b. 25/05/1911 Christchurch, Dorset. d. 25/07/2000 Melbourne, Australia.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 31/05/1940 RAF Detling, Kent.
Joan Daphne Pearson (1911-2000) was the daughter of a vicar, John Henry Pearson and his wife Jessie Amelia Pearson (nee Benson), and her childhood was spent on the Isle of Wight where her father was the parish priest for St Helens. Her father had wanted to join up on the outbreak of World War One but was turned down due to poor eyesight. In 1920, following WWI, her father moved the family to Twyford, Buckinghamshire, and then a short time later, they moved again to the parish of Combe in Oxfordshire.
Daphne was sent away for her schooling at times, going to a school in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, before moving on to a new school in Bristol. Following her schooling, she became interested in photography and began working for a studio and moved to Cornwall, and was based mostly in St Ives. She lived in St Ives from 1929-1933, during which time, her father suddenly passed away on Boxing Day 1932. She spent the rest of the 1930s working in photographic studios, though had now moved to Haywards Heath in Sussex.
On the outbreak of WWII, Daphne volunteered for the 19th West Kent Regiment as a medical orderly, but soon transferred to the RAF at Detling, Kent. On 31st May 1940, an Anson bomber crashed and burst into flames at around 1am near to her quarters, she immediately got up and went to the scene. She found the navigator dead and Pilot Officer David Bond stunned; rousing him, she released his parachute harness and helped him to get clear. When they were about 30 yards away, a 120lb bomb exploded and Pearson threw herself on top of the pilot to protect him from the blast. She remained with him until a stretcher party arrived. She then returned to the burning aircraft to look for the three other crew members. One was dead but the other two got out alive. She preferred not to talk about her heroism, saying she was just doing her duty.
She was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal for her actions (invested in the summer of 1940), which was swiftly exchanged later that year for the newly created George Cross. She was invested with the GC in 1941. She served in the WAAF for the rest of the War. After the war, she became involved in the Prison Service as Assistant Governor of a women’s borstal in Aylesbury.
In 1955, she inherited some money and used it to study horticulture and became Assistant to the Keeper of the Herbarium at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. She moved out to Australia in 1959 on the invite of Mervyn Davis, who had known Daphne from her working at Kew Gardens. She was also a landscape architect, and Daphne’s interest in horticulture led her into a new career path. She helped Mervyn to set up a landscape practice, and Daphne later worked for the Commonwealth Department of Civil Aviation as a horticulturist for the Victoria and Tasmania regions. She retired in 1976 and settled in Melbourne. Daphne regularly attended VC and GC Association events.
Daphne died on 25th July 2000 in Melbourne, and was cremated at Springvale Crematorium. Her ashes were scattered though there is an entry in the Book of Remembrance. Daphne’s medals including the GC, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, 1953 QEII Coronation Medal and 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal were donated to the Imperial War Museum where they are displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: THE NECROPOLIS, SPRINGVALE, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA.
Daphne Pearson's medals at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (December 2014)
The London Gazette