b. 19/01/1825 Leeds, Yorkshire. d. 18/04/1892 Lion’s Head, Ontario, Canada.
John Pearson (1825-1892) was born in Leeds, Yorkshire on 19th January 1825. He joined the 8th Regiment of Light Dragoons (Hussars) on 11th January 1844 in Leeds. He gave his trade at the time as a gardener. He married Selina Smart in the General Baptist Church in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England on 6 April 1851. He embarked with his Regiment aboard the Horse Transport “Wilson Kennedy” on the 2nd May 1854 bound for the Crimea.
He served throughout the Crimean War with the 8th Hussars, his regiment forming part of the Light Brigade, which took the Second Line, along with the 4th ( Queen’s Own ) Light Dragoons and the 11th ( Prince Albert’s Own ) Hussars, during the famous Charge on 25th October 1854. ( The First Line was taken by the 13th Light Dragoons and the 17th Lancers ). For service during the Crimean War John Pearson was awarded the Crimea Medal with clasps for “Balaclava” and “Sebastopol”.
Following the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny in May 1857, the 8th Hussars sailed for India from Cork on the 8th October 1857 aboard the SS “Great Britain”. On the 17th June 1858 the 8th Hussars, along with the 95th Regiment and the Bombay Horse Artillery, charged the rebel forces at Gwalior in Central India. It was during this charge that the Rani of Jhansi was killed. Fleeing before the British cavalry, a man of the 8th Hussars cut her down; she still tried to escape but was despatched with a bullet, putting an end to this fearless woman. During the action, which led to the fall of Gwalior and virtually the end of the Mutiny, Pearson was wounded by a sword-cut to the right shoulder.
Following the action at Gwalior, it was decided that four Victoria Crosses should be awarded to the regiment. After a ballot, taken by their comrades and reportedly unanimous, the four men chosen to receive the VC were Captain Clement Heneage, Sergeant Joseph Ward, Private John Pearson, and Farrier George Hollis. John Pearson was invested with his Victoria Cross by GOC Bombay Army, Lieutenant General Sir Henry Somerset, on the 18th June 1859.
Five years after the Charge at Gwalior, in November 1863, Pearson transferred to the 19th Hussars as a private, being promoted back to Corporal the following month, and later made Sergeant on 6th August 1865. Pearson was awarded the Army Long Service & Good Conduct Medal on 22nd September 1865 with an annuity of £5 and the Meritorious Service Medal on 3rd September 1867 with an annuity of £15, and, in the following month, was invalided home to England from Meerut.
After spending some time at the Royal Hospital, Netley, Pearson was discharged from the Army as unfit for further service. Following his discharge he resided in Halifax, Yorkshire, but in 1880 he and his family emigrated to Canada to start a new life. By 1888, he owned a farm near Little Pike Bay, nine miles west of Lion’s Head on the Bruce Peninsular, Ontario.
John Pearson died on the 18th April 1892 and is buried in Eastnor Township Cemetery, Lion’s Head. His medals were purchased by the Ashcroft Collection for £78,000 at an auction at Morton & Eden on 23rd November 2004 and are now displayed in the Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: EASTNOR CEMETERY, LIONS HEAD, ONTARIO, CANADA.
Thomas Stewart – Image of Pearson VC on the Leeds VC War Memorial.