Born 25 March 1886
Died 16 June 1915
Studied at the RCA: c.1908 – 1913
Norfolk-born Reginald Pearson, the son of a school choirmaster and organist, had left the College in February 1913. No student file has been found for Reginald, but other sources show that by the outbreak of the war he was establishing himself as an artist, working in stained glass, printmaking and jewellery, his style much influenced by medievalism and the Arts & Crafts movement.
He enlisted in 1914, initially serving as a private with the Artists’ Rifles, 28th London Regiment, before arriving in France with the 1st Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, in January 1915, and becoming Second Lieutenant in their B company in late May 1915. In June the battalion were close to Ypres in Flanders with the objective of joining other regiments trying to gain ground to the south.
This was Reginald’s first experience of leading men in warfare. From an encampment south of Brandhoek, he wrote a letter, postmarked 14 June, to a friend and former RCA student, Sydney Langford Jones:
‘…I have really seen the horrors of war such as I never dreamed possible, marching at midnight with a lovely moon through the famous old town…. arriving at a communication trench by dark, full of mud up to the men’s thighs, hundreds of shots fired over it to catch as many as possible who happened to get out …’, ‘Trenches scarcely 3’ deep, parapets and bullet proof, strobing over dead men… and the first thing I saw when dawn broke was a dragoon with a little cat on his lap, which he had been stroking, lying both dead right across the trench, horrible, horrible, horrible.’
[Excerpt reproduced with the kind permission of Berkshire Record Office – link below for complete text]
A couple of days later Reginald led a group of bomb-throwers attempting to capture German trenches near Hooge, sometime around dawn. Reports suggest the Lincolnshires achieved their particular objective rapidly, perhaps too rapidly for any artillery cover to protect them, and confusion ensued when a retreat was ordered.
At the noon roll-call the following day Reginald was reported as missing. In the following weeks, this was investigated and several statements taken from survivors of the chaos, but it took nearly a year for the army to decide he must be ‘presumed dead’. It may be in part because of this delay, and with no physical body to mourn, that his bereaved mother clung on to the possibility that he had been taken prisoner up to her own death in 1918.
Reginald is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, West Flanders, Belgium and on South Walsham’s War Memorial in Norfolk.