Samuel George Pearse was born on 16 July 1897 at Penarth, Glamorganshire, Wales to George Stapleton Pearse and his wife Sarah Ann. He was educated at Penarth Grammar School until 1911 when he accompanied his father and brother in the advance of the family's emigration to Australia. The rest of the family followed and they settled in Mildura, Victoria (Australia) where Samuel joined the local Legion of Frontiersmen's Unit.
At the time of his enlistment in July 1915 just before he turned eighteen, Pearse's occupation was as a rabbit-trapper. He sailed from Melbourne with the 9th Reinforcement for the 7th Battalion reaching Gallipoli shortly before the evacuation and spending two weeks in the line there. He subsequently saw action on the Western Front and in September 1917 was awarded the Military Medal for an action in single-handedly raiding a German machine gun-post in Belgium:
Normally this man is a runner ....and throughout he showed an utter disregard of danger in carrying messages, guiding parties and in bringing in wounded men on every return run.
Challinger records that Pearse was awarded his Military Medal in the field by General Birdwood but that at the time Birdwood had run out of medals and decorated Pearse with a strip of medal ribbon. Challinger also references Pearse's army record which quite apart from his awards for valour includes entries for neglect of duty, absence from guard and disobedience to orders. He was however promoted to corporal while in the AIF. Higher honours would follow.
Following the Armistice, Pearse was attracted by the prospect of a tour of duty with the North Russia Relief Force and like the other 150 Australian soldiers who volunteered, Pearse was discharged from the AIF and re-enlisted in the British army as a private soldier. Many of the volunteering Australians had come late to action in World War I but Pearse was a battle-hardened veteran and was soon promoted to sergeant. He was a 22 year old sergeant in the 45th Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers, during the North Russia Campaign under the command of Lionel Sadleir-Jackson when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC. The London Gazette, 21 October 1919:
For most conspicuous bravery, devotion to duty and self-sacrifice during the operation against the enemy battery position north of Emtsa, North Russia on the 29th August 1919. Sergeant Pearse cut his way through enemy barbed-wire under very heavy machine-gun and rifle fire and cleared a way for the troops to enter an enemy battery position. Seeing that a blockhouse was harassing our advance and causing us casualties, he charged the blockhouse single-handed, killing the occupants with bombs. This gallant NCO met his death a minute later and it was due to him that the position was carried with so few casualties. His magnificent bravery and utter disregard for personal danger won for him the admiration of all troops.
While on leave in England in January 1918 Pearse met Kitty Knox an ambulance driver serving in the WAAC. They were engaged in May 1918 and that same month spent time together while Pearse was convalescing after suffering a foot wound. They were married after the Armistice and had a daughter - Victoria Catherine Sarah Pearse - born in February 1920. Kitty and Victoria later emigrated to Australia and Kitty married Albert Rose.
Samuel Pearse was buried in Souset Cemetery, Archangel, North Russia. His Victoria Cross, Military Medal and service medals are privately held. A monument with a life-size statue of Sam Pearse was dedicated at Deakin Parade, Henderson Park, Mildura, Victoria, on 11th Nov 2009.
Regimental Details | Soldiers