William Henry Pearce AM

b. 1873 Redfern, Sydney, NSW, Australia.  d. 06/09/1942 Rockdale, NSW.

DATE OF AM ACTION: 04/12/1905 Thornton Railway Station, New South Wales.

William H Pearce AM

William Henry (Bill) was born in Redfern, Sydney, New South Wales, the son of Henry Grey and Emma Jane Pearce (nee Saunders). His father was an engine driver. He married Sarah Elizabeth Critchley in Newcastle, New South Wales. They had three children, Clive (born in 1897), Raymond (born in 1899) and a daughter who predeceased him. He was a resident of Islington, near Newcastle, New South Wales at the time of the incident at Thornton Railway Station on 4th December 1905. He received his medal from the Governor-General of Australia at the Government House in Sydney on 16th July 1907.



On the morning of the day mentioned, while the passenger train running between Maitland and Sydney was approaching Thornton Railway Station, at the rate of 45 miles an hour, a boiler plate of the engine collapsed, and through the opening, about 12 inches square, steam and boiling water were ejected with great force. Both the driver of the engine, James Pead, who has since succumbed to his injuries, and the fireman, Pearce, were severely scalded. Pead was quite incapacitated, and was still exposed to the full force of the escaping steam when Pearce, at great personal risk, lifted him to a place of safety behind the bunker tank. Pearce having endeavoured, without success, to close the throttle valve, climbed over the cab of the engine, along the boiler, to the front of the engine, exposing himself again to the escaping water and steam, and having reached the footplate of the engine, and placed one leg in the draw hook for support, he reached under the buffer plank for a distance of about 18 inches, and opened the cock of the air pipe, thus applying the automatic brake and bringing the train to a standstill. The presentation of the medal, in the name of His Majesty, was performed by His Excellency the Governor-General of Australia, at Government House, Sydney, on the 16th July.





Allan Stanistreet – Image of William Pearce AM.