Capt (A/Major) Roderick Flick MacKay, MC, CD, CANLOAN,
2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, 51st Highland Division.
In the darkest days of the Second World War, Canada had a surplus of reinforcement officers. Britain, however, was suffering a critical shortage. A remarkable scheme called CANLOAN enabled hundreds of Canadian officers to volunteer to join regiments of the British Army. Roderick F. MacKay (gazetted Lieutenant 12 February 1942) was one of five Pictou Highlander officers from Nova Scotia selected to serve with the Seaforth Highlanders of the British Army, their affiliated regiment.
Major MacKay was awarded his MC personally by Field Marshal B.L. Montgomery along with four other CANLOAN officers at a special ceremony conducted in the 51st Highland Division. (See Photo [JPEG]
His citation reads:
Capt (now Major) MACKAY was commanding "D" Coy on the night of 23/24 March. The B[attalio]n's objective was on the main road one mile north of REES which was approached from a flank. "D" Coy were given the task of seizing a corner of the very big factory area, and ultimately of clearing the factory. The coy seized its objective very quickly and within the hour had taken 40 POW. It then set about clearing the factory. Two of his three platoon commanders were wounded, and also four section commanders in these two platoons, but ultimately by dawn the factory was cleared. On dawn breaking the enemy became wise to the presence of this coy across their main line of communication into, and line of retreat out of, REES and subjected "D" Coy to constant and heavy shelling, mortaring and MG fire. Major MACKAY was during the whole of this day, a shining example of inspiring leadership, and many times crossed bullet swept ground to encourage his men.
Later, after one of his platoons had suffered several casualties from a nest of three Spandau (Mgs) firmly positioned in buildings only 150 yards away, Major MACKAY with utter disregard for his own safety, took a 2" mortar, walked cooly into the open in full view of the enemy on a flank only 100 yards from the position, fired the mortar himself for several minutes at the enemy nest. He was under small arms and mortar fire throughout this incident. Three of the enemy were wounded and the remainder beat a hasty retreat, leaving the three Spandaus in position. This action was a tonic to his tired coy, who went on from there to clear several blocks of houses, in hand to hand fighting, ultimately helping to raise total POWs to over 200. Major MACKAY's selfless devotion to duty and utter disregard of danger carried the hour and paved the way for the success of the whole B[attalio]n's operation.