The gripping story of how a teenager from the East End became the first London sailor to receive the Victoria Cross for bravery.
Albert McKenzie was 19 when onboard HMS Vindictive as it journeyed to the Bruges-Zeebrugge shortly after midnight on St George’s Day 1918. HMS Vindictive was meant to land a storming party to create a diversion and take out the German gun positions, enabling three British warships to be scuttled in the mouth of the harbour in an attempt to prevent German U-Boats continuing their decimation of allied shipping.
Albert was one of the few among his landing party who survived the raid on 23 April 1918 – showing immense sacrifice and bravery in the face of the enemy – being so badly wounded he had to carry himself on his hands and knees to make it back alive.
On returning to the UK, Albert was nominated by his shipmates to receive the Victoria Cross for bravery – becoming the first London sailor to receive the medal and travelling to Buckingham Palace to be awarded his medal by the King.
Sadly a few months later the celebrated sailor was caught up in during the Spanish Flu pandemic that was sweeping across the world and died aged 20, on 3 November 1918, just a week before the war officially ended.
His Victoria Cross Medal was passed into the care of his elderly mother who would send it on an extraordinary intercontinental journey across the Atlantic– before being found nearly 80 years on in a bank vault!