Lachlan Donald Ian Mackinnon
Lachlan Donald Ian Mackinnon, CB
Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

Royal Victorian Order
The Royal Victorian Order is a dynastic order of knighthood and a house order of chivalry recognising distinguished personal service to the order's Sovereign, the reigning monarch of the Commonwealth realms, any members of her family, or any of her viceroys...

 (2 December 1882 - 11 October 1948) was a Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 officer, especially noted for his role as a convoy commodore
Convoy commodore
A Convoy Commodore was the title of a civilian put in charge of the good order of the merchant ships in the British convoys used during World War II. Usually the convoy commodore was a retired naval officer or a senior merchant captain drawn from the RNVR...

 during the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


Family and early career

His father was a clergyman and Lachlan entered the Royal Navy in 1898. He received the China Medal for service in the Boxer Rebellion
Boxer Rebellion
The Boxer Rebellion, also called the Boxer Uprising by some historians or the Righteous Harmony Society Movement in northern China, was a proto-nationalist movement by the "Righteous Harmony Society" , or "Righteous Fists of Harmony" or "Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists" , in China between...

 and was seconded to the navy of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 from 1910 to 1912. Mackinnon was married in 1912 and had one son and two daughters.

During the First World War, Mackinnon served aboard the battlecruiser
Battlecruisers were large capital ships built in the first half of the 20th century. They were developed in the first decade of the century as the successor to the armoured cruiser, but their evolution was more closely linked to that of the dreadnought battleship...

, HMS Indomitable
HMS Indomitable (1907)
HMS Indomitable was an of the British Royal Navy. She was built before World War I and had an active career during the war. She tried to hunt down the German ships Goeben and Breslau in the Mediterranean when war broke out and bombarded Turkish fortifications protecting the Dardanelles even...

, and the battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

, HMS Barham. He was present for the bombardment of the Dardanelles forts
Naval operations in the Dardanelles Campaign
The naval operations in the Dardanelles Campaign of the First World War were mainly carried out by the Royal Navy with substantial support from the French and minor contributions from Russia and Australia. The Dardanelles Campaign began as a purely naval operation...

 in 1914 and was present at the battles of Dogger Bank
Battle of Dogger Bank (1915)
The Battle of Dogger Bank was a naval battle fought near the Dogger Bank in the North Sea on 24 January 1915, during the First World War, between squadrons of the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet....

 and Jutland
Battle of Jutland
The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle between the British Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet during the First World War. The battle was fought on 31 May and 1 June 1916 in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark. It was the largest naval battle and the only...

, where he was gunnery officer of the Indomitable.

During the interwar period he held a number of shore and seagoing appointments including as commanding officer
Commanding officer
The commanding officer is the officer in command of a military unit. Typically, the commanding officer has ultimate authority over the unit, and is usually given wide latitude to run the unit as he sees fit, within the bounds of military law...

 of HMS Queen Elizabeth
HMS Queen Elizabeth (1913)
HMS Queen Elizabeth was the lead ship of the Queen Elizabeth-class of dreadnought battleships, named in honour of Elizabeth I of England. She saw service in both World Wars...

 and HMS Warspite.

After commanding the Second Battle Squadron with his flag aboard HMS Royal Oak, he retired as a vice admiral
Vice Admiral
Vice admiral is a senior naval rank of a three-star flag officer, which is equivalent to lieutenant general in the other uniformed services. A vice admiral is typically senior to a rear admiral and junior to an admiral...

 on 11 January 1939.

Return to service

From 16 September 1939 he joined the Royal Navy Reserve as a Captain
Captain (Royal Navy)
Captain is a senior officer rank of the Royal Navy. It ranks above Commander and below Commodore and has a NATO ranking code of OF-5. The rank is equivalent to a Colonel in the British Army or Royal Marines and to a Group Captain in the Royal Air Force. The rank of Group Captain is based on the...

 and served as a convoy commodore
Convoy commodore
A Convoy Commodore was the title of a civilian put in charge of the good order of the merchant ships in the British convoys used during World War II. Usually the convoy commodore was a retired naval officer or a senior merchant captain drawn from the RNVR...

 until 1941.
He was one of the first commodores to put to sea. He completed 11 ocean convoys before he was sent to take charge of Convoy SC-7
Convoy SC-7
SC-7 was the code name for a large Allied World War II convoy of 35 merchant ships and six escorts which sailed eastbound from Sydney, Nova Scotia for Liverpool and other United Kingdom ports on 5 October 1940. While crossing the Atlantic, the convoy was intercepted by one of the German Navy's...


