John was born in the parish of St Thomas' C of E Church, Stockport; the son of George and Eliza Ann. The 1901 Census records three men named George Pearson who may have been his father - two worked in the cotton industry, the third in the local hat making industry. Eliza, then aged 31, was a cotton weaver.
By the time of the Great War, he had married Mary and they lived at 1 Lancaster Street, in the Portwood area of town. His service number indicates he enlisted into the army in September 1914 and, after training, would have gone overseas in early September 1915. Apart from a few weeks in France, all of John's service was in the Salonika theatre of war in Greece, where British troops fought the Bulgarian army.
Early in his service, John was "mentioned in despatches" for his devotion to duty. There are no details available. In its edition of 31 May 1918, the London Gazette published the fact that he had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Clearly a brave man, John's citation reads "During a hostile attack on his post he was severely wounded, but refused to retire, making light of his wound, displaying the greatest courage and setting a magnificent example to all ranks. On another occasion he voluntarily crossed 300 yards of open ground under heavy shell fire to assist a wounded man. His conduct throughout has been beyond praise." The Battalion's War Diary has been examined for any entry during the preceding six months that might give more information about John's acts of bravery, but without success.
The date of John's death is most unusual in that it is over two months after hostilities ceased in Greece, on 30 September 1918. On the 25 October, the Battalion embarked from a nearby port with the intent of an attack on the Turkish port of Dedeagatch. Due to rough weather, the assault did not take place and an Armistice was signed with Turkey on 31 October.
By late November, Cheshires were back in Greece and camped at Rendina. They stayed there throughout December. The Battalion's War Diary makes no reference to anything occurring on 19 December which might have caused John's death. His death is even more unusual in that John has no known grave and is commemorated on the Doiran Memorial to the Missing.
Regimental records indicate that he was "killed in action". This may, of course, simply be an error. The Cheshire Year Book notes that he "died" rather than "died of wounds". If the Year Book had taken this from military records of the time, then it implies that his death was from natural causes or was accidental.
It is, however, surprising that an accidental death at that time was not worthy of mention in the War Diary. Equally surprising, is that John's grave, if ever there was one, became lost. Whilst this was common during hostilities, it must be unusual in a rest camp area. Another possibility is that John had been attached to another unknown unit and died whilst with them.
It is a mystery that is unlikely ever to be resolved.