23 November 2004

The Victoria Cross and other campaign medals awarded to John Pearson were sold at auction today by London auctioneers Morton & Eden for the hammer price of £78,000. The VC group was purchased on behalf of the Michael Ashcroft Trust, the holding institution for Lord Ashcroft's VC Collection and has gone on display at the Imperial War Museum's Lord Ashcroft Gallery.

( select to enlarge )

Medal entitlement of Private John Pearson,
8th King's Royal Irish Hussars

  • Victoria Cross
  • Crimea Medal ( 1854-56 )
    • 2 clasps:
    • "Balaclava" - "Sebastopol"
  • Indian Mutiny Medal ( 1857-58 )
    • 1 clasp:
    • "Central India"
  • Army Long Service & Good Conduct Medal
  • Meritorious Service Medal ( MSM )
  • Turkish Crimea Medal ( 1855-56 )

John Pearson enlisted as a private into the 8th ( King's Royal Irish ) Hussars at Leeds on 11th January 1844, giving his trade as gardner. 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.

[ London Gazette, 28 January 1859 ], Gwalior, Indian Mutiny, 17 June 1858, Private John Pearson, 8th The King's Royal Irish Hussars.

Selected for the Victoria Cross by their comrades in the gallant charge made by a squadron of the Regiment at Gwalior, on the 17th June 1858, when, supported by a division of the Bombay Horse Artillery, and Her Majesty's 95th Regiment, they routed the enemy, who were advancing against Brigadier Smith's position, charged through the rebel camp into two batteries, capturing and bringing into their camp two of the enemy's guns, under a heavy and coverging fire from the Fort and Town. ( Field Force Orders by Major-General Sir Hugh Hentry Rose GCB, Commanding Central India Field Force, dated Camp Gwalior, 28th June 1858 ). ( Elected by the regiment ).

John Pearson was invested with his Victoria Cross by GOC Bombay Army, Lieutenant General Sir Henry Somerset, on the 18th June 1859.

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, 8th Hussars
  • Sergeant Joseph Ward, 8th Hussars
  • Private John Pearson, 8th Hussars
  • Farrier George Hollis, 8th Hussars

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. ( A plaque was erected to his memory in the Memorial Park, Lion's Head, inscribed "John Pearson VC, 1825-92. Born in England, Pearson servied in the Crimea War and won his decoration for outstanding gallantry during the Indian Mutiny. He later emigrated to Canada and settled near Lion's Head" ).


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Iain Stewart, 23 November 2004