George Burdon McKean

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George Burdon McKean
Born 4 July 1888
Willington, County Durham, England
Died 28 November 1926(1926-11-28) (aged 38)
Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, England
Buried at Brighton Extra Mural Cemetery, East Sussex
Allegiance  Canada
Service/branch Canadian Expeditionary Force
Years of service 1915 - 1926
Rank Captain
Unit 14th Battalion (Royal Montreal Regiment), CEF
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Victoria Cross
Military Cross
Military Medal

George Burdon McKean VC MC MM (4 July 1888 – 28 November 1926) was an English-Canadian soldier who served in World War I. McKean was a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Early life[edit]

George Burdon McKean was born in Willington, County Durham, England on 4 July 1888. He came to Canada in 1902 and settled in Edmonton. He was a student at the University of Alberta when World War I broke out and McKean enlisted as a private soldier in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

World War I[edit]

He was 29 years old, and a lieutenant in the 14th (The Royal Montreal Regiment) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

On 27/28 April 1918 at the Gavrelle Sector, France, when Lieutenant McKean's party was held up at a block in the communication trench by intense fire, he ran into the open, leaping over the block head first on top of one of the enemy. Whilst lying there, he was attacked by another with a fixed bayonet. He shot both of these men, captured the position, then sent back for more bombs, and until they arrived he engaged the enemy single-handed. He then rushed a second block, killing two of the enemy, capturing four others, and driving the remainder into a dug-out, which he then destroyed.[1]

He later achieved the rank of captain.

In the closing months of the war, Canada's Hundred Days, near Arras, he led the capture of Cagnicourt, using, one historian wrote, "little but courage and bravado", winning the Military Medal.[2] In the course of his military service, he received the Military Medal and, after he was commissioned as an officer, the Military Cross. He was one of only a handful of people who have won all three and lived to peacetime.

McKean wrote of his wartime experiences in Scouting Thrills, The Memoir of a Scout Officer in the Great War (1919, re-issued by CEF Books in 2003).

He remained with the army after the end of World War I, serving in Egypt. He finally left the army in March 1926.

Later life[edit]

After leaving the army he settled in England, finding work in a sawmill, but within a few short months, on November 26, he was killed in an industrial accident, leaving a widow who two days later bore him a daughter.

He is buried at Brighton Extra Mural Cemetery, Sussex, England.


His Victoria Cross is stored at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

The Church Square of Cagnicourt, France was renamed 'La Place Du George Burdon McKean' in his honour, displaying a plaque to his honour, on 6 September 2003,

A mountain in the Victoria Cross Ranges is named in his honour.

His Name is also present on the memorial wall located in Convocation Hall at the University Of Alberta


  1. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30770. p. 7618. 25 June 1918. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  2. ^ Scouting Thrills, The Memoir of a Scout Officer in the Great War (2003)

External links[edit]