Born in a town named Bulawayo (translation: ‘place of killing’) in what was then known as Rhodesia, it’s perhaps no surprise that Azure copywriter Mark Pearson lists military history as one of his passions. With grandfathers seeing action during WWII in Burma and El Alamein, uncles serving in the SAS and Italian cavalry and his dad a Sergeant Major in the Rhodesian Light Infantry, Mark grew up with an abundance of war stories, powdered army-issue ‘jungle juice’ and other assorted military paraphernalia, as he describes below.
Family lounge areas were shrines to military history. Bronze-plated missiles, mortar shells, bayonets tracers, unarmed grenades, medals, the works. If you really behaved yourself, every now and then the commando knives and other weapons would come out.
Mark and his brother David before setting out on an armed convoy.
Growing up during the Rhodesian Bush War (or Zimbabwe War of Liberation), one of the pen-wielding warrior’s most vivid memories is of travelling in an armed convoy of vehicles from Rhodesia into South Africa.
Even in the late 70s, holidays were a priority. Although there was a war on, families like ours couldn’t do without their annual two-week break to seaside resorts along the Kwazulu-Natal coast. For a few hours from Fort Victoria (now Masvingo), armed Land Rovers front and rear (with two additional vehicles roving up and down the convoy length of up to 150 civilian vehicles) would escort holidaymakers to Beitbridge on the South African border. For young kids, it was all rather exciting.
Mark’s dad on active duty in Rhodesia during the late 1970s.
Although he emigrated with his wife to the UK in the late 90s, Mark’s interest in military history continued to grow, as one of his roles was editor of the Military & Aviation magazine for mail order book club, Books Direct. Living in Gloucester and Cirencester at the time meant exposure to the might of the Ancient Roman military machine, aided and abetted by nearby sites including the Corinium Museum, Chedworth Roman Villa and the Cirencester Roman Amphitheatre.
My passion for Roman military history comes from living in Gloucestershire. Evidence is everywhere, from old ruins to the protected giant Roman snails you can still find around Chedworth
In addition to Greco-Roman history, other areas of interest for the Azure writer are the American Civil War and the WWII Normandy landings, which was enhanced by a family visit in 2009 to the D-Day landing beaches in France for the annual commemoration of the June 6 landings.
Mark’s son Noah on manoeuvres in Gloucestershire.
It was great to eat oysters fresh off the beach and watch the reenactors. My sons also enjoyed talking to the veterans at Utah Beach, they were one tough generation that’s for sure.
In conclusion, we asked Mark what moments in history he would revisit, if he had a time machine.
I would definitely like to be part of Alexander’s cavalry charge into the Persian Royal Guard at the Battle of Gaugamela, stand with Leonidas’s Spartans at Thermopylae and fix bayonets with Joshua Chamberlain’s 20th Maine brigade and rush the Confederate positions at Gettysburg. Then I’d want to hop straight back into the time machine and return home in time for tea — those days were too harsh to want to live there permanently!