FINAL preparations are underway to ensure a First World War hero receives the recognition he deserves in his hometown.

On Saturday, April 28, 100 years after the heroic deed which earned Lieutenant George Burdon McKean a Victoria Cross, a memorial stone will be unveiled in Willington.

The son of a furniture broker, McKean was born in Willington High in1888, but he emigrated to Edmonton in Canada in 1902. Here he has almost legendary status, with a mountain named after him. In France too, there is a market square named in his honour.

And now, McKean is on track to become a household name in his birth town, thanks to Greater Willington Town Council.

The council has been working with organisations such as the Durham Light Infantry Collection, Durham Records Office and county councillors Olwyn Gunn and Fraser Tinsley to organise a day the people of Willington will never forget.

It will begin at 11am when Aycliffe and Brancepeth Brass Band will lead a parade from Willington war memorial to the library. The new memorial stone, located outside of the building, will then be revealed.

This will be followed by a First World War Experience Event at the Open Door Church in Lydia Street, featuring live wartime music and opportunities to talk to experts and handle objects from the era.There will also be a slideshow of First World War photographs, and the council would love to hear from anyone with pictures from the time.

Representatives of France and Canada are expected to attend, along with McKean’s relatives and North-East dignitaries.

Helen Cogdon, town clerk and project co-ordinator, said she hoped lots of Willington residents would attend the event.

She described McKean as a “brave and honourable man” adding: “May the spirit of his integrity ever thrive in the people of our parish as a role model of endeavour and achievement and as a living legacy from this World War One centenary year.”

Despite being turned down for the Canadian Expeditionary Force three times before he was finally allowed to enlist, McKean became one of just five men to receive the Military Medal, Military Cross and Victoria Cross, the military’s highest and most prestigious award for gallantry. He survived the war but was tragically killed in an industrial accident aged 38.

Cllr Tinsley, who is also the Mayor of Greater Willington, said: “McKean was a hero in every sense of the word. A man who demonstrated true grit and determination all through his life. We are proud he was born in Willington.”

To contribute photographs to the exhibition, contact 01388-417725 or