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Victoria Cross recipient – Major George Randolph Pearkes
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Major George Randolph Pearkes
George Pearkes was born in Watford, England, in 1888. After completing his schooling at Berkhamstead School, Pearkes emigrated to Canada to study farming in Alberta. Two years later, in 1908, Pearkes left school to take up farming near Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. In 1911 he was employed with the Dominion Land Survey on the Athabaska River in northern Alberta where he developed an interest in service with the Royal North West Mounted Police. Later that year he began his training at Depot Division, Regina, and was stationed in the Yukon where he served with distinction for four years.
In 1915 Pearkes joined the Canadian Army, and by war’s end had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and awarded the Military Cross, Distinguished Service Order and French Croix de Guerre, in addition to the Victoria Cross. After the war he remained in the Army, rising to the rank of Major General.
At the beginning of World War II, Pearkes was made commander of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division in Britain. He was called back to Canada to take over as Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Command. For his war service, he was made a Commander of the Order of the Bath, one of the Queen’s highest orders of chivalry, and received the United States Order of Merit.
In 1945 George Pearkes was elected to Parliament and became Minister of Defence in 1957. He was appointed Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia in 1960, a post he held for eight years. He died in 1984.
October of 1917, at Passchendaele, Belgium, Major George Randolph Pearkes was in command of a company of troops which was about to advance against the opposing lines. Just as they were to attack, Pearkes was wounded in the thigh by shrapnel. Despite the wound, he led his troops ahead. He noticed an enemy strongpoint threatening the advancing Allied troops and, with a small body of soldiers, quickly captured the site. Despite repeated counter attacks from opposing troops his force held the position throughout the day. This allowed other units to advance with less danger of enemy fire. Only at the end of the day would Pearkes let his wounds be treated.
VICTORIA CROSS RECIPIENTS