Friends of the Somme - Mid Ulster Branch  
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14216814   Private Michael John McGee D.C.M.
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Dated added: 30/12/2015   Last updated: 07/03/2020
Personal Details
Regiment/Service: 7th Battalion, Parachute Regiment (British Army)
Died: 06/06/1944 (Died of Wounds)
Age: 20
Summary      
Michael John McGee was born about 1924 in County Monaghan. It seems he lived most of his life in Tyrone, and lived at Mill Street in Aughnacloy for a time. Private Michael John McGee served with 7th Parachute Battalion. On the night of 5/6 June 1944, Private McGee jumped with his battalion behind the German lines in Normandy. The task was to capture the bridge at Benouville. Private McGee did not survive that day and died from his wounds later that day. He was awarded the D,C.M. for his actions on the day.
Private Michael John McGee D.C.M.
Further Information
Michael John McGee was born about 1924 in County Monaghan.
It seems he lived most of his life in Tyrone, and lived at Mill Street in Aughnacloy for a time.
Private Michael John McGee served with 7th Parachute Battalion which was part of 5 Airborne Brigade in 6th Airborne Division.
On the night of 5/6 June 1944, Private McGee jumped with his battalion behind the German lines in Normandy. The task of 5 Airborne Brigade was to capture bridges over the Orne river in preparation for the arrival of the seaborne invasion on 6 June - D-Day.
At Benouville the bridge over the Orne canal was captured by soldiers of 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, who landed in gliders, and the men of 7th Parachute Battalion. The bridge was intact as the airborne soldiers had arrived so quickly that the German engineers had not had time to set off the explosives that would have demolished it.
Michael McGee’s company (about 100 men) of 7th Parachute Battalion was in action without a break for almost 24 hours. For much of that time it was cut off from the remainder of the battalion and was under determined attack from stronger German forces. These included tanks and self-propelled artillery as well as infantry.
When a German Panther tank approached the position held by Michael McGee and some of his comrades, it seemed as if that position would be overrun. However, Private McGee jumped from his trench and charged towards the tank, firing a Bren gun from the hip. This must have seemed suicidal to his comrades but it shocked the Germans so much that the tank commander ordered his driver to stop. With the vehicle at a halt, other members of McGee’s company were able to run towards it and ‘put it out of action with a hand bomb’.
Michael McGee’s courage had saved his company from possible disaster, one of whom was Richard Todd, the 7th Battalion Acting Adjutant, who returned home to become a British actor in leading roles such as "The Dambusters" & "The Longest Day" of which Todd acknowledges in his autobiography. He wrote:
‘A Company in Bénouville with all its officers killed or wounded was reduced to a strength of less than 20. From time to time, we could hear its Officer Commanding, Nigel Taylor, shouting encouragement. We knew that he was lying by the window of a house, one leg shattered, when his second in command, Jim Webber - himself shot through his chest - got through to us to report. Things might have been worse for "A" Company but for the action of one man, 19-year-old Private McGee. Fed up with being shot at by a tank as he ducked down in his fox-hole, he leaped up and charged down the street firing his Sten gun from the hip. The tank crew closed up the shutters and were temporarily blinded, whereupon McGee threw a plastic Gammon bomb from a few yards and crippled the vehicle, which slewed across the road blocking any further tank movement. McGee was awarded the DCM posthumously: he was killed a few hours later.’
He was subsequently commended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. His DCM recommendation reads:
‘The above named soldier was one of the parachutists who landed behind enemy lines on 6th June 1944. His company was in continuous action for 21 hours during most of which time it was cut off from the Battalion and attacked by superior numbers of infanty and tanks and S.P. guns. On one occasion Pte McGee, by engaging a Panther tank at point blank range with his bren gun fired from the hips, caused it to stop at a point, when his comrades put it out of action with a hand bomb. The soldier’s complete disregard for his personal safety was largely responsible for the successful and gallant action fought by his Company."
Michael McGee did not survive that day. He had been wounded by machine-gun fire from the German tank and died from his wounds later that day.
Private Michael John McGee was serving with the 7th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment when he died of wounds on 6th June 1944.
With about twenty other soldiers, mostly from 6th Airborne Division, he is buried in Benouville Churchyard. Benouville is a village 10 kilometres north-east of Caen.
Private Michael John McGee D.C.M. is NOT commemorated locally.
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Relevant Dungannon Area Locations
No Location Region Location Notes Longtitude Latitude
1 Mill Street, Aughnacloy Aughnacloy Lived at Mill Street, Aughnacloy 54.413113 -6.975110
References and Links
No Link Reference Map Doc
1 Facebook - Aughnacloy Details of Private Michael John McGee including photos
2 FindAGrave.com Photo of Private Michael John McGee's gravestone
3 London Gazette - promotions Pte M J McGee (died of wounds)
4 Parachute Regiment Details of Michael John McGee DCM
5 Pegasus Archive Lieutenant Richard Todd writes of Michael John McGee
6 Traces of War DCM citation awarded 22nd March 1945
7 War Graves Photographic Project Photo of Private Michael John McGee's gravestone can be purchased here
8 WW2 NI Details and photos of Private Michael John McGee
9 WW2 NI Brief details of Private Michael John McGee
Dungannon District's War Dead Acknowledgements 2015-2021