Pawsey was born on 14 July 1894. He was educated at Berkhamsted School and Wadham College, Oxford where he graduated with a BA. He was commissioned into the Worcestershire Regiment in 1914 and won the Military Cross as a second lieutenant (temporary Lieutenant) in 1916 and bar as a second lieutenant (temporary Captain) the next year. He was promoted captain in 1917 and relinquished his Territorial Army commission on 30 September 1921.
Pawsey joined the Indian Civil Service (ICS) in 1919. He was appointed Assistant Commissioner in Assam in 1919, becoming Director of Land Records in 1932. He was made a Deputy Commissioner in 1935 and was District Commissioner (D.C.), Naga Hills during the Burma campaigns of 1942 to 1944. Pawsey's bungalow and tennis court were the place where the British Fourteenth Army finally turned the tide of the war against the Japanese during the Burma Campaign of World War II at the Battle of Kohima. The part of this battle centred on his bungalow was known as the Battle of the Tennis Court. Showing great bravery and loyalty to the local Naga people, Pawsey refused to leave Kohima during the siege by the Japanese that lasted from 5 April to 20 April 1944, and did what he could to bolster morale and support Colonel Richards the garrison commander. The Nagas remained completely loyal to him and by way of thanks their tribal leaders were introduced to Lord Mountbatten at Kohima in August 1944.
Prior to his return to Britain following India's independence, Pawsey wrote in the Naga Nation, underlining that autonomy within the Indian Union was the more prudent course to follow. For, "Independence will mean: tribal warfare, no hospitals, no schools, no salt, no trade with the plains and general unhappiness". He was knighted on 14 August 1947,[a] and he retired 1948. In his later years he lived at The Priory, Badingham, Woodbridge, Suffolk until his death on 21 July 1972.
- Anonymous (1981), Who was who 1971–1980: A Companion to Who's Who Containing the Biographies of Those Who Died During the Decade 1971-1980, 7, A. & C. Black, p. page 612
- Brown, Chris (2013), Battle Story Kohima 1944 (illustrated ed.), The History Press, p. 8, ISBN 9780752493947
- CSAS staff (6 September 2013), Centre of South Asian Studies: Archive: Handlist of papers: P: Pawsey Papers, Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge University, archived from the original on 23 February 2015, retrieved 15 February 2015
- "No. 29438". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 January 1916. p. 589.
- "No. 30135". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 1917. p. 5983.
- "No. 32537". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 January 1922. p. 348.
- "No. 38161". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1947. p. 3.
- Guha, Ramachandra (2007), India After Gandhi, London: Pan Macmillan, pp. 269–278, ISBN 978-0-330-50554-3
- Kelly's staff (1969), Kelly's Handbook to the Titled, Landed and Official Classes, 95, Kelly's Directories, p. 1547
- Lyman, Robert (2010), Kohima 1944: The battle that saved India, Oxford: Osprey, pp. 57, 91, ISBN 978-1-84603-939-3