How did a wowser become an Anzac legend? And how did a legend become a virtual unknown today? This is the first biography of Fighting Mac to sort the facts from the fiction and present McKenzie as the Christian champion that he was.
William McKenzie was once one of the most famous of the Anzacs, a legend for his work on Gallipoli and France. For two decades after the war he was literally mobbed by adoring soldiers and their families. For the Anzacs, he became the man who best represented the Anzac ideal.
What makes Fighting Mac’s legendary reputation incredible is that he embodied almost everything that the typical digger of the Anzac legend loved to hate. McKenzie was a Salvation Army Chaplain, a species of non-combatant officer usually held in low esteem. He railed against booze, brothels, betting and bad language, and he ran frequent evangelistic campaigns for the Anzacs where he forcefully appealed to them to become Christians. Despite these apparent disadvantages he was worshipped and revered by the soldiers.
Yet today, McKenzie’s name is almost completely unknown outside certain religious circles. However, legends continue to be invented about him, adding to the inaccuracies told about him almost from the beginning. But his story needs no embroidering, and the exaggerations diminish the truth of his astonishing real-life achievements.
This book captures McKenzie in all of his charismatic and energetic complexity with particular focus on his war years: a devout man of God who became enshrined in the hearts of thousands of men who showed little other commitment to things religious. If the original Anzacs revered him, then we who revere them should pay attention to his story.