Major General George Randolph Pearkes, VC
George Pearkes was born in 1888 at 127 High Street, over the draper's shop run by his family which used to stand where the commemorative plaque has been laid.
In 1906 he emigrated to Canada and joined the Royal Mounted Police. In 1915 he enlisted as a private in the Canadian Mounted Rifles and it was with them that he came to Europe to fight in the First World War. In 1917 he was leading a Canadian unit as Passchendale in Belgium and it was there on October 30 and 31 that he led attacks on the German lines for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest service award for gallantry. The citation described his conspicuous bravery and skilful handling of the troops under his command, despite having been wounded.
After the war, Major Pearkes returned to Canada where he continued his military career. With the outbreak of the Second World War, he returned to Europe as a Brigadier in command of a Canadian Infantry Brigade. Returning to Canada in 1942, he was made responsible for Canada's west coast defences.
He retired from the Army in 1945 and went into federal politics. He served in the Canadian federal parliament from 1945 to 1960, representing constituencies in British Colombia. In 1960 he was made Lieutenant-Governor of British Colombia, a position which he held until 1968. He died in 1984, aged 96, in Victoria, British Colombia, and was buried there with full military honours.
In 1958, while serving as Minister of National Defence in the federal government, he made a visit to Watford, and a civic lunch at the Town Hall was held in his honour.
In October 2017 a paving stone was unveiled on the High Street to remember his act of bravery which resulted in him being awarded the Victoria Cross.
George Pearkes' VC Citation
"For most conspicuous bravery and skilful handling of the troops under his command during the capture and consolidation of considerably more than the objectives allotted to him, in an attack. Just prior to the advance Major Pearkes was wounded in the thigh. Regardless of his wound, he continued to lead his men with the utmost gallantry, despite many obstacles.
At a particular stage of the attack his further advance was threatened by a strong point which was an objective of the battalion on his left, but which they had not succeeded in capturing. Quickly appreciating the situation, he captured and held this point, thus enabling his further advance to be successfully pushed forward.
It was entirely due to his determination and fearless personality that he was able to maintain his objective with the small number of men at this command against repeated enemy counter-attacks, both his flanks being unprotected for a considerable depth meanwhile.
His appreciation of the situation throughout and the reports rendered by him were invaluable to his commanding officer in making dispositions of troops to hold the position captured.
He showed throughout a supreme contempt of danger and wonderful powers of control and leading."