Corporal Joan Daphne Pearson RIP

Discussion in 'The Women of WW2' started by Drew5233, Jul 26, 2009.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I've felt compelled to post this brave lady's orbit as I have just been reseraching about her exploits and dicovered she died 9 years ago today !

    What I found remarkable is she came to the UK for a VC and GC assoc. meeting in 1995 and a UK newpaper ran a article about her medal and how she won it. The pilot who she saved son read the article and remembered his father telling him about the women who saved his life and as a result she met the man who she saved before she passed away.

    Here's her orbit from 2000:

    WAAF who won the George Cross for dragging a pilot from a blazing aircraft loaded with bombs.

    DAPHNE PEARSON, who has died aged 89, was the first woman to be awarded the George Cross, after rescuing a pilot from his burning aircraft.

    In 1940 she was a 29-year-old medical corporal working as an attendant in the sick quarters of the RAF base at Detling in Kent. At around 1 am on May 31 she was sleeping fitfully when she heard the noise of a plane in distress. One engine was cutting out and it seemed to be heading directly towards the base.

    She quickly dressed, put on gumboots and a tin hat and dashed outside in time to see the plane crash through the trees and slam into the ground. "A guard told me to stop but I said 'No'," she later recalled. "I ran on, opening the gate for an ambulance to get

    There was a dull glow where the plane had come to rest. She scrambled over a fence, tumbled down an incline, was stung by nettles in the ditch and finally reached the field with the wreckage. As she neared the aircraft, others appeared on the scene and started dragging the pilot clear. Running towards them, she yelled: "Leave him to me - go and get the fence down for the ambulance."

    On her own, she began to drag the pilot further away from the blaze, but he was groaning in pain and she stopped to give first aid. Unclipping his harness, she found that his neck was injured and she feared a broken back. The pilot then mumbled that there was a full load of bombs on board, so she pulled him further away, reaching the other side of a ridge just before the petrol tanks blew up.

    Daphne Pearson at once threw herself on top of the pilot to protect him from blast and splinters, placing her helmet over his head. As they lay there, a 120 lb bomb went off, and she held his head to prevent any further dislocation.

    A soldier then crawled forward and leant her a handkerchief so that she could clean him up (there was a lot of blood around his mouth and a tooth protruding from his upper jaw) and she was about to examine his ankle when the plane went up in another huge explosion.

    The air around them seemed to collapse and the breath was sucked out of them. They were showered with splinters and debris, and other helpers were blown flat as before a hurricane-force wind.

    Fearing that other bombs would go off, Daphne Pearson ran to the fence to help the medical officer over with the stretcher. Shortly after the pilot had been removed by ambulance, there was yet another, even fiercer explosion. Daphne Pearson was undaunted, however, and went back to the wreckage to look for the fourth member of the crew, the wireless operator; but he was dead.

    Afterwards, she returned to the base to help the doctor, and was on duty as usual at 8 am that day.

    Daphne Pearson was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal on July 19 1940, the first woman to receive a gallantry award during the Second World War. This was converted into a George Cross in 1941. Her action earned a mention in the House of Commons by Sir Winston Churchill.

    Joan Daphne Mary Pearson was born on May 26 1911 at Mudeford in Hampshire, the daughter of the Reverend J H Pearson. After St Brandon's Clergy Daughters' School in Bristol, she apprenticed herself to a photographer. For eight years she worked as a photographer, with her own studio at St Ives.

    Ill health persuaded Daphne Pearson to sell the studio in the mid 1930s, after which she worked variously as a chauffeuse and as the manager of the retail fruit section of a large farm in Kent. Much of her spare time was taken up with flying lessons and she was only a few hours away from gaining her pilot's certificate when war broke out.

    She enlisted in the WAAF in 1939 and was accepted as a medical orderly. A month after her courageous action at Detling, Daphne Pearson was commissioned, and served throughout the war with Bomber Command. In August 1940 she was transferred to RAF West Drayton as Temporary Equipment and Gas Defence Officer, and her subsequent string of postings were mainly in recruitment, although again she was dogged by ill health.

    After demobilisation in 1946, Daphne Pearson began a job as assistant governor of a women's borstal at Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. In the meantime she began evening classes in horticulture. She later became assistant to the keeper of the herbarium at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. She subsequently owned a shop at Kew selling gardening equipment, fresh produce and flowers.

    In 1959 she emigrated to Australia, where for many years she helped a friend run a farm outside Melbourne.

    She never married.

    Daphne Pearson GC - Telegraph

    :poppy: Less We Forget :poppy:
     
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  2. brithm

    brithm Senior Member

    Painting and photographs of Daphne Pearson

    Art.IWM ART LD 626

    HU 68992

    CH 14553
     

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  3. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

  4. brithm

    brithm Senior Member

    Section Officer Daphne Pearson (1911 - 2000, right) of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) with her George Cross after her investiture by King George VI at Buckingham Palace, 25th November 1941. Pearson was awarded the medal after she rescued a pilot from the burning wreckage of his bomber aircraft in May 1940. Pearson was the first woman to receive the award. (Photo by PNA/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
     

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  5. brithm

    brithm Senior Member

    Section Officer Daphne Pearson (1911 - 2000, right) of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) interviews applicants for jobs drivers of RAF staff cars, 21st January 1941. Pearson was the first woman to receive the George Cross after she rescued a pilot from the burning wreckage of his bomber aircraft in May 1940. (Photo by M. McNeill/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
     

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  6. brithm

    brithm Senior Member

    Heroic Group

    Nepalese Gurkha Rambahadur Limbu of the 10th Princess Mary's Own Gurkha Rifles, attends a reunion dinner of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association at the Cafe Royal in London, three days after receiving the Victoria Cross, 15th July 1966. He was awarded the medal for his bravery in the Indonesian Confrontation in Borneo. With him are the only three living female holders of the George Cross, (left to right): French Resistance heroine Odette Hallowes, nurse Dorothy Louise Thomas who prevented an explosion at the Middlesex Hospital, and WAAF Daphne Pearson who rescued the pilot of a crashed aircraft. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
     

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