Sergeant Lewis McGee, V.C.
Sergeant McGee was serving with the 40th (Tasmanian) Battalion Australian Infantry, taking part in the attack on the Broodseinde Ridge on 4th October 1917. The objective of the battalion for the second phase of the attack on the morning of 4th was to reach just below the summit of the ridge, a short distance beyond DAB TRENCH. DAB TRENCH can be seen running north-south on the eastern side of the road east of HAMBURG FARM on the map. The highlighted area is the location of Tyne Cot cemetery as it is now.
As the battalion approached the damaged remains of DAB TRENCH the men met with strong resistance from Germans firing from DAB TRENCH and from numerous blockhouses or pillboxes near HAMBURG FARM in front of DAB TRENCH. Several of the Australian officers were wounded and casualties increased. A series of attacks on the pillboxes began, whereby the Australians attempted to knock each one out and capture the German crews inside them.
A German machine gun crew was firing onto the Australians from the roof of one of the pillboxes. Sergeant McGee ran forward fifty yards and shot the crew with his revolver. He then organised a bombing party to attack and capture the next pillbox.
Victoria Cross: Most Conspicuous Bravery
An extract from “The London Gazette"” No. 30400, dated 23rd November 1917, records the citation for the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross to Sergeant McGee for his actions on 4th October 1917:
“For most conspicuous bravery when, in the advance to the final objective, Serjt. McGee led his platoon with great dash and bravery, though strongly opposed, and under heavy shell fire. His platoon was suffering severely and the advance of the Company was stopped by machine gun fire from a 'Pill-box' post. Single-handed Serjt. McGee rushed the post armed only with a revolver. He shot some of the crew and captured the rest, and thus enabled the advance to proceed. He re-organised the remnants of his platoon and was foremost in the remainder of the advance, and during consolidation of the position he did splendid work. This Non-commissioned Officer's coolness and bravery were conspicuous and contributed largely to the success of the Company's operations. Serjt. McGee was subsequently killed in action.”
Sgt McGee Killed in Action
Sergeant Lewis McGee was killed in action on 12th October in the next phase of the Battle of Broodseinde Ridge. He was aged 29. He had been an engine-driver before he enlisted in the army.
Tyne Cot Cemetery
Sergeant McGee is buried in Tyne Cot cemetery grave reference Plot XX, Row D, Grave 1.Tyne Cot Cemetery
For detailed information about Sgt McGee visit the webpage by Patricia Downes about her relative:
Australian Official Histories of the Great War
12 volumes of Official Histories, edited by Charles E W Bean, are available to download free from the Australian War Memorial website. See our page about these histories at:
A Guide to British Awards for Gallantry or Meritorious Service in WW1
For information about the medals for gallantry awarded to British and Commonwealth servicemen during the First World War see our page at:
Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, Volume IV, The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1917 (11th Edition, 1941), by C E W Bean, p. 865.
Photograph of Sergeant McGee, VC by kind permission of Patricia Downes.