Gary McKay was born in 1947 in Perth W.A. and moved to NSW in 1957 where he completed High School in 1964. He worked for the AMP Society as an insurance clerk and trainee computer programmer until he was conscripted into the Army under the National Service Scheme when he was 20 years old in May, 1968. At that time his interests were surfboat rowing for Newport SLSC where his crew were State champions and Australian Title finalists and a keen rugby player for his local sub-district club, St. Ives in Sydney. Upon being drafted he volunteered for officer training at the Officer Training Unit, Scheyville outside Windsor in NSW and graduated after six months intensive training as a second lieutenant into the Infantry Corps. He graduated 18th in his class of 62 which started the course with some 135 trainees.
After graduating he has posted to the 3rd Training Battalion at Singleton where still only 20 years old he was a platoon commander responsible for training national servicemen as recruits and infantry corps trainees. He captained the Army Rugby team to victory in the Hunter Valley competition and immediately after this stunning win he was posted to the 9th Battalion, RAR returning from Viet Nam.
McKay wanted to put his training to the test and asked to be posted to a unit going to Viet Nam and by October 1970 he was a platoon commander in the 4th Battalion, RAR. He married his wife, Gay on 28 September 1970. By April 1971 he was on his way to Viet Nam by HMAS Sydney.
Gary McKay served as a rifle platoon commander in 11 Platoon, Delta Company, 4 RAR until he was severely wounded in a large battle in late September 1971. In that battle he lost four soldiers killed in action and both he and his platoon sergeant were wounded. Gary McKay then spent the next twelve months in and out of hospital (mostly in) as his shoulder was destroyed by several bullets and needed massive repair.
For his actions in battle in September 1971, Gary McKay was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry.
After discharge from hospital in Brisbane in October 1972 he was posted to the Jungle Training Centre, Canungra, in the Gold Coast hinterland as an instructor on Battle Wing. From 1974 until 1977 he was working in various staff jobs as a captain in the Army having decided to sign on for a five year short service commission. In 1974 Gary McKay made a comeback to contact sport and represented Army and Combined Services as a tight head prop and also played for Queensland Sub Districts side against NSW. In 1975 he took the plunge and applied for a permanent commission in the Regular Army and was accepted. During this time he saw service in Malaysia and in Darwin for several months after Cyclone Tracy on clean up duties.
In 1977 Gary and Gay's first child Matthew was born. In 1978 he was posted to New Zealand as an exchange officer in Christchurch where he spent the next two years doing staff duties as an operations officer. During his time in New Zealand he trained soldiers in Fiji and played grade rugby for High School Old Boys and took part in two premiership winning sides.
On return to Australia, Gary McKay was promoted to and was OC Alpha Company, 8/9th Battalion, RAR at Enoggera in Brisbane. In 1981 Gay and Gay's second child, Kelly was born. After two years he was selected to attend the 12 month staff college course at the Canadian Forces Command and Staff College in Toronto where he graduated in 1983. During his time there he played rugby for the premiers the Toronto Nomads.
Posted to the Royal Military College, Duntroon in late 1983, Gary McKay was prompted to write the first of several books and the first, In Good Company - an autobiographical account of his time as a young officer in Viet Nam - was written expressly for young cadets at RMC. In Good Company has also gone on to be a best seller in New Zealand and in the general readership in Australia and is still in print after nine re-prints today.
After RMC, McKay was posted back to Brisbane as the Chief of Staff of the 6th Brigade and after promotion Lieutenant Colonel in 1988, he was given command of the 8th/9th Battalion RAR in Enoggera for two years during 1989-90.
In 1992 Gary published his second book, Viet Nam Fragments which is still the western hemisphere's largest oral history on the Viet Nam War. During 1991 and 1992 Gary was posted as an instructor at the Australian Command and Staff College at Fort Queenscliff, Victoria, where he produced six video oral histories as projects with the students at C & SC. He continued his rugby ways starting up a Golden Oldies rugby team which was unbeaten during his time as tight head prop and president.
In 1992 Gary won an Australian War Memorial John Treloar Research Grant and wrote his third book, Delta Four that looks at the relationships between men in battle in a rifle company in Viet Nam and what the men experienced. This book has also gone best seller with its oral history technique a strong selling point, as the soldiers interviewed are able to express their feelings and emotions of that period in their lives. Allen & Unwin published this book in 1995.
In 1995 Gary separated from the Army after 30 years service and after a short period as a small businessman and consultancy work on leadership and personal communications he opted to become a full-time writer. After living on the Sunshine Coast for several years Gary and his wife Gay divorced. Gary and Gay's two children both live and work in Brisbane. In 2007 Gary relocated to south of Sydney to begin a new chapter in his life. In 2012 Gary married Margot who he met whilst working on a public speaking engagement.
Gary is now pursuing his second career as a full time non-fiction writer and freelance historian, and is usually working on several books at any one time. He has now expanded his genre to matters outside of the military, but is still using his oral history technique as the basis for a lot of his work. He is also working on a film script, and conducting writing seminars and workshops and doing manuscript appraisals.
Gary is now also leading historical tours to Viet Nam with McLachlan Tours. Gary is able to give detailed tours of Australian battle sites and a first hand account of combat experience in the jungle of southeast Asia.
When not writing Gary can be found surfing or fishing off the south coast of New South Wales not far from his home in Kiama New South Wales..