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CWG: Seaman Neil Mackay

Seaman Neil Mackay

Neil Mackay was born on 16th September 1888 in Stornoway, Scotland, the son of Murdoch and Johanna (known as Murdo and Annie) Mackay.

Sadly, little information remains about his early life; most of what can be gleaned comes from his Royal Naval Reserve records. The document confirms that he was 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall, had blue eyes, a dark complexion and a scar between his eyes.

Neil enlisted as a Seaman on 3rd September 1912 and, over the next couple of years, he travelled the world, visiting Maine in the United States, New Zealand and Newfoundland on his voyages.

When war broke out, he was assigned to HMS Northbrook, a troopship taking soldiers to India; he returned to the United Kingdom on HMS Dalhousie, in 1915, before making the same round trip, this time on HMS Lawrence, later that year.

In April 1916 Seaman Mackay returned to England, and was based at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, for around eighteen months.

The summer of 1917 was to prove a busy time at HMS Pembroke, and Neil found himself billeted in temporary accommodation in the barracks’ Drill Hall. On 3rd September 1917, the town came under fire from a German air raid; the Drill Hall received a direct hit and Neil was killed. He was just shy of his 29th birthday and had completed five years’ service that day.

Neil Mackay was among 98 servicemen to be killed during the Chatham Air Raid that night. The victims were laid to rest in a mass funeral at Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham a few days later.