Pasley was a military engineer, born at Chatham, England. He was educated at the King’s Grammar School, Rochester, and from 1840 the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, he was commissioned in the Royal Engineers on 20 December 1843. He served in Britain until 1846, in Canada and then in Bermuda whence he returned to England because of sickness. From early 1851 he was on the staff of the Great Exhibition. In April 1853 he was appointed colonial engineer of Victoria. His department, hitherto undermanned and demoralized, soon busied itself with port improvements and with the building of barracks, court-houses and offices throughout the settled districts.
When later that year unrest increased on the Ballarat goldfield, Pasley had no doubt that the situation was serious and offered his services to the commander-in-chief. On 28 November he reached the camp at Ballarat and took up duty as aide-de-camp to Captain Thomas of the 40th Regiment. He fully agreed with the firm measures taken by the authorities to bring matters to a head. In the assault on the Eureka stockade on 3 December Pasley commanded the skirmishers in the centre; after the place had been captured he was active in restraining soldiers from taking reprisals on the prisoners. On 28 November, 1855 he was appointed commissioner of public works.
In Taranaki Pasley soon found himself employed as an engineer. In the attack on one of the Maori forts on the Kaihihi River on 11 October he was emplacing a heavy gun when the enemy opened a fusillade from concealed positions and he was severely wounded in the thigh. He was invalided to Melbourne in November. For his work in New Zealand he was promoted brevet major and mentioned in dispatches. His convalescence was prolonged but on 29 May 1861, after receiving many tributes, he sailed for England. Rejoining his corps, Pasley was appointed commanding engineer at Gravesend. In 1864 he succeeded his former colleague, Major Andrew Clarke, as special agent for Victoria. Pasley dealt not only with land armaments but with the equipment of H.M.V.S. Nelson, and with the design, construction and armament of the turret-ship Cerberus and its dispatch to Victoria. He filled this appointment for four years.
In October 1865 Pasley became superintendent engineer of the naval dockyard at Chatham, which was about to undergo a major extension. He managed this project for eight years. In September 1873 he succeeded Clarke as director of works at the Admiralty. He held this office until September 1882 and was responsible for such important works as the entrance locks at Chatham Yard, dry docks at Devonport and Haulbowline, and the barracks and the Naval Engineering School at Keyham. In 1874 he was elected an associate member of the Council of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He retained his connections with Victoria, and in July 1879 was appointed a commissioner for the Melbourne International Exhibition. In 1880-82 he acted as Victoria’s agent-general and chairman of the Board of Advice in London. He was appointed a civil C.B. in April 1880, and in August 1881 on his retirement from the army he was promoted major-general.
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