Colin Hercules Mackenzie

Colin Hercules Mackenzie

Colin Hercules Mackenzie

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Colin Hercules Mackenzie, CMG (1898-1986), scholar, soldier, industrialist and aesthete, was a Special Operations Executive spymaster who led Force 136 throughout the period of its existence during the Second World War.


Mackenzie was the son of Major-General Sir Colin John Mackenzie and Ethel, the daughter of Hercules Grey Ross ICS and granddaughter of the sportsman and photographer, Horatio Ross. Of Scottish ancestry on both sides of his family, he had the peripatetic childhood typical of many children of British Army officers.


Having attended first Summer Fields and then Eton (as a King's Scholar), Mackenzie was commissioned into the Scots Guards and was badly wounded at the very end of the First World War, undergoing a series of amputations of his leg in an ultimately successful battle against gangrene. Following the war, Mackenzie went up to King's College, Cambridge. On informing the Provost that he had forgotten his Latin and proposed to read English, Mackenzie was told that "English is a grubby subject" and elected instead to read Economics. His tutor was John Maynard Keynes and he graduated with a first class degree, having also won the Chancellor's Medal for English Verse. He later maintained that Keynes's most useful advice to him had been: "If a book is worth buying at all, it is worth buying in red Morocco."

Between the wars

After Cambridge, Mackenzie worked for J. and P. Coats in Glasgow. He became a director and...
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