Lester Bowles Pearson (1897-1972) was an undergraduate at the University of Toronto when he volunteered for the university's medical unit on April 27, 1915. He served as a stretcher bearer in Egypt and Greece before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in 1917 and training as a pilot. Before he could be sent into combat, Pearson was hit by a bus while crossing the street in London during a blackout. He was sent back to Canada to recuperate and was eventually released from service. After the war Pearson returned to the University of Toronto. He then attended Oxford University and eventually joined the Department of External Affairs. He was a star diplomat who won the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize. He then entered federal politics as a member of the Liberal Party and was elected Prime Minister of Canada in 1963.
Service Record Details
Date of Birth: April 23, 1897 (Newtonbrook, Ontario)
Date of Attestation: April 27, 1915
Age at Enlistment: 18 years
Height: 5 feet, 8 1/2 inches
Weight: Not indicated
Description: Fair complexion, green eyes, dark brown hair. Wesleyan. Two hairy moles below left ear.
Home Address: Newtonbrook, Ontario
Details of Family: Father—Edwin A. Pearson, living in Chatham, Ontario
Next of Kin: Father (Edwin A. Pearson)
Theatre of War: Egypt, Greece
Interesting Details from the Service Record
- September 6, 1916 – Pearson’s father writes to Sir Samuel Hughes, then Minister of Militia and Defence, in Ottawa, to request that his son be given a commission in either the Army Service Corps or the Artillery: “I have thought that when all my family, viz. three sons have gone to the front, and all went at once as privates. I might fairly ask that after service for eighteen months they might receive promotion.” He describes Lester as “a son than whom there is no better,” and asks rhetorically, “Does it not seem to you eminently fair that his ambition to do a bigger “bit” than he had been doing should be gratified.” On September 11 the letter is forwarded to a General Carson at Cleveland House, St. James Square, London, England. (Pages 9 and 8)
- October 20, 1916 – A colonel with the Salonika Force replies to a letter from General Carson (see previous bullet) regarding “Private Lester Pearson, C.A.M.C., #4 Canadian General Hospital”. The colonel reports that, “[a]t all times his work has been of a most thorough, conscientious, reliable character.” He goes on to say that Pearson “is thoroughly qualified and competent to assume commissioned rank … both by education and social standing, but it would be necessary for him to undergo a course of training.” (Page 6)
- November 28, 1916 – In a letter addressed to the “A/Adjunct General” at Argyll House, Regent Street, London, the acting director of Personal Services refers to an enclosed report on Private Lester Pearson and advises, “If it is desirable to recall this man for a commission and a course at the Canadian Military School, will you please take the matter up with the War Office.” (Page 5)
- June 6, 1917 – His father writes to Sir George Perley, Canada’s high commissioner and minister of its overseas military forces, regarding his son, L.B. Pearson. He explains that he has “gladly given” his three sons—all his children—to the war effort. His youngest son is about to go to France, while his eldest is at Bexhill-on-Sea after a year at the front and a casualty that incapacitated him for three months. “Their mother is brave,” he writes of his wife, “but broken in spirit.” He is writing “by her urgent wish” to ask if Perley can arrange for their middle son to be returned to Canada “on furlough” to complete his training with the flying corps: “Can we not, in view of our sacrifice & the fact that our boys are all overseas, two for over two years & one [for] a year, reasonably ask you to show some special favour to us.” (Pages 3-4)
The London Gazette
No records found
Military Medals Honours and Awards
No records found
In 1901, Lester Pearson is four years old and living with his father, Edwin A. Pearson (32), and mother, Annie S. Pearson (33), in the town of Aurora, Ontario. He has two brothers, Marmaduke (6) and Vaughan (2). A 16-year-old domestic servant named Mary Pinder lives with the family. The Pearsons are of Irish descent and Edwin is a Methodist minister.
1911 [PDF 725 KB]
In 1911, Lester Pearson is fourteen years old and living with his father, Edwin A. Pearson (43), and mother, Annie (43), in Hamilton City. His brother Marmaduke is now 17 years old and his brother Vaughan is 12. The family is Methodist and Edwin works as a clergyman.