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Pope Harold 16th Bn AIF (1873-1938)

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    Posted: 20 Jan 2012 at 21:13

Pope, Harold (1873–1938)

by Suzanne Welborn

Life Summary


16 October 1873 
Ealing, Middlesex, England


13 May 1938
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence

Harold Pope (1873-1938), railway administrator and soldier, was born on 16 October 1873 at Ealing, Middlesex, England, son of Edward Pope, solicitor, and his wife Mary Jane, née Pope. He was raised by a nanny, educated at Thanet Lodge, Margate, and at St Saviour's College, Ardingly, Sussex, and at 16 joined the clerical staff of the Great Northern Railway. In August 1895 he arrived in Western Australia where he joined the railways. On 23 October 1896 he married Susan Matilda Slater at St John's Anglican Church, Albany. He joined the Western Australian Military Forces in July 1900 as a second lieutenant, and by 1908 he was a lieutenant-colonel.

On 13 October 1914 Pope was appointed lieutenant-colonel commanding the 16th Battalion, 4th Brigade, Australian Imperial Force. At dusk on 25 April 1915, at Gallipoli, he led part of his battalion and some New Zealanders to a vital unguarded gap, soon known as Pope's Hill. There, exposed to Turkish fire from both front and rear, the 16th began its work on Gallipoli. This included the failed 2 May attack on Bloody Angle where the unit had its numbers halved, the holding of Quinn's Post where on 29 May Pope commanded an attack, the 7 August night advance on Sari Bair and the 8 August attempt to take Hill 971. On 9-17 October Pope was temporary commander of the 4th Brigade, nominated by Brigadier General (Sir) John Monashwho held him in the highest regard. Pope was a popular figure on Gallipoli with his confident bearing, strong face and kindly eyes. In October he was evacuated to Lemnos with illness. 'No-one', he wrote after the December evacuation, 'could have hoped to have seen greater bravery and endurance in human nature than I have seen in the officers and men of the 16th'. He had been mentioned in dispatches in June and appointed C.B. in October.

In France, as temporary colonel Pope led the 14th Brigade, 5th Division, in the disastrous battle of Fromelles on 19-20 July 1916. He had written in his diary: 'Have done everything possible that I know of for tomorrow'. He directed his part of the attack which began at 6 p.m. until he received orders at 5.40 a.m. on 20 July to withdraw his brigade which was isolated and in a desperate situation. He recorded that more than 2000 of his men were either dead or wounded. At 3 p.m., exhausted, he fell into a heavy sleep. At 4.30 p.m. his divisional commander Major General (Sir) James McCay tried to waken him without success, concluded that he was drunk and next day dismissed him. Pope protested his innocence. He asked A.I.F. commander Lieutenant-General Sir William Birdwood to grant him a court-martial where he could produce witnesses to prove his sobriety but Birdwood, to avoid scandal, refused the request.

On 22 July Pope lost his rank and his brigade command. On 1 October, after he had returned to Western Australia, his A.I.F. appointment was terminated. Convinced that he could no longer live in Australia under such a cloud, he went to Melbourne to 'look to the Australian Government for justice' and the chance to fight again on the Western Front to clear his name. In November he was put in charge of the transport Hororata as a continuous service officer without pay. On arrival in England he continued to protest his innocence but found that 'M'Cay remains obstinate in his original opinion in spite of all I put before him'. Birdwood, however, acknowledged the confusion which existed about the events of 20 July. On 16 February 1917 Pope accepted Birdwood's offer to command the 52nd Battalion with his original rank of lieutenant colonel and in late March once more led men to the front line, this time as part of the 13th Brigade underMajor General (Sir) Talbot Hobbs. On 7 June Pope was seriously wounded by shrapnel in the right thigh while leading his battalion in the battle of Messines. He was mentioned in dispatches in December and in February 1918 was invalided home.

In August, at his request, Pope was appointed for transport duty on troopships. On 1 January 1919 Hobbs wrote to him: 'No man, under the circumstances, could have done more than you have done. It is nothing but sheer bad luck that has prevented you from finishing perhaps without as many decorations as many other men, but certainly there are few who enjoy more the respect and admiration of their friends than yourself'.

On 1 September 1919 Pope was appointed acting commissioner of railways in Western Australia and was confirmed in office six months later. He was commissioner in 1920-28, a period of flux within the department. After the war he was faced with substantial administrative and organizational problems which he 'attacked with verve'. For three years from 1919 the railways ran at a financial loss, mainly because of previous unsatisfactory administration, and a royal commission in 1922 largely cleared Pope of criticism levelled against him. As commissioner he introduced many reforms. He retired in October 1928 because of failing health.

