On June 12th, North Bruce Peninsula Council learned of the importance of the Victoria Cross (VC) and recipient John Pearson, who lies in the North Bruce Eastnor Cemetery, when William (Bill) Streeter presented a delegation to Council.
“Out of one million Canadian men who served in World War I and II, only 81 ever received this distinguished medal, and John Pearson was one of them,” said Streeter, “along with the more famous Billy Bishop who has a museum and airport named after him. In the whole British Commonwealth, more than 100 million soldiers have gone to war but there have only been 1,365 VC medals awarded as the standard is very demanding, requiring “Conspicuous Bravery, Gallantry, and Commitment to Duty”. Bruce County has had more than 5,000 men go to war since the Boer War in 1899 and we have never had one that was awarded a Victoria Cross. In fact, only 81 Canadians have ever received one and John Pearson lies right here in Bruce County.
Streeter said that it was thanks to ‘Bruce Remembers’ that he learned of John Pearson and visited his grave in the Eastnor Township Cemetery, where he was buried in 1892, with only a small headstone.
In 1964, 59 years ago, a Commemorative Plaque was unveiled in Lion’s Head honouring John Pearson with much fanfare. “I have found a lot of information that was shared from that event and that tells a his fighting in Crimea and India and the event, the India Army Mutinies of 1857, for which he was awarded his Victoria Cross.”
“His is a fascinating story and the more I researched, the more I found,” explained Streeter. “In 1858, he received wounds and after a lengthy spell in hospital, was discharged from duty as being incapable to continue in general service in the British Military. He received a British 15 pound “annuity” and returned to life as a civilian. It was more than 20 years later, in 1880, that he arrived at a farm on Little Pike Bay Road. It was there that he died in 1892.
Pearson’s story however, did not end in 1964 when his plaque was unveiled. Streeter learned that, in 2004, his military medals including his VC went to Auction in one of the upper-end English auction houses and sold for 78,000 British Pounds, which is in excess of $130,000 Canadian. “They were purchased on behalf of the Michael Ashcroft Trust, the holding institution for the Lord Ashcraft Victoria Cross Collection,” said Streeter. “They are all now on display in the very prestigious Imperial War Museum’s Lord Ashcroft Gallery.”
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“This has been a great history lesson for me,” said North Bruce Peninsula Mayor, Milt McIver. “Given the significance of this person, staff will do more research and will definitely get back to you.”
Also in attendance at the Council meeting were members of the Lion’s Head Legion Branch 202.
Following Streeter’s presentation, he was invited to the Lion’s Head Legion to see a montage of John Pearson created by member George Bowman.
Next year, 2024, will be the 60th anniversary of the John Pearson plaque unveiling and Streeter went on to make suggestions to Council about how the importance of Pearson and his VC could be more prominently recognized.
“The area around the plaque could be freshened up with landscaping and the plaque shined up and, perhaps, a re-enactment of the original unveiling done,” suggested Streeter. “Along Highway 6 before Cemetery Road, a sign could be installed and read something like “Eastnor Cemetery – John Pearson Victoria Cross”. The stone has to be the smallest stone of any of the Victoria Cross awardees, but it is very natural. Some identification at the cemetery to help people find the stone may be appropriate.”