CJ Pearce


Chris (“Dumpie”) Pearce passed away peacefully on Monday 26th September 2022 in the United Kingdom after a lengthy illness.

Educated in Kenya and the King William School, Isle of Man, Chris Pearce moved to Rhodesia with his family. Shortly after UDI, he joined the Rhodesian Army and was Commissioned into the Rhodesian Light Infantry as a Second Lieutenant at the School of Infantry in Gwelo from Officer Cadet Course Inf 8/9 on 16th December 1966. He was quick to make his mark as an outstanding leader in his new unit, just as the Bush War intensified. Commanding 13 Troop of 3 Commando he led his men in a series of actions between March and July 1968 for which he was later awarded the Bronze Cross of Rhodesia. The citation not only recognised his outstanding leadership and personal gallantry, but also the standard of training, and excellent team spirit he engendered in his troops.

Chris Pearce continued to exhibit these personal qualities through his military service.   In 1978 he was selected as one of only three Rhodesian Army Officers to attend the Command Staff College Course in Voortrekkerhoogte, South Africa, and then promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel to command the Grey’s Scouts in January 1979. The Grey’s Scouts, a mounted infantry unit of the Rhodesian Army and classed as “Army Troops – Special Forces”, was commanded centrally from Rhodesia’s Combined Operations Headquarters. His arrival in the unit was to herald yet another period of unprecedented growth in operational commitment as the Bush War escalated. This brought with it the attendant demands of logistics and manpower at a time when both were in increasingly short supply. His leadership, judgement and political acuity did much to win the resources needed to hone the unit into the fine combat unit it became. At the unit level, his skill in melding National Service, Territorial Army, Regular Army, male, female, black and white soldiers reflected an ability to ‘connect’ that endeared him to his troops. It was testament to this leadership that the Grey’s Scouts remained intact and operationally effective until  formal demobilisation was completed.

Command of a Mounted Infantry Unit requires the Commanding Officer to be at least proficient in the saddle. Chris Pearce was not, however, a natural horseman! Despite many hours of training and practice in the Unit Riding School, it was eventually determined he be allocated the most docile horse in the unit (“Ganges”) who was trotted (walked) out on ceremonial occasions where he would stand in one place for as long as necessary.

Following Independence in 1981, Chris left Zimbabwe for a career in defence procurement. He brought his experience of Rhodesia’s Bush War to bear in helping develop innovative solutions for mine awareness, playing a leading role globally in developing International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) and making a significant contribution to commercial and NGO mine clearance operations. He retired in April 2018, settling in the United Kingdom. 

Chris Pearce’s fine judgement extended beyond his military duty. He was especially proud to have met Azalee (Azi) Bruford in 1971, and to have married her in February 1972, in Salisbury.

Short of stature but big in heart, Chris Pearce will be remembered as a true gentleman, quick-witted with a wonderful sense of humour and always willing to lend a hand. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.  

The Rhodesian Army Association extends its deepest condolences to his widow Azi, daughter Angie, son Michael, grand-children Matthew and Abigail and his extended family members. 

Written by Jerry Strong, Pat Lawless, and Mike Wilson on behalf of the Rhodesian Army Association.