Lieutenant-General Sir Rollo Pain
(Filed: 17/05/2005)

Lieutenant-General Sir Rollo Pain, who has died aged 83, won an MC in Germany in 1945 and completed a distinguished Army career with his appointment as Head of the British Defence Staff in Washington.

Pain arrived in Washington in 1975. The war in Vietnam was not long over. More than 58,000 Americans had been killed, and veterans of the campaign had returned to a bitterly divided nation.

It was an inauspicious time to be attempting to establish close relationships with the military hierarchy, but Pain's charm, talent for friendship and sheer professionalism proved equal to the task. Both British ambassadors en poste during his three-year tour held him in the highest regard.

Horace Rollo Squarey Pain was born in Cheshire on May 11 1921 and educated at Clifton. He was commissioned into the Reconnaissance Corps and won his MC in the last month of the campaign in north-west Europe.

On April 13 1945, a squadron of 53rd Reconnaissance Regiment ran into stubborn German resistance in the village of Stemmen, east of the River Weser. The squadron, in which Pain was a troop leader, withdrew at dusk and took up a position of all-round defence astride a road leading into the main axis of 53rd (Wessex) Division.

Fifteen minutes before midnight, the south-eastern sentry post opened fire and gave the alarm of an enemy attack. This very soon developed into an offensive by an enemy force about 100 strong and armed with machine guns and Panzerfausts.

Pain, then a lieutenant, moved from one position to another, regardless of his personal safety, helping to bring extra fire support to the south and east areas of the defences, where the threat was greatest. After an hour of fierce and confused fighting, the attack was beaten off and the enemy withdrew towards the village.

Pain reorganised his own position before helping the other troops with their tasks and casualties. At 2.30 am, the Germans attacked again in the same numbers, but this time from the north. Pain asked for permission to move three armoured cars to meet this new assault and then walked in front of each vehicle, despite the considerable weight of enemy fire, in order to place it in the most advantageous position.

He moved between the armoured cars, controlling their fire and, at times, was manning one of the guns himself. At 3.15 am, the Germans pulled back and did not return. The citation for Pain's award stated that he had shown the highest leadership, ceaseless energy and courage.

After the end of the war, Pain served in East Africa and British Somaliland for two years before joining 4/7th Dragoon Guards in Palestine. He commanded an armoured car squadron in the very exacting final phase of the British mandate and was mentioned in dispatches.

Attendance at Staff College, Camberley, was followed by a spell with the Military Operations Directorate at the War Office. Pain then rejoined his Regiment in BAOR. He hunted the Wessex Hounds from Fallingbostel and this provided challenging sport over the thick hedges along the Aller.

Following a number of staff appointments, Pain took command of the 4th/7th in 1962. His incisive mind, thoughtful leadership and unshakeable good humour, even in the most trying circumstances, won him great respect and affection. His pipe accompanied him wherever he went; when he took a shower it was carefully turned upside down to make sure it stayed alight.

Pain returned to the Staff College as a colonel and then commanded 5th Infantry Brigade in Borneo in the "Confrontation" with Indonesia. This was a rare distinction for a cavalryman in what was a highly specialised conflict. He was twice mentioned in dispatches.

A spell at Imperial Defence College and then BAOR as brigadier general staff, was followed by his appointment as GOC 2nd Division in BAOR. He moved to the MoD in 1972 as Director of Army Training and, in 1975, took up his final appointment in Washington. He retired from the Army in 1978.

Pain was appointed ADC to the Queen in 1969 and KCB in 1975. He was Colonel 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards from 1979 to 1983 and Colonel Commandant Military Provost Staff Corps from 1974 to 1983.

In retirement, he devoted himself to hunting with the Middleton in north Yorkshire. He and his wife made a brief appearance in the television series Brideshead Revisited.

Sir Rollo Pain died on April 14.

He married, in 1950, Denys Chaine-Nickson; she survives him, together with their son and two daughters.