Obituary: Major General Ronald Pearson, veteran army dentist and former dental surgeon to the Queen

Born: 25 February, 1925, in Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire. Died: 14 December, 2011, in Crieff, Perthshire, aged 86

WHEN he decided to become a dentist Ronnie Pearson was following in the footsteps of three uncles.

Little could he have known then that he would also step into the shoes of one of them who had become Honorary Dental Surgeon to the Queen (QHDS). It was the apex of a career that took Pearson from wartime cadet to director of Army Dental Services at the Ministry of Defence via service in Europe and Africa.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Born in Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire, his father was Dr John Pearson, a village GP who had served on hospital ships in the Royal Army Medical Corps in the Middle East during the Great War. Educated at Clifton Hall Preparatory School, Ratho, young Pearson was only 12 when his mother Sheila died.

His father went on to remarry three years later and Pearson attended Glasgow Academy, then Glasgow Dental Hospital and School followed by Glasgow University. He qualified with his Licence in Dental Surgery from the Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow in 1948.

He had been an officer in the Army Cadet Force in Stirlingshire while he studied during the Second World War and, in February 1949, he joined the army. Three of his uncles were dentists and he was locum to one, a civilian dentist in Glasgow, for a while. Two others served in the Army Dental Corps and one of them, Colonel William Pearson, was appointed Honorary Dental Surgeon to both the King and Queen.

His nephew, who would take on the role of QHDS with great pride in 1978, meanwhile served until 1953 in West Africa, with the Royal West African Frontier Force, where he travelled the country on his much-loved motorbike. He went on to serve in a variety of locations in the UK, with the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) and in Cyprus.

He was CO of Army Dental Centres in Cyprus and of No 1 Dental Group Group BAOR as well as an instructor at the Royal Army Dental Corps HQ and training centre.

In 1972 he became CO of No 8 Dental Group in Scotland, taking on the same role three years later at No 4 Dental Group, south-east England.

Promoted to deputy director of Dental Services, United Kingdom Land Forces, in 1976, he remained there for two years before holding the same post with the BAOR from 1978-1982, during which time he became a Fellow of the British Institute of Management.

Already made an MBE in 1959, he was appointed CStJ (Commander of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem) in 1983 and CB (Companion of the Order of the Bath) in 1985, the same year he retired as director of Army Dental Services, a job he had held for three years. 1985 also marked the end of his tenure as the QHDS and his retiral, upon which he was honoured with a specially-composed pipe tune Farewell To The General, which was also played at his funeral.

Throughout his career he was supported by his wife, Eileen, an orthoptist whom he married in Loanhead, Midlothian, in 1956. During his days in the forces, they worked as a team to safeguard the welfare of all of those under his command, and their families, and continued that ethos of contributing to the care of others in their retirement.

He embraced the era of retirement with enthusiasm. At their home in Crieff, he got involved in community life as soon as possible. He drove “Bertie the Bus” for a local charity for the elderly, fundraised for the church and the Order of St John, among others, and joined many clubs including the National Geographic Society and the local music and film societies.

Having been a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists since the 1960s, he was passionate about driving and enjoyed many family holidays caravanning and camping across the UK and Europe. He was chairman of the Services Caravan Club in Germany for several years, during which time he attended and organised many caravan rallies, and was awarded life membership of the club when he stepped down from the post.

He later enjoyed caravanning – once the vans had been altered to meet his particular requirements and attention to detail – and latterly favoured cruises.

Other interests included gardening, where every army quarter presented a fresh challenge to him. His thoroughness there, as in everything he approached, once earned him a prize for garden design. At Crieff he spent endless hours designing and creating a beautiful garden and also enjoyed trout fishing, DIY and photography.

Always busy and well organised, he was as loyal in his army service as he was devoted, generous and proud of his family – a man who epitomised the virtue of living life to the full. He is survived by his wife, Eileen, daughters Carol and Shirley and three grandchildren.

ALISON SHAW