Pam Bailey tells the sad story of her great-uncle John Richard Pearse, many of whose family refused to believe he had been killed in Flanders in the First World War.
John Richard was born in 1897 in Sykehouse to farm labourer Charles and his wife Ada. His mother died when he was only two, while giving birth to his sister Elsie. His father married again in 1900, to Minnie who was also from Sykehouse and judging by the way Minnie reacted when John was killed she must have loved him as though he was her own. Charles and Minnie gave John and Elsie four step brothers and sisters and they all grew up together in Sykehouse. By 1911 at the age of 13 John was already working as a farm servant. It was a hard life and who knows whether it was the prospect of a better one or to serve his country, but John enlisted in the army in July 1915 at the age of 19.
He served in the 22nd Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry as a private soldier and after his training would have been sent out to serve at the front. We don’t have any details of how long he was out there or how he got on – only that he was reported killed on the 16th August 1917. His stepmother and other members of the family refused to believe it, insisting instead that he was missing with loss of memory. This seemed to be confirmed when a friend said he’d seen John in Scarborough. They appealed for information in the papers and on the radio for information about John, so convinced were they that he could not be dead. Sadly they never saw him again and John is commemorated with many other fallen soldiers in Dochy Farm New British Cemetery in Flanders, Belgium.