Convoy SC-7
Convoy SC-7
SC-7 was the code name for a large Allied World War II convoy of 35 merchant ships and six escorts which sailed eastbound from Sydney, Nova Scotia for Liverpool and other United Kingdom ports on 5 October 1940. While crossing the Atlantic, the convoy was intercepted by one of the German Navy's...

 was out of Sydney, Nova Scotia
Sydney, Nova Scotia
Sydney is a Canadian urban community in the province of Nova Scotia. It is situated on the east coast of Cape Breton Island and is administratively part of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality....

. This slow convoy of 35 ships sailed on 5 October 1940 bound for the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 with a very inadequate escort. For most of their journey, SC-7 had only one escort, the sloop
In the 18th and most of the 19th centuries, a sloop-of-war was a warship with a single gun deck that carried up to eighteen guns. As the rating system covered all vessels with 20 guns and above, this meant that the term sloop-of-war actually encompassed all the unrated combat vessels including the...

, . And Scarborough was not fitted with asdic. Mackinnon was aboard the , built in Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 in 1914. She carried a cargo of grain. Mackinnon brought with him his team of five sailors, a Yeoman
Yeoman refers chiefly to a free man owning his own farm, especially from the Elizabethan era to the 17th century. Work requiring a great deal of effort or labor, such as would be done by a yeoman farmer, came to be described as "yeoman's work"...

 of Signals, two telegraphists and two young bunting tossers (i.e., sailors in charge of hoisting signal flags). The signals crew were important as the convoys maintained radio silence to avoid detection by the German navy.

On the afternoon of 16 October the convoy was met by two Royal Navy ships, the sloop, , and the corvette
A corvette is a small, maneuverable, lightly armed warship, originally smaller than a frigate and larger than a coastal patrol craft or fast attack craft , although many recent designs resemble frigates in size and role...

, . That night all three escorts went off in various direction pursuing reports of U-boats or rescuing survivors of the two ships hit early the next morning. The convoy was left defenceless in the face of the gathering six submarines which included the ace Otto Kretschmer
Otto Kretschmer
Flotilla Admiral Otto Kretschmer was a German U-boat commander in the Second World War and later an admiral in the Bundesmarine. From September 1939 until being captured in March 1941, he sank 47 ships, a total of 274,333 tons. For this he received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak...

 in . The convoy took heavy losses.

On 19 October, as the convoy approached the British Isles
British Isles
The British Isles are a group of islands off the northwest coast of continental Europe that include the islands of Great Britain and Ireland and over six thousand smaller isles. There are two sovereign states located on the islands: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and...

, Mackinnon spotted a U-boat 100 yards ahead and went full ahead to ram her. The Assyrian, for the first time in recent memory, made 10 knots, chasing the enemy ship for 40 minutes, but unable to bring any of her small guns to bear. But, slowly the U-boat drew away. Now ahead of the convoy, with no escorts around, the old ship was vulnerable. Two torpedoes missed her but a third caught her on the starboard side stopping the engines and putting out her lights. Both ship's boats were damaged in the explosion and most of the surviving crew took to the life-rafts. A sinking merchantman drifted down upon the Assyrian, her pit prop
Pit prop
A pit prop or mine prop is a length of lumber used to prop up the roofs of tunnels in coal mines.Canada traditionally supplied pit props to the British market...

s rolling off and further damaging the ship and sinking one of the life-rafts which had been launched. A small group including the ship's Master
Master (naval)
The master, or sailing master, was a historic term for a naval officer trained in and responsible for the navigation of a sailing vessel...

, the Chief Officer
Chief officer
A chief officer can refer to any of various leaders:In the military, it can refer to certain non-commissioned members:*Chief Petty Officer*Chief Warrant OfficerMarine occupation:*Chief Mate...

 and Mackinnon were stranded aboard the sinking ship. They set to building a raft out of whatever they could find and launched it as the ship went down. The raft fell to bits as it hit the water. Mackinnon, then 58, went into the cold North Atlantic. He swam to a plank and hung on. The sloop found him at the very end of his strength, unable to swim or grasp a rope. They hoisted him aboard in a net.

Mackinnon developed pneumonia and barely survived. Though he recovered somewhat and tried to get back to sea, he was put on the retired list. His health was permanently impaired and he died in 1948 at age of 65.

It was only the second convoy to be attacked by the new "wolfpack" tactics of German submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

s. Some 20 of the 35 ships were sunk, including the commodore's ship. There is no sense that the disaster was in any way due to Mackinnon's efforts.

Character and reputation

Alan Burn in the Fighting Commodores describes Mackinnon as playing hard and working hard, and "... though a disciplinarian was popular at all levels."
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