Biography

Birth date: 16 May 1922
Birth place: Australia: New South Wales, Sydney, Leichhardt
Death date: 12 May 1945
Death place: Borneo: Tarakan
Final rank: Corporal
Service number: NX20317 - Second World War, 1939-1945
Unit: 2/3rd Pioneer Battalion

John Mackey was born at Leichhardt, Sydney, and until his enlistment worked in his father's bakery. He embarked with the 2/3rd Pioneer Battalion in November 1941, serving in Syria and in the later operations at El Alamein. He also took part in the New Guinea campaign. The landing on Tarakan Island, Borneo, was the battalion's final campaign.

Mackey had already been recognised as an outstanding and brave junior leader. On 12 May 1945 he displayed those qualities again on Tarakan Island, Netherlands East Indies. Together with his lance corporal, Mackey approached a well-defended position along a steep and narrow spur. Reaching a Japanese light machine-gun post, the two men killed four enemy soldiers, but Mackey's companion was wounded. Mackey killed the remaining Japanese, then dealt with a heavy machine-gun crew in an adjacent bunker. Taking up an Owen gun, he moved towards another heavy machine-gun nest, and managed to silence it before he was mortally wounded. Mackey was eventually laid to rest in Labuan War Cemetery.

Mackey was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, and service medals for the Second World War.

Rolls and Awards

Roll of Honour

  • Rank: Corporal
  • Date of Death: 12 May 1945
  • Unit: 2/3rd Pioneer Battalion

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Victoria Cross

  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Honours and Awards : Victoria Cross

  • Unit: 2/3rd Pioneer Battalion
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Collection Items

Photograph

072859

TARAKAN ISLAND. 1945-05. THE APPROACH TO THE FIRST POSITION ATTACKED BY NX20317 CORPORAL J. B. MACKEY, VC, AND A SECTION OF D COMPANY, 2/3RD PIONEER BATTALION ON 1945-05-12 WHEN HE WON HIS POSTHUMOUS VICTORIA CROSS.

072859

072860

TARAKAN ISLAND, 1945-05. THE RAZOR BACKED RIDGE OVER WHICH NX20317 CORPORAL J. B. MACKEY, VC, LED HIS SECTION OF D COMPANY, 2/3RD PIONEER BATTALION DURING THE ACTION WHICH WON HIM HIS POSTHUMOUS VICTORIA CROSS.

072860

072861

TARAKAN ISLAND, 1945-05. THE FIRST JAPANESE POSITION ATTACKED BY NX20317 CORPORAL J. B. MACKEY, VC, AND HIS SECTION OF D COMPANY, 2/3RD PIONEER BATTALION DURING THE ACTION WHICH WON HIM HIS POSTHUMOUS VICTORIA CROSS.

072861

072862

TARAKAN ISLAND, 1945-05. THE SECOND JAPANESE POSITION ATTACKED BY NX20317 CORPORAL J. B. MACKEY, VC, AND HIS SECTION OF D COMPANY, 2/3RD PIONEER BATTALION DURING THE ACTION WHICH WON HIM HIS POSTHUMOUS VICTORIA CROSS.

072862

072863

TARAKAN ISLAND, 1945-05. THE THIRD JAPANESE POSITION ATTACKED BY CORPORAL J. B. MACKEY, VC, AND HIS SECTION OF D COMPANY, 2/3RD PIONEER BATTALION DURING THE ACTION WHICH WON HIM HIS POSTHUMOUS VICTORIA CROSS.

072863

134468

PORTRAIT OF CORPORAL (CPL) JOHN BERNARD MACKEY VC. IN THE AUSTRALIAN ATTACK ON A FEATURE KNOWN AS HELEN, EAST OF TARAKAN, NORTH BORNEO, A SECTION OF THE 2/3RD AUSTRALIAN PIONEER BATTALION WAS LED BY CPL MACKEY ON 1945-05-12. MOVING ALONG A NARROW SPUR THE SECTION CAME UNDER FIRE FROM THREE...

134468

134468A

NX20317 CORPORAL JOHN BERNARD MACKEY VC, 2/3RD PIONEER BATTALION, AIF. CORPORAL MACKEY WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS FOR BRAVERY ON 1945-05-12 DURING AN ATTACK ON THREE JAPANESE POSITIONS AT A FEATURE KNOWN AS HELEN, EAST OF TARAKAN, BORNEO. MACKEY MANAGED TO SILENCE THE POSITIONS BUT WAS KILLED...

134468A

P09624.001

The original grave and early grave marker of NX20317 Corporal (Cpl) John Bernard Mackey (later VC), 2/3 Australian Pioneer Battalion (Pnr Bn). A baker's labourer from Leichardt, NSW, Mackey enlisted on 5 June 1940. He served with the 2/3 Pnr Bn in both the Middle East and later in Tarakan, Borneo,...

P09624.001

Film

The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX20317) Corporal John Bernard Mackey, 2/3rd Pioneer Battalion (Infantry), Second World War

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial every day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story...

PAFU/876.01

Timeline

Date of birth 1922-05-16
Date of death 1945-05-12
Date of honour or award 1945-05-12 Awarded Victoria Cross for action at Tarakan Island, East Indies whilst serving with 2/3 Pioneer Battalion, 9 Division as a Corporal.