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April 8, 2018

LCol Alfred Glynn Pearson, MC, DCM, MID

Alfred Glynn Pearson was born in Staffordshire, England on 16 August 1880 and as a young man emigrated to Canada.  His civilian occupation was a shipping agent and he served for 3 months with the 34th Fort Garry Horse, Winnipeg in 1914.   On 24 December 1914, he volunteered and enlisted as a Private (51383) for overseas duty in the 1st Reinforcing Draft, PPCLI, also known as the 500 Draft. They embarked in Halifax and arrived in England onboard the SS Southland on 29 January 1915. The draft was temporarily barracked at Tidsworth, Wiltshire England. Promoted to Lance Corporal, Pearson crossed to France on 23 February 1915 and was taken on strength with the Regiment in the field at St Eloi, Belgium on 1 March 1915.

Lance Corporal Pearson fought at Battle of Frezenberg 8 May 1915 and was noted along with three other NCOs for their brilliant handling of the withdrawal where the officers had fallen[1].  He was wounded during that action with shrapnel wounds to the neck and back. He was evacuated to Rawal Pindi British Hospital at Wimereux, France on 10 May.  Pearson was then transferred by hospital ship to England where he was treated for his injuries and discharged on sick leave until 11 July.  He was promoted to Corporal and returned to France on 23 August. He rejoined the Regiment at Armentieres on 1 September 1915.

He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for actions at the Battle of Frezenberg.  His Citation reads: “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion. After practically all the garrison at the front trench had been killed or wounded by the enemy’s shell fire, Lance Corporal Pearson, with a few men, still held on, and, fortunately, although wounded himself, managed to bring out the survivors in safety after a new position had been taken up.”[2]  Lance Corporal Pearson is the soldier carrying the ammunition box in the Frezenberg painting below by W.B. Wollen

Pearson was promoted in the field to Temporary Lieutenant on 20 December 1915 and was appointed Bombing Officer. During the Battle of Mont Sorrel (Sanctuary Wood) he was wounded in action on 2 June 1916. It was not until after the battle that he learned his organization and training of the bombers had contributed towards the success of the defence.[3]  Due to the shrapnel wounds to the right forearm he was evacuated to England for treatment.  He was discharged, declared fit for duty and attached to RCR/PPCLI Depot at Shorncliffe on 7 September 1916. He rejoined the Regiment in the field at the Somme on 10 October 1916.

On 19 December 1916, the 172nd Tunnelling Company blew three underground mines in front of the PPLCI lines.  Lieutenant Pearson was in command of two 30-man groups of Patricias who were tasked to seize the newly created craters.  Lanes had been precut in the wire and duckboards had been laid in preparation for the operation.  The near lips of the craters were successfully seized at a cost of nine casualties.  At the request of Lieutenant-Colonel Agar Adamson, the main crater was given the official name of “Patricia”.[4]  The crater was some 250 feet in diameter and 60 feet deep, and it can still be seen today when you visit Vimy Ridge.

Pearson was promoted to Temporary Captain on 9 January 1917. He was subsequently made Acting Major and took command of #3 Company on 16 February 1917.  Major Pearson commanded #3 Company which was left forward during the Battle for Vimy Ridge on 9 April 1917.  The company took 68 casualties with at least 13 killed in action.[5]  Major Pearson was wounded during the assault with a gunshot wound to the chest and left lung.  It should be noted that Pearson reverted to the rank of Captain when he relinquished command of #3 Company after being wounded.  He was evacuated to England for a third time on 20 April 1917 and was discharged from the hospital on 7 July 1917.  He was then posted to the Eastern Ontario Regiment Depot and 6th and 7th Reserve Battalions while awaiting a Medical Board.  Pearson was declared Medically Unfit for duty and appealed directly to Lieutenant-Colonel Gault for a position in France.[6]  He returned to France as Adjutant 3rd Canadian Division Wing, Canadian Corps Reinforcing Camp on 25 April 1918.

Pearson was seconded back to the Regiment after the terrible losses during the Battle of Tilloy, just outside of Cambrai. He was promoted to Acting Lieutenant-Colonel on 15 October 1918 replacing Lieutenant-Colonel Stewart who had been killed in action on 28 September 1918.  He led the Regiment to Mons and the Armistice.  Pearson retained command until 21 November 1918 when he relinquished the post to Lieutenant-Colonel Gault.  He reverted to Temporary Major on 22 November 1918.  However, he was Acting CO, during Lieutenant-Colonel Gault’s absence on leave.

Major Pearson returned to Canada with the Regiment on the SS Carmenia, arriving in Halifax on 17 March 1919. He travelled with the Regiment to Ottawa and most likely participated in the 19 March arrival parade where the Regiment was reviewed by the Governor General.  He was demobilized from the CEF on 20 March 1919.   He was awarded the Military Cross on the occasion of His Majesty’s Birthday. There is no citation for the award, but it is believed to be in recognition of his leadership of the Regiment in the last days of the war.

On 1 October 1957, Lieutenant-Colonel AG Pearson, MC, DCM participated in the official breaking of ground for the Frezenberg Memorial.  Our founder, Brigadier General Hamilton Gault, DSO, ED, CD turned the sod and planted a maple tree in the centre memorial.  In addition, the service was attended by two other Frezenberg veterans, Lieutenant-Colonel HW Niven, DSO, MC who was a subaltern and Sgt HF O’Connell who lost an arm at the Battle.[7]

Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Glynn Pearson, MC, DCM died on 11 December 1967  in Orpington, Kent, England at the age 87.

 

Paul Hale

[1]Ralph Hodder-Williams, PPCLI Vol 1, pg 64.

[2] London Gazette 14 January 1916, Supplement pg 616

[3] Ralph Hodder-Williams, PPCLI Vol 1, pg 124

[4] Ibid, pg 200

[5] PPLCI War Diary (1914-1919), pg 130 – 139

[6] Jeffery Williams, First in the Field Gault of the Patricias, pg 140

[7] G.R. Stevens, PPCLI 1919 – 1957, pg 397 – 398