Corporal William Oliver Pearson, BC(NL)

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Corporal William Oliver Pearson, BC(NL) was born on 20 November 1898. During WW I he enlisted in the Canadian Army in Regina on 26 April 1918 as a member of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police Draft. He served in the United Kingdom in the Canadian Tank Depot at Bovington from 10 September 1918 until his return to Canada the following May. During the inter-war years, he worked as a welder. Early in World War Two, Corporal Pearson re-enlisted in the Canadian Army and was posted to the 3rd (New Brunswick) Coast Brigade (Royal Canadian Artillery) as a gunner.

At this time there was a critical shortage of technical people for the Engineering Branch of the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps (RCOC(E)). This situation resulted from the fact that in the first enlistments of the 1939/1940 period, priority had been given to the "fighting unit" over the technical corps. The Blitzkrieg soon changed all that and the importance of equipment and its maintenance suddenly became a high priority. Therefore, in early 1941 fighting units were scoured and men with technical skills were posted to technical units and transferred to the RCOC(E). Later on when the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RCEME) was formed on 15 May 1944 from the RCOC(E), they were transferred to the new Corps.

Corporal Pearson was a qualified welder on enlistment. Consequently in 1941, he was posted to 4 Army Field Workshop (RCOC) in support of the 4th Armoured Division. He was posted to 75th Light Aid Detachment (RCOC) attached to the 21st Armoured Regiment (Governor-Generalís Foot Guards) on 12 August 1942. A month later, he went overseas with that unit and remained with them until the end of the war. He quickly showed his versatility qualifying as both a gas and electric welder and later as an armoured fighting vehicle mechanic. It was in this capacity that Corporal Pearson distinguished himself.

Successful support of an armoured regiment in battle depends upon, among other things, a skilled welder with a natural flair for improvisation and a knowledge of expedients. Corporal Pearson had both these attributes. Just before the D-Day landings, he designed a protective floor for the Humber Scout Car used for reconnaissance. His design was used for all the scout cars of the Division.

Throughout the Northwest Europe campaign Canadaís Craftsmen distinguished themselves on the battlefield, in the forward areas and in the rear areas. Their continual support helped provide a steady flow of combat ready equipment to the fighting units. Often their special efforts to repair, recover, manufacture or modify equipment had a direct effect on the course of the battle. One such example occurred on 25 October 1944 when Corporal Pearson was given the task of performing a welding jog on the regimental command tank.

Realizing the necessity of his work and fully aware of the danger that faced him, Corporal Pearson drove his "soft skinned" 15 CWT welding truck forward to the command tank. Although enemy shelling was heavy, he worked for two hours to complete the task in the open, under fire. When the regiment moved forward, the command tank moved with it, continuing to direct the regiment as part of 4th Armoured Brigadeís push toward Bergen Op Zoom during the battle of the Scheldt. As a result, Corporal Pearson was awarded the Bronze Cross of the Netherlands.

After the war, he resumed his trade as a welder in Vancouver. He died of a heart attack - on the job with a torch in his hand - at the age of 64 on 10 September 1962 at Vancouver, British Columbia.

Click for larger image
IN RETROSPECT

The Award of the Bronzen Kruis (Bronze Cross)
(The Netherlands)
to
G14119 Corporal William Oliver Pearson
75 Light Aid Detachment, RCEME
attached to the 21st Canadian Armoured Regiment (GGFG)

By Lt-Col RH Hodgson CD

retro.jpg - 18970 Bytes

   The Late Corporal Pearson (left) and Craftsman Larry Arseneau D125802

Successful support of an armoured regiment in combat depends upon, among other things, a skilled welder with a natural flair for improvisation and a knowledge of expedients. Corporal William Oliver Pearson had both of these attributes.

   His award of the Bronze Cross by the Netherlands Government on the 7th of December 1945 was given for "Behaving gallantly and tactfully opposite the enemy, and showing an outstanding devotion to duty during the operation for the liberation of Netherlands enemy occupied territory."

   In the spring of 1944, while preparing for the invasion of Europe, a competition was held for the design of a protective floor for the Humber Scout Cars. Pearson's design was selected from the entries of the LADs and brigade workshops. His patterns and installation procedures were used to modify all the scout cars in Canadian Armoured Division. His reward was the expressions of gratitude of at least two scout car drivers from the Regiments' Reconnaissance Troop for saving their legs, if not their lives.

