November brings back memories to the family of Justin MacKenzie, of his service in the Royal Canadian Navy and memories of the family man he was.
The St. Peter’s native is being remembered in his hometown, with a new medal to recognize the sacrifices he made during World War Two. Signalman Justin Norman MacKenzie of the Royal Canadian Navy was awarded the Arctic Star medal this past summer, collected by his widow Marjorie MacKenzie-MacKay.
Justin MacKenzie, born on May 25, 1922, enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy at the young age of 17 after finishing school at the MacDougall Schoolhouse. He attended signal school at S. Hyacinthe in Quebec before working on several ships, according to MacDonald, including HMCS Elk, HMCS St. Pierre and HMCS Orkney.
One of MacKenzie most notable quests with the Royal Canadian Navy was recognized this past summer. He was awarded the Arctic Star for his service during World War Two in the Arctic Circle, participating in dangerous journeys across the ocean to Russia. Known as the Murmansk Run, allied convoys including those of the Canadian Royal Military and Great Britain sailed necessary fuel and other supplies to the Soviets via the Arctic Ocean, to ports such as Murmansk and Archangel.
The Murmansk Run began in the summer of 1941, carrying fuel, ammunition and weapons to the Soviets to help the fight against the Germans. It was seen as one of the most dangerous routes due to harsh weather conditions and enemy air and sea attacks.
Mackenzie’s widower Marjorie Mackenzie-MacKay was proud to see her late husband recognized for his hard work, “It was announced in the newspaper that they were going to award this long deserved recognition, I was very pleased, and proud.”During MacKenzie’s service in the military, Marjorie herself worked building airplane parts to support the effort in Kingston, Ontario.
“I was glad for Justin because he very seldom spoke of the war, and I remember the Murmansk particularly because 30 years ago at least, the Russian government gave some recognition to the Canadian soldiers and I remember going to Point Edward with my daughter to receive a bouquet from them,” said Marjorie.
“It was very dangerous in a small ship and ice covered, they’d have to keep chopping the ice off the top rigging or else the ship would topple over,” described MacDonald.
After the war, he and Marjorie met and married, returning to St. Peters. Before he passed away in 1981, he was a member of the Branch 47 Legion and worked the Pulp Mill in Port Hawkesbury as a lab technician.
“I’m sure he’d be very proud ( of receiving the award). And I often think how little I only came to realize since he’s been gone that how traumatic it must have been to be in a small ship,” noted Marjorie.
Though he spoke seldom of the war, he did tell stories to his children that were passed down, including to his daughter Joan MacDonald.
“As a child, I was too young to remember the stories but every year Remembrance Day was an important day for us. We still go as a family, I still remember polishing my dad’s shoes, it chokes me up and it’s a time of year that we remember.”
Service in the military for Marjorie’s family didn’t end with MacKenzie, with several of his children and grandchildren pursuing careers in the Canadian Armed Forces.