Webmatters Title
Webmatters : The advance from Arras to Cambrai in 1918

The Drocourt-Quéant Line

Cagnicourt


Monument to George McKean VC MM at Cagnicourt

On 6th September 2003 the village of Cagnicourt
renamed its square : Place Gordon McKean VC MM

Just before 0800 hours on the 2nd September 1918 a scouting party from the 14th Battalion Canadian Infantry (Royal Montreal Regiment) approached the village of Cagnicourt to the east of Arras.

They were part of the Canadian assault on the Drocourt-Quéant Line which ran a short distance to the west of the village.

The advance had left most of them killed or wounded and on reaching the outskirts of the village only Lieutenant George McKean VC and two of his men remained. McKean himself had been hit by a piece of shrapnel in his right leg but continued his way forward.

Over a hundred Germans garrisoned the village, and whilst the allied bombardments had reduced it to a shell there remained plenty of hiding places for machine guns and snipers to put up a stout resistance to the approaching Canadians.

Realising his predicament, and much to the surprise of the waiting Germans, McKean started shouting orders to units either side of him, encouraging them to move in on the enemy. Thinking themselves outflanked and out manoeuvred the Germans surrendered to McKean and his two compatriots.

In reality McKean’s nearest support was still a number of minutes away and in effect the three men took the village and its garrison of about 150 by themselves.

For his ingenuity McKean received the Military Cross adding it to his previously awarded Victoria Cross.

 

On the night of 27th April 1918 McKean had found himself and his unit held up under intense fire whilst trying to get around a block in a trench.

Jumping out of the trench and running out into the open McKean by-passed the block and jumped down into the enemy’s side. He landed on top of one German and then found himself attacked by another with a fixed bayonet. He shot both Germans and captured the position. Whilst waiting on more grenades to be brought up he held off reinforcing German troops. As soon as he had been joined by more of his own men McKean rushed a second block, killing two of the enemy and capturing four others. Another party of Germans fled into a dug-out, which he then destroyed.

For his actions and bravery McKean received the Victoria Cross.

He survived the war but was killed in November 1926 in a saw-mill accident at his home in Brighton, England.