   Pearson's citation describes his performance and proficiency as a welder:

    On 25th October 1944, near Wouwsche Plantage, the command tank of the Regiment developed trouble requiring a welding job to be done immediately or the tank to be removed from the battlefield. It was vitally important that this command vehicle remain in action. The Regiment was holding firm on an exposed left flank; however, accurate shelling and antitank fire had already eliminated one complete squadron. Realizing the necessity of his work and fully aware of the danger that faced him, Corporal Pearson drove his 'soft-skinned' 15cwt welding truck froward to the command vehicle.

   "Although enemy shelling was heavy, Corporal Pearson, with utter disregard for his own personal safety, completed the welding job on the command vehicle. This task took almost two hours but when the Regiment moved forward into action Corporal Pearson had the command vehicle ready for action despite difficulties under which he laboured."

   His citation ended with; "This is but one of the many instances when Corporal Pearson showed devotion to duty and disregard for personal safety that enabled the necessary vehicles and weapons to be available for action against the enemy. His work, whether in the workshop or under fire, has always been of the highest calibre. The difficulties under which he was required to work and the calm, cool efficient manner in which he carried out thse duties was a source of inspiration to all members of the Regiment."

   William Oliver Pearson served overseas in the First World War with the Royal North West Mounted Police and with RCOC and RCEME in the Second World War. He died of a heart attack - on the job with a torch in his hand - - at age 64 on the 10th of September 1962 at Vancouver, BC.

click here for more of Lt-Col RH Hodgson's recolections of Corporal William Pearson

Canadaís Craftsmen Honour War Hero

by: Lt(N) Doug Maybee

The Material Technician trade of the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Branch has paid tribute to an individual of outstanding devotion and dedication to their art. Corporal William Oliver Pearson, BC(NL), was honoured by the craftsmen at the Canadian Forces School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering at CFB Borden on November 25, 1994 when the new welding training facility was opened bearing his name.

Corporal Pearson, who lived from 1898 till 1962, served in both World Wars. On April 26, 1918, he enlisted in the Canadian Army in Regina as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police draft. During the inter-war years he worked as a welder. Early in World War II , he re-enlisted in the Canadian Army and . because of his talents, soon became a member of the 75th Light Aid Detachment, RCEME. While his unit was attached to the 21st Canadian Armoured Regiment, he served with it from itís landing on the beaches of Normandy through the battles in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. Throughout this period, Pearson distinguished himself, traveling at times just to the rear of fighting tanks, doing welding repairs in the field when it was absolutely essential that every vehicle, tank and gun be kept in action.

Pearson was awarded the Bronze Cross (The Netherlands) for his actions during an incident in Holland on October 25, 1944. In battle near Wouwsche Plantage, the Regimentís command tank required immediate welding to stay in the fight. It was vitally important to the Regimentsís success that this tank remain in action. With accurate enemy fire raining down, and in total disregard for his personal safety, Pearson drove his soft skinned truck forward to the command tank and, in under two hours, got the job done. When the Regiment moved forward, the command tank moved with it, continuing to direct the Regiment in the push toward Bergen Op Zoom in the Battle of the Scheldt.

His work, whether under fire or in the workshop, was always of the highest calibre. His calm, cool efficient manner was a source of inspiration to the others in the Regiment.

"We were really honoured, flabbergasted actually, when we were approached with the idea of using Dadís name," says Mrs. Alice Cull, Pearsonís Daughter. "Dad was an ordinary man and a good father who never talked much about the war. He would probably just humbly smile in his modesty if he knew of this. He just did his job, never expecting any special treatment."

For the students and staff of the Mat Tech platoon at CFSEME, the new facility is second to none.

"It gives us a sense of history in the EME Branch," said Corporal Klaus Knouer, and instructor with the Mat Tech platoon. "The safety equipment and the buildingís design are the best Iíve seen. We now have the resources and the space to conduct up to three courses comfortably at the same time, during normal hours. We no longer have to train at night to meet the training demands."

The RCMP also receive training at the Pearson facility. Up to 10 maintenance constables per year get a six-week mini Mat Tech course to prepare them to work in the RCMPís maintenance cells, said Knauer. As a matter of fact, at the opening ceremony a constable in full scarlets was presents and the ribbon was suspended between two RCMP lances.

After World War II, Pearson carried on his welding trade in Vancouver. He passed away of a heart attack at the age of 64-on the job with a torch in his hand.

excerpt from BORDEN CITIZEN, 1 February 1995

excerpt from dedication of the Corporal William Oliver Pearson, BC(NL), Building, CFB Borden

Cpl. Pearson was a genuine Craftsman. Through his courage and dedication he honoured his trade and his Corps and without any doubt, personified our moto:

ARTE ET MARTE
.

Today we honour him in return by dedicating this new training facility in his name. By doing so, we will immortalize his accomplishment so it will always be remembered and so his story can inspire the future generations of Army technicians.

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