SAW PLENTY OF WAR: Sapper Sidney Evan Pearson suffered PTSD.
SAW PLENTY OF WAR: Sapper Sidney Evan Pearson suffered PTSD. Kerri-Anne Mesner

WAR VETERAN: He never really came home from France

ONE hundred years ago this month, Sidney Evan Pearson was thousands of kilometres away from his family and home country.

Some say he never really came back from the war, struggling to live in normal day-to-day society and preferring to bury his nose in his books and his hands in the earth.

His grandson, Rockhampton Anglican Dean Lindsay Howie, spoke with The Morning Bulletin ahead of Anzac Day, which this year also marks 100 years since the Battle for Villers-Bretonneux.

Mr Howie said he grew up being told stories from his mother - Margaret Jean Mesner, known to her family as Jeanie - and her mother Mary about the World War 1 veteran, who went "bush” when he arrived back in Australia after four years serving in the Middle East and France.

Four unidentified soldiers inspect the ruins of Villers-Bretonneux in April 2018. Photo: Australian War Memorial.
Four unidentified soldiers inspect the ruins of Villers-Bretonneux in April 2018. Photo: Australian War Memorial.

Mr Howie said Mr Pearson never talked to anyone in the family about what he experienced in the war, but it definitely took a toll on him.

When Mr Pearson enlisted in the 1st Australian Imperial Force at Brisbane on June 22, 1915 he already had qualifications in engineering, but that was overlooked and he was originally given the job of being a driver.

According to his military records, he was transferred to 5th Australian Field Artillery Brigade 2nd Signal Company as a sapper. He served in Somalia, then Egypt, leaving Alexandria on February 22, 1916 for Marseille, France.

His records show he was admitted to a military hospital with influenza on September 14, 1916 and returned to his unit a week later.

Sapper Pearson also visited England while on leave from his unit, which was stationed in Belgium at the time, and visited Paris during another leave period.

He left France for England and then on to Australia in March 1919 and spent six months on a boat before arriving in Melbourne on July 5.

Sapper Pearson was discharged from the 1st Australian Imperial Force in Brisbane on August 29, 1919.

After the war, Mr Pearson worked for Rockhampton-based company Comet Windmills Australia, building windmills in the Winton area. This is where he met his wife, Mary, and her family.

SAPPER: Sidney Evan Pearson fought in World War I .
SAPPER: Sidney Evan Pearson fought in World War I . Kerri-Anne Mesner

After the wedding the couple relocated to Stanthorpe to a soldiers' settlement, after Mr Howie's mother was born in Longreach.

"He wasn't handling it,” Mr Howie said.

"He went off on these (geology) expeditions.”

Mr Howie said his grandfather suffered so much with what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder, Mr Pearson's father-in-law told him to leave the family as he would take care of the four children.

"He came home (from the war) and there were no jobs,” Mr Howie said.

"He was a prolific writer. He could do that in isolation.

"He did a lot of writing about the Aboriginals around Mt Isa.”

Mr Howie said Mr Pearson was also a geologist prospector and "sometime” editor of the Mt Isa mines' magazine, Mimag. An article about the Cloncurry Pre-Cambrian Belt written by Mr Pearson and published in the magazine was accompanied by a side note that stated: "Mr RF Beresford, of our Geological Department, says "Sidney Evan Pearson was a grand old pioneer of 'the north' who accumulated a great fund of knowledge and gladly passed it on to younger men to use in developing the north”.

Mrs Mesner had tracked down her father when she was an adult.

Mr Pearson died prospecting at the back of Cloncurry in 1953.

One of the windmills he built in Winton in 1940 was listed as still standing, in a blog on Comet's website on May 18 last year.

Battle for Villers-Bretonneux

A SPECIAL Anzac Day service will be held at the Australian National Memorial next to the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, just north of the village of Villers-Bretonneux, France. The ANM is the site of an intense battle fought exactly 100 years before as part of wider efforts to halt a German spring offensive that was threatening to win them the war.

Throughout early April in 1918, Australian units helped defend Villers-Bretonneux from this onslaught, but at dawn on April 24 the Germans attacked and captured the town. Leading the British counterattack, the Australian 13 and 15 Brigades enveloped the town and successfully cleared it of Germans on April 25, the third anniversary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli.

The Commemoration on April 25, 2018 not only commemorates this remarkable action, which effectively ended the German offensive launched a month prior, but also marks the 103rd anniversary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli.



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