Bruce Burrell, GG’75

It came as a great shock to all his friends to learn that 2nd Lieutenant Bruce Burrell had been killed in action on 16th December 1976, at the age of 19.  He had been returning from Mozambique on operations with C Sqdn, the Special Air Service, on a combined SAS/RLI attack on a camp at Rambanayi, a few kilometres from the Rhodesian border.  He and another SAS Trooper were killed when they detonated a landmine on the walk out.

Bruce left Falcon at the end of 1975 after a most distinguished school career. At the time of his death he was undergoing his National Service and had recently been commissioned in the SAS, and was due to embark on his university studies in February.

His talents were extraordinarily versatile. As a sportsman he captained the Falcon, Matabeleland Schools and Rhodesian Schools at rugby and also represented all three at squash. He was always superbly fit and tireless in his games, and completely free from any display of temperament. Indeed, it was his example of sportsmanship as much as his prowess that earned him deserved adulation from his contemporaries. Less obvious, perhaps, because they were less well known were his other talents: he was gifted academically, with that kind of critical perception that led him to write admirable verse and give an intelligent performance on the stage. With all these talents he was a natural leader, completely straightforward and highly respected, and it would have been surprising if he had not proved to be Falcon’s next Rhodes Scholar.

Additionally, he was Head of George Grey inn 1975 and won the Governor’s Trophy in that year.  Bruce’s all-round talents were no surprise to those who had known him at his junior school, Springvale, where he won colours for rugby and athletics and was Captain of Hudson House and Head Chorister in 1970 (at a school with a very strong choral tradition). His acting talents were also already in evidence at Springvale, where he gave a memorable performance as Feste in Twelfth Night. As if to herald his winning of the Governor’s Trophy at Falcon, in his last year at Springvale he won the Special Prize for Outstanding Service to the School in Many Spheres.

The loss of such an attractive and gifted young man is the sort of event that brings home sharply and painfully the tragedy of the situation in Rhodesia at that time. His military funeral in Salisbury was attended by a large number of his contemporaries, among whom he was so popular and respected.  We would offer our deepest sympathy to his parents and his sister, who were justly proud of him.

From The Falcon – with other information added from “The Elite” by Barbara Cole, and from the Springvale Magazine of 1969 and 1970.



2nd Lieutenant Bruce Burrell, of C Squadron, the Special Air Service, was killed by a suspected boosted AP mine when returning from Rambanayi, Zonue Road Bridge, Manica Province, Mozambique. Bruce stepped on a mine that killed both him and Trooper Ens van Staden. Died aged 19. Buried at Warren Hills, Salisbury. The original Death Notice gives death as gunshot wounds, in the Burma Valley area.

Source: Dave Arkwright who was there at the time.

Text Credit: derived from Rhodesian Combined Forces Roll of Honour, kindly provided by Gerry van Tonder, one of its co-authors

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4 Responses to Bruce Burrell, GG’75

  • I will never forget Bruce Burrell. I was a 2nd year in George Grey. Everyone looked up to Burrell. He was gifted in many ways . But for me he he was a role model (perhaps the only other role model that I can admit to other than my father). He showed respect for other people and was able to show fairness, kindness and authority over those injustices that went on in the House. He also encouraged me in my swimming and academics which I ended up excelling in. When I heard many years later that he had been killed in action I was extremely saddened.

    The FOB bond is with us all and the tragedy in Zimbabwe lives on.
    After all these years, the pain still exists.
    All the best my friend.

    Peter de Groot, George Grey 1974-76

  • It was such a sad day when we heard of Bruce’s tragic demise – he was such a hero to all of my mates and myself. Trevor Jones of Hervey was an amateur tattooist and he tattooed a rather poor SAS dagger on me, James Hughes, Richard Annesley and someone else who I forget with a bottle of quink and a safety pin. Everytime I see it, I remember the legendary Bruce Burrell.
    It was a harsh lesson in life when one so talented in so many facets had the revolting misfortune to be marching behind a guy who stood on a booby-trapped ap mine..
    Go well Bruce.
    Jeremy Cochrane, Founders 1975-1980

  • I joined Falcon in 1975 and Bruce was the head of my house, GG. When you are 13 years old and new to a place, settling down can be difficult especially when you join one term in as I did. You quickly search for anchors and although I never ever spoke to Bruce I to this very day have never forgotten him. He was kind, mature, confident and had this aura about him that easily made him a “juniors” hero. I often speak about him and his tragic passing to my children and they are always mesmerised by his story and how he impacted my life, and how such a talented individual could be so easily taken from us. He was an inspiration to me and actually framed the person that I am today. To know that I owe so much to someone that I knew but never had the privilege of knowing is strange to me, but I am sure those that ever met Bruce, even fleetingly, will know exactly what I mean.
    Thank you Bruce Burrell
    Chris Gateley, GG 1975 – 1979

  • ~I was a couple of years older than Bruce, but knew him well by the time I let. He asked me to teach him guitar, and we came to know each other through this experience.

    I believe, as Head of George Grey, he did not tolerate bullying and stood up for those who were subjected to such standard Falcon behaviour.

    An extraordinary person who is not forgotten all these 40 years later.

    Julian Pellatt, Hervey, 1969-1973

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