The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

Joseph William Pearson

PEARSON, Joseph William

Joseph Pearson was born in Townsville, Queensland, Australia on the 4th of June 1894. His parents, Joseph William Pearson and Amy Carr, had both been born in England and had emigrated to Australia where they married in Brisbane in January 1891. They had three children, John William in 1892, Joseph and Kathleen Ila in 1898. In March 1904 the family returned to England, but only as a stop enroute to Canada where they arrived in July, settling in Toronto. In 1907 Joseph William died of meningitis aged thirty-eight; his death certificate shows that he had been working as a mechanic.

In the 1911 census the family continued to live in Toronto where John was a ‘Labourer on Buildings’ while Joseph was a ‘Jewellers Assistant’. In February 1915 Joseph enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force as did his brother John in July, even though he had just married in May. John was killed in action in November 1917, his name being recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial. Joseph was initially in training in England before embarking for France in January 1916. In June 1916 he suffered concussion from gunfire, resulting in impaired hearing and in May 1917 he suffered a shoulder wound and was hospitalised.

On the 5th of October 1918 Joseph was granted fourteen days leave in the U.K. which he and his friend William ‘Pat’ Burns spent in London and Belfast before going to Ennis, Co Clare. There he visited Thomas Brennan, who had stood as his Godfather in Australia, now again living in Ireland. Pearson and Burns then returned to Dublin to take the boat back to England, where Pat Burns was due to meet his girlfriend. They boarded RMS Leinster along with hundreds of other soldiers, and while Pearson survived the sinking his friend did not, though his body was recovered. Joseph Pearson spent the next ten days at the North Dublin Union Rest Camp recovering from his ordeal. He kept a written account of his movements and opinions and recorded that he was back in the field on the 3rd of November: “Back at battery on sniper gun. Captured Mons. War over?” He was awarded the Good Conduct Badge on the 2nd of November. When he described the sinking of the ship to his Commanding Officer the latter said that “from now on he was going to have a nice cushy job on the horse lines’. But Pearson declined the offer, saying he had a score to settle with the Germans. After the war he returned to Canada in May 1919.

The following year Amy, Joseph and Kathleen crossed into the U.S. at Detroit and settled in Los Angeles. In the border paperwork Joseph described himself as a Jeweller. In 1924 he was to be found crossing the border between Vancouver and Seattle, and giving his occupation as ‘Jeweller – Logger’. In the 1930 census he was still in Los Angeles, but not with his mother and sister, and working as a Carpenter. On the 29th of March 1940, at the age of forty-five, he married Merle White in Arizona. The 1940 census shows him living with Merle and her two young children in a house that he owned, his occupation being a ‘Wood Cutter’. He and Merle had a daughter the following year, followed by two sons, John T and Joseph Michael. He lived until 1991, dying at the age of ninety-seven, outliving his wife and his sister.



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