- Name: Robert PEARSON
- D.O.B: 4th Jul, 1886
- D.O.A: 11th Jul, 1925
- D.O.D: 17th Mar, 1973
- Award: Edward Medal translated to George Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Employee, Henry Marsland Bleachworks Limited, Park Works, King Street (East), Portwood, Stockport, Cheshire
- Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
BETWEEN THE WARS
The stresses of the First World War led to political revolution in much of Europe and, in extreme cases, social collapse. Even the victors, Britain and France, were not immune to the economic upheaval and labour unrest resulting from the transition from war to peace and the demobilization of hundreds of thousands of men. This made them extremely nervous of the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia and they decided to send aid to the anti-Bolshevik forces. However, an Allied North Russia Expeditionary Force had to be withdrawn once it became clear that internal opposition to the Bolsheviks had been defeated. In Britain a postwar boom failed to prove long-lasting and in May 1926 there was a General Strike, triggered by a crisis in the Mining Industry. The Great Depression followed in 1929 and by 1931 Britain was forced to abandon the Gold Standard. In large parts of the country and especially in the traditional industries there was widespread unemployment throughout the 1930s, symbolized by the Jarrow Crusade of 1936. Conditions were much worse on the Continent and the interwar period witnessed the rise of the Dictators. The coming to power in Germany of Hitler in 1933 was to lead inexorably to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. In the years of increasingly uneasy peace between 1919 and September 1939 only eleven VCs were awarded and of these only one, the award to Captain G P Meynell in 1935, took place outside the period 1919-21. Of the eleven awards, five related to actions against the Bolsheviks, four to actions on the North-West Frontier of India and one to an an engagement in what is now Iraq. The remaining award was that in 1921 to the American Unknown Warrior. Of the Albert, Edward and Empire Gallantry Medals awarded in the same period, 142 recipients lived long enough for their awards to be converted to the GC. The geographical distribution of the actions that occasioned the awards is witness to the Global spread of the British Empire, which reached its widest extent after the First World War. However, some of the awards, for gallantry in India, Egypt and the Sudan, and Palestine, reflected both the stresses in maintaining that dominion and the duties it entailed. After service personnel and policemen, coal miners formed the largest group of recipients, demonstrating the central importance of coal to the British economy and the dangers inherent in securing it. Those who worked in coal and gold mines in India and Africa were also honoured. Both in the mines and in industry as a whole, the threat posed by poisonous gases led to many awards. New industries brought new hazards with them. Other dangers overcome were of a more basic sort. Awards were also made to those who, throughout the Empire, confronted mad elephants, rabid dogs and marauding sharks.
On July 11th, 1925, while two boys named Stothert and Bowden were working in a vat at the works of Messrs. H. Marsland, Ltd., at Stockport, there was a sudden inrush of scalding liquid and steam owing to a mistake made in opening the pipe of another vat. The screams of the scalded boys attracted the attention of other workers and attempts were made to extricate them through manholes. Bowden was successfully drawn out but Stothert after reaching the manhole fell back into the vat owing to the burnt flesh of his hand giving way. Pearson, a labourer employed at the works, then came upon the scene. He saw Bowden pulled out terribly scalded and on hearing that Stothert was still in the vat he at once ran in to it. He jumped down the manhole and after groping about found Stothert with some difficulty and hoisted him sufficiently to enable those outside to drag him to the surface. Pearson’s feet were severely scalded during his efforts and he was practically unconscious on being drawn to the top. Both boys succumbed to their injuries but Pearson’s effort to save Stothert’s life was a very gallant one. Though the steam had been turned off when Pearson entered the vat he was unaware of this and so far as he could tell the vat might have been full of boiling liquid. He had never been inside one of these vats before: all he knew was that he had seen one boy terribly scalded and that there was another boy inside and he faced the risk of attempting the rescue without any regard to his own safety, while neither the scalding he experienced nor the intense pain which he suffered deterred him from persisting in his efforts to get the lad out.