b. 08/09/1874 Woolwich, London. d. 03/06/1917 Lens, France.
John George Pattison (1875-1917) was born on 8th September 1874 at Woolwich, London, England. His birth was registered as John George Wicking. His natural father was unknown. His mother, Mary Ann Wicking, was a domestic servant, and eventually a cook at the Refreshment and Lodging House of Henry Miller in Deptford, Kent. Also working there was a waiter, Henry Alfred Pattison, and they married in Woolwich in 1881. Henry later became a railway stoker and engine driver. John had two siblings, but sadly both died very young.
John was educated at Clifton Hill School, Deptford and was a member of St James’ Company, Church Lads’ Brigade, Hatcham, London. He then worked as a boilermaker’s mate in a shipyard. On 29th September 1895 he married Sophia Louisa Ann Allen at St Saviours, London. John and Sophia had four children – Ethel, Henry, Helena and George.
The family emigrated to Canada in 1906 and settled initially in Rapid City, Manitoba. By 1916 they were living in Westmount, Calgary, Alberta, but a year later, Sophia had moved to Suite 12, Curtis Block, Calgary. John was working as an engineer in 1912 in the Operation and Construction Department, Canadian Western Natural Gas Company at Calgary.
On 6th March 1916, John enlisted at Calgary and requested assignment to 82nd Battalion CEF to be with his son, Henry. The request was denied and he went to 137th Battalion CEF, raised in Calgary. He sailed for England on RMS Olympic on 22nd August 1916, arriving at Liverpool on 29th August. After basic training he was transferred to 21st Reserve Battalion on 10th January 1917 and drafted to 50th Battalion in France on 1st February.
On 10th April 1917 at the Battle of Vimy Ridge when the advance of Canadian troops was held up by an enemy machine-gun which was inflicting severe casualties, Private Pattison, with utter disregard of his own safety, sprang forward and jumping from shell-hole to shell-hole, reached cover within thirty yards of the enemy gun. From this point, in the face of heavy fire he hurled bombs killing and wounding some of the crew, and then rushed forward overcoming and bayoneting the surviving five gunners. His initiative and valour undoubtedly saved the situation.
He was involved in the successful attack on The Pimple on 12th April and was in action again on 7th May, receiving multiple wounds, including one to his foot. He was admitted to No 1 Canadian Field Ambulance until 11th May, then rejoined the Battalion, but was retained with the base details while his foot recovered. 50th Battalion was in action at the generating station at Lievin, near Lens, France on 3rd June when it came under heavy fire. All available men were recalled from the base, including John. He was not involved in the attack, but was in a post in Callons Trench when a direct hit by an enemy shell wiped out all the men in it. The post was taken by the Germans and Pattison was reported missing, presumed dead. He was buried by the Germans and a wooden cross was placed over his grave. The grave was found three months later and his body was exhumed and buried in La Chaudiere Military Cemetery near Arras.
It was intended to hold a VC investiture at Buckingham Palace and his son Henry was notified to receive it, but this was cancelled. Instead the VC was presented to his widow by the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, HE Robert George Brett, at Victory Park, Calgary on 10th April 1918. John’s father also attended and signed the Borough Roll of Honour. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20, and Victory Medal 1914-19. As he died on operational duty, his next of kin is eligible to receive the Canadian Memorial Cross. The VC is held by Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: GLENBOW MUSEUM, CALGARY, CANADA.
BURIAL PLACE: LA CHAUDIERE CEMETERY, ARRAS, FRANCE.
PLOT VI, ROW C, GRAVE 14.
Kevin Brazier – Images of the Pattison VC Grave and Cemetery Map.
Glenbow Museum – Images of the Pattison VC Medal Group and VC Medal.
Derek Walker – Image of Pattison VC’s name on the Lewisham Shopping Centre Memorial.