fire on us and killed two and wounded six.

“It was quite the warmest corner I have been in all my life, but it’s nothing to what it will be when the real fighting starts again.

“It will be a very lucky man who comes through this without a scratch. War is horrible really.

“You are talking to a man one minute, and the next minute he’s dead.

“Of course, it’s only fate and whatever fate has in store must be, so there’s no use getting downhearted.”

The 27-year-old from Plockton, who served with the Cameron Highlanders’ 2nd battalion, was killed in action 10 weeks after sending his letter.

Sandra, of Woodhead, near Kinloss, had been going through old documents when she came across the letter.

She said the family had no idea how brave her uncle John had been while fighting in the war.

She said: “It was a great surprise. All his medals went to America, and they were sent back to me, the medals and the letters.

“What caught my interest about it was a description of the incident at which he got his valiant conduct medal.

“It sort of tends to be the Scottish way of underplaying your achievements.

“That, and the other descriptions of life in the trenches, are fascinating.”

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