In 1925-30 he was honorary colonel of the 16th Battalion and in 1926 was aide-de-camp to the governor-general. Survived by his wife, three sons and two daughters, Pope died in Perth on 13 May 1938 of heart disease and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Longmore, The Old Sixteenth (Perth, 1929)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • C. E. W. Bean, Anzac to Amiens (Canb, 1946)
  • G. Serle, John Monash (Melb, 1982)
  • Railway Gazette, Sept 1919
  • Western Mail (Perth), 3 Aug 1922, 11 Oct 1928
  • records (Australian War Memorial).

Edited by Mal Murray - 20 Jan 2012 at 21:14
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Obituary Published in  West Australian, 14 May 1938, p 22

Pope, Harold (1873–1938)

from West Australian

Colonel Harold Pope, C.B., V.D., Commissioner of Railways from 1919 to 1928, and a distinguished military commander during the Great War, died in the repatriation ward at the Perth Hospital yesterday morning at the age of 65 years. Suffering from the effects of war wounds, Colonel Pope was admitted to the ward in October last. The District Commandant (Brigadier P. M. McFarlane) when expressing the sympathy of the Military Forces to the relatives of Colonel Pope, offered to provide a military funeral, and bury the deceased with full military honours, the 16th Battalion to act as escort, this being the battalion commanded by the Colonel. The relatives expressed their sincere thanks, but intimated that it was Colonel Pope's desire that he be buried privately without military honours or floral tributes. The funeral will take place privately at the Karrakatta Cemetery today.

Born in England, Colonel Pope began his railway career in 1889, when he entered the service of the Great Northern Railway Company (England). Six years later he was appointed to a position in the locomotive branch of the West Australian Government Railways. Subsequently he was transferred to the Minister's office. In March, 1897, he was transferred to the then general manager's office and later to a position under the Commissioner of Railways when the system of control was changed in 1902.

Since his early days in the State Colonel Pope had taken an active interest in soldiering. He received his commission in the Australian Military Forces in July, 1900, and on the outbreak of the Great War was appointed to the command of the 16th Battalion of the A.I.F. He was at Gallipoli from the Landing. The gallant defence he directed of the strategically vital hill at the head of Monash Gully, on the second, third and fourth days on the peninsula, won for him and the Fourth Brigade a high reputation, while the ground they had defended—a territory that was to see some of the fiercest struggles of the campaign and before the end was to be riddled through with saps and trenches—became known as Pope's Hill.

It was during the first defence of Pope's Hill that Colonel Pope was concerned in a personal adventure. Informed of the presence of some Indian troops to the left, he sent a man to inquire with a view to effecting a junction. Word came back that the Indians wanted to see a responsible officer. He sent his adjutant and two men. Word came back that he himself was wanted, but by this the Colonel had become suspicious that something was wrong. On coming to the group of six men in Indian uniform he realised that they were not Indians but Turks in disguise. As he called out a warning, the six Turks closed around the Australians. Colonel Pope, who was near to the gully, broke through the ring of men, leaped down some 12 feet into the gully below and although fired at several times, escaped to rejoin his men. The adjutant and the other two men, on whom important papers were found, were taken prisoners to Constantinople.

Among other operations into which Colonel Pope led his men on Gallipoli were the engagements at Sari Bair. Service in Egypt and on the Sinai Peninsula followed and in 1916 he went with the 16th Battalion to Flanders, where in March he was given command of the 14th Brigade and directed it in the Battle of Fromelles of July, 1916. He returned to Australia but was afterwards appointed to the 52nd Battalion, which he led at Bullecourt and at the Battle of Messines in 1917. For his part in the operations at Messines he was twice mentioned in dispatches. He was severely wounded in the battle but continued on active service in France until 1919, after the Armistice had been signed. For his war services he was created Commander of the Bath in 1915. He was already the holder of the Volunteer Officers' Decoration.

Returning to the State in March, 1919, Colonel Pope became Acting Commissioner of Railways in the following September in succession to Mr. J. T. Short, and six months later was confirmed in office. At the conclusion of his five years' term he was reappointed for another five years but in 1928, with two years of his appointment still to run, he asked to be allowed to resign on account of failing health. His strength had been much impaired by war service. His resignation took effect in October, 1928.

The nine years during which he had charge of the Railway Department were successful ones and at his retirement the then Minister for Railways (Mr. Willcock) wrote thanking him on behalf of the Government for his services.

During his period of administration Colonel Pope frequently represented this State at meetings of the Conference of Railway Commissioners of Australia and in 1925 he was chairman of the conference. In 1924, in recognition of his railway services, he was elected a member of the Institute of Transport, London. In 1927 he paid a visit to South Africa, where he studied the operations of the railways of that country.

In private life Colonel Pope maintained his interest in returned soldiers. As a commander he had been like a father to his men, watching their interests and he was loyal to them and their ideals long after the fighting was over. His health weakened steadily after his retirement but for many years he was a familiar figure at Anzac Day parades. He was unable to take part in the last parade owing to his illness.

Colonel Pope married Miss Susan Slater in 1896 and he is survived by a widow, two daughters and three sons.

Original publication

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