Ten thousand pounds raised in honour of Bermondsey war hero

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One of Bermondsey’s greatest war heroes was honoured last Thursday by the Royal Navy, at an event which saw over £10k raised.

Albert McKenzie was awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroics at the Battle of Zeebrugge in 1918, one of the most famous raids of the Great War.

He died a few days after his 20th birthday, tragically struck down by flu in October 1918 at Chatham Naval Hospital, just a few months after being presented with the Victoria Cross medal by King George V at Buckingham Palace.

However, he remains a Bermondsey hero and The Stansfeld, Oxford and Bermondsey Club Charity have been raising money in an attempt to provide a fitting memorial.

They plan to put up a memorial to McKenzie on the junction of Bermondsey Street and Tower Bridge Road and have thus far raised £90k, well over half of the money needed.

The club were given a huge boost on 24th April by the Royal Navy, which hosted sponsors and a large number of current serving personnel.

A special commemorative event took place on HMS Collingwood near Portsmouth, where sponsors were given an opportunity to see first-hand how the Royal Navy operates and asked to donate to the Albert McKenzie VC Memorial fund.

The attendees were taken on a tour of naval history on the HMS Victory and also looked round the latest Type-45 Destroyer, HMS Duncan.

They were given an insight into just how McKenzie would have felt prior to and during the famous battle, being offered the chance to get up close with demonstrations which showed the link between the Royal Navy of Albert McKenzie and the modern day force. These revealed the similarities between the weaponry and challenges faced by the Bermondsey hero and today’s Royal Marines.

Sixteen sponsors attended the event in total, with over half travelling from Bermondsey, including local Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, the other committee members from the Stansfeld, Oxford and Bermondsey Club, and Kevin Boyes, local Surrey Docks blacksmith, who is making the statue of McKenzie.

The chief guest at the dinner was Admiral Lord West of Spithead, who has been a great advisor, friend and supporter of the campaign.

Albert McKenzie was born on Alice Street, just off Tower Bridge Road and went to Grange School, before moving to Shorncliffe Road.

The Able Seaman was tasked with creating havoc among enemy lines with his Lewis gun during the 1918 raid, while the British forces blocked the entrance to the German U-boat harbour. Most of McKenzie’s party were killed in the attack, which took place on April 23rd 1918 and saw over 500 British casualties.

Paul Keefe, Chair of the Albert McKenzie VC Memorial Fund, said: “The Albert McKenzie VC sponsors day was a huge success. It enabled us to raise a substantial amount of money towards our final target. This would not have been possible without the help and dedication of Trevor Starkey and his team of instructors from HMS Collingwood to whom we owe huge thanks.”

Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, said: “It was a huge honour and privilege for the Bermondsey boys working for this great memorial to Albert McKenzie to be hosted by the Royal Navy at HMS Collingwood near Portsmouth, the home of the Royal Navy. From the former First Sealord to the most junior rating, we joined forces to remember the valour of the sailors who helped to win the First World War and to recognise the continuing skill and bravery of our Royal Navy and Royal Marines.”