Army Museum of New South Wales
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1882. Born on 7th April at Grafton, New South Wales, Iven Giffard Mackay was the son of Isaac Mackay and his wife, Emily Frances Mackay (née King).
Education. Iven was educated at Grafton Superior Public School, then Newington College at Stanmore, Sydney and finally at the University of Sydney from which he graduated in 1904 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree. He became a School Teacher in 1905 and returned to the University of Sydney in 1910 as a Lecturer in Physics.
Early military service. Iven Mackay had been a Sergeant in the Commonwealth Cadet Corps while he was at Newington College and in 1911 was appointed as a Cadet Corps lieutenant. In July 1913 he was appointed as Militia Adjutant of the 26th Infantry Battalion (Citizen Forces – equivalent to today’s Australian Army Reserve).
1914. In June 1914 he was promoted to Captain in the Citizen Forces. With the outbreak of war with Germany in August 1914 he joined the Australian Imperial Force at the same rank and was posted as Adjutant of the 4th Infantry Battalion. The following month Iven married Marjorie Eveline Meredith in Sydney.
A horse riding accident prevented Iven Mackay from moving with the 4th Battalion overseas in December 1914 but he embarked at Melbourne the same month with the 1st Reinforcements for the 13th Battalion, AIF.
1915-1916. Iven Mackay re-joined the 4th Battalion at Tel el Kebir, Eqypt in February 1915 as the Battalion Transport Officer. In this role, he remained in Egypt when the battalion left in April 1915 to fight Ottoman Forces on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. He re-joined the battalion on the peninsula the following month.
In July 1915 he was promoted to Major and became one of the battalion’s sub-unit commanders. The following month, he was seriously wounded during the Battle for Lone Pine about a kilometre inland from Anzac Cove. He was evacuated to Malta then to England and eventually re-joined the battalion in Egypt in February 1916.
In April 1916 Iven Mackay assumed command of the 4th Battalion and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. At that stage, the battalion was at Outtersteene in the Nord-Pas-deCalais Department, northern France and about to join in the fight against German forces on the Western Front.
He led the battalion throughout the remainder of 1916 for which he was appointed as a Companion of the Most Distinguished Service Order. The major action for the battalion that year was in the Pozieres area in the Somme Department, northern France in July and August.
1917. Iven Mackay temporarily commanded the 1st Australian Infantry Brigade twice in the first half of 1917, in January/February 1917 and again in April/May 1917, the latter period being during the Second Battle of Bullecourt in the Pas-de-Calais Department.
He again temporarily commanded the 1st Brigade in August 1917 and also in November/December 1917. In December 1917 he was awarded a Bar to the DSO.
1918. In March 1918 Iven Mackay was transferred from the 4th Battalion to command of the 1st Australian Machine Gun Battalion.
In June 1918 he assumed command of the 1st Infantry Brigade and at the same time was given the rank of Temporary Brigadier-General. He was also promoted substantively to Colonel later in the year with the promotion back-dated to June.
1919. In January 1919 Iven Mackay was appointed as a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George. He was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre. In addition to his CMG as well as his DSO and Bar, he was awarded a Mention in Despatches five times during the First World War.
Inter-war years. After studying Physics in England in 1919 Iven Mackay returned to Australia early in 1920 and resumed working as a Lecturer then later in administrative roles at the University of Sydney.
In 1932 he was appointed Headmaster of Cranbrook School, an Anglican independent school for boys in the Sydney suburb of Bellevue Hill. He held this position until February 1940.
Iven Mackay served in the Citizen Military Forces (named the Militia from 1930) between the two World Wars, holding three brigade commands successively in the 1920s/early 1930s. In March 1937 he became Commander 2nd Division and was promoted to Major General in July that year.
1940-1944. Iven Mackay was selected in April 1940 to command the 6th Division, AIF and led that division in the North African Campaign in 1940/1941, the Greek Campaign in April 1941 and the June/July 1941 Syrian Campaign.
Recognition of Iven Mackay’s command in North Africa came with his appointment in March 1941 as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Sir Iven Mackay was recalled to Australia in August 1941 on promotion to Lieutenant General to become the General Officer Commanding Home Forces, a position he held until April 1942 when he assumed command of the 2nd Australian Army.
Sir Iven twice commanded New Guinea Force fighting Japanese forces and his active service concluded with his appointment as the Australian High Commissioner to India in November 1943.
In addition to being knighted in March 1941, Sir Iven was also awarded a further Mention in Despatches in November 1941 and the Greek War Cross, First Class in November 1944.
1948. Sir Iven remained as High Commissioner to India until May 1948 when he retired to Sydney.
1952 and 1961. Sir Iven represented Australia at the unveiling in Athens of the British Commonwealth memorial to those who fell in the Greek campaign. He re-visited Athens in 1961 for the dedication of the Phaleron War Cemetery.
1966. Survived by his wife, son and two daughters, Sir Iven Mackay passed away on 30 September aged 84 at his East Lindfield home in Sydney’s northern suburbs.
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