During World War II, thousands of British servicemen and women risked their lives to save others. Many would go on to become legends in their own right. One extraordinary character is John Leslie Pattinson. Although he did not serve in the war himself, his actions immediately after discovering the attack on Pearl Harbor make him a natural choice for discussion.

Pattinson In Florida

Pattinson was living in Florida in December 1940 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He was staying at the South Florida Yacht & Country Club, whose members included some of the wealthiest individuals in the United States. Amidst the chaos, he decided to take the most prudent course of action and return to a safe place. He bought a car and road atlas, and drove north. He passed through Canada and the United States, finally reaching his home in London in the summer of 1941.

Pattinson Saves A Life

While exploring an Irish village with his atlas, Pattinson came across a life-threatening situation. An elderly Irish gentleman named Brady had apparently fallen down a well. When Pattinson found him, Brady was barely breathing and had no pulse. Thinking he was dead, the Briton drew a rope with a noose around his neck and prepared to throw it over a branch. Suddenly, Brady’s eyelids flickered, prompting Pattinson to undo his makeshift noose. The elderly man thanked him profusely for his rescue, and reciprocated by offering him a meal and a night’s lodging. The next day, Pattinson continued his journey to find a doctor, who could determine if Brady was indeed dead or alive. As it turned out, Brady was neither. He had merely fainted, and was eventually able to walk again.

Bravery And Generosity

Upon reaching his family in London, Pattinson learned that his parents, younger brother, and fiancee were dead, and that his house in Florida had been completely destroyed. Fortunately, he was able to send a proxy to his family’s funeral, and to retrieve his belongings from Florida. He then decided to travel to Canada, where he could be near his ancestral home, and establish himself as a lumberjack. During his stay in Canada, he worked tirelessly cutting down trees and hauling them to a mill. He spent little on himself during this time, and relied upon his wits and courage for his existence. One day, he was cutting down a particularly large tree and felt a sharp pain in his chest. He reached for his knife, which had slipped from its sheath and embedded itself in his chest. The blade had torn through his clothing and pierced his skin. Terrified that he was going to die, he frantically tried to remove the knife, while continuing to feel excruciating pain. In the end, it was his incredible strength and agility that saved his life. He would eventually require over a hundred stitches, but was determined to continue working. On a whim, he felled another tree, and upon removing his shirt, noticed that the wound had stopped bleeding. Astonished by this, he took his shirt off again, and again, found that he was no longer bleeding. Eventually, with the help of an English doctor, he was able to deduce that he was in fact, immune to any disease or infection. This, of course, is not what ultimately saved his life, as he was to discover later, that he was also, in fact, blessed with immunity to cancer.

Pattinson Breaks Bad News

In the summer of 1944, Pattinson learned that his brother, Jack, had been killed in action. He was devastated, but grateful that he would live. Upon hearing the news, his doctor warned him that the constant state of worry and grief was taking a heavy toll on his health. To his surprise, Pattinson found that he did not care, and that he was ready to fight. That fall, he volunteered for service in the British Army, and was eventually assigned to the Intelligence Corps. His doctor warned him that he was in grave danger of contracting tuberculosis. In order to avoid this, he began taking a drug called Isoniazid, also known as INH. He would later develop a resistance to this drug, and would thus be unable to take it for the rest of his life. His doctors then changed his medication to one more effective against tuberculosis. This new drug, however, also had severe side effects. He began experiencing serious headaches, and gained weight rapidly. The following year, his condition deteriorated to such a point where he could no longer work. He then underwent gastric banding surgery, which was highly effective in allowing him to eat what he wanted, when he wanted it. The last fourteen years of his life were spent in complete seclusion, caring for himself and occasionally receiving visitors.

Pattinson was a loving husband and father. He was also a doting uncle, who took care of his nieces and nephews, as well as his friends’ kids. He would often drive his jeep to work, and had countless stories about his adventures during the war. He was a kind, gentle man, who believed that everyone was good inside. The British government acknowledged his services to the country by awarding him the British Empire Medal, as well as a pension. He died in 1960 at the age of sixty-one.

If you know the name John Leslie Pattinson, and would like to share your story with us, please contact us at editorial@grandparenting.com.au.