Kenneth A. McKenzie was born in Calgary, and graduated from law school at the University of Alberta in 1939. He was hired by the Attorney General of Alberta to assist the Legislative Counsel in revising the Statutes of Alberta and enlisted in the Canadian Army two years later, commissioned through the Canadian Officers Training Corps following training in Calgary. He returned to Edmonton where he served in the 3rd Battalion, The Edmonton Regiment, approximately twenty of whose officers went to a battalion of The Edmonton Fusiliers mobilized for service with Pacific Command on the west coast. He saw many fellow officers sent to Europe with the CANLOAN program, where surplus junior officers in Canada were sent to active postings in the British Army as either infantry or ordnance officers. He eventually embarked on an overseas draft, though he described his three month tour as Aide-de-camp to Major General George Pearkes, VC as a “wonderful experience.” The Adjutant of the reinforcement depot was an old friend from law school, and so he became assistant adjutant; battle drill training followed and in mid-1944 he arrived overseas as a reinforcement officer.
The Edmonton Regiment had no requirement for junior officers, but The Calgary Highlanders had suffered heavily in Normandy and the Scheldt. When Lieutenant Donald Patton “D.P.” McDaniel was killed on December 1st, 1944, at the age of 27, he was brought in to replace him. McDaniel had been a fellow Edmontonian. McKenzie took over his platoon in the Nijmegen Salient, where conditions were cold, wet and muddy. There, McKenzie contracted diptheria; recuperation in a British care facility was extensive, lasting several months. After the war in Europe had concluded, the Army did an extensive and sophisticated search of its personnel for anyone that had been admitted to the bar. McKenzie joined No. 1 Canadian Court-Martial Centre and with several teams of military lawyers attacked the backlog of courts-martial cases still on the books as the Canadian Army rapidly demobilized. He spent about a year in Europe with this group, under control of Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF).
Ken McKenzie returned to Edmonton and rejected an offer by the Attorney General to become Legislative Counsel of the Provincial Legislature, determined to become his own boss. He was hired, along with Clifton Purvis, to share the job of City of Edmonton Police Court prosecutor, hoping to earn an income at the same time as building up a private practice. He found the demands on his time burdensome given Purvis’ own private practice demands. McKenzie was almost a full time prosecutor when the Attorney General of Alberta once again offered a job, which he accepted in 1948. For four years, he drafted all the province’s legislation including that stemming from the discovery of oil at Leduc. In December 1952, an old friend from law school named Ted Bishop discussed forming a partnership. McKenzie helped guide the partnership through major changes; when major oil companies began relocating to Calgary, they refocused Bishop & McKenzie to become a broader based corporate commercial practice; as astute businessmen, they groomed articling students as potential partners and associates. McKenzie was made Queen’s Counsel in 1955 and by 1957, boasting two Q.C. appointees, the firm had become one of Edmonton’s most prestigious. Ken McKenzie retired in 1984, but presided over the Mind Bender Roller Coaster Inquiry, the last of five Royal Commissions he served as either counsel or chairman over the course of three decades.
In 2008, Michael Dorosh located a manuscript that Ken McKenzie had deposited in the regimental archives, consisting of photographs taken of road signs along the Lines of Communication in Northwest Europe in 1945. The book Signs of War was published shortly after with both names on the cover.
Signs of War (canadiansoldiers.com, Calgary, AB, 2008) 76pp, ISBN 978-0-9782646-9-7