b. 05/03/1883 London. d. 15/04/1917 Louverval, France.
Charles Pope (1883-1917) was born on 5th March 1883 at 21 Morrison Buildings, Mile End Old Town, East London. His father, William, born at Stapleford Abbotts, Essex in 1853. His mother, Jane nee Clark, and married William in 1878 in Poplar, London. William was a police constable. Sadly, Jane died in 1888, when Charles was five, and his father re-married to Sarah Ann Barkwith nee Swaine in 1897 in Billericay, Essex. She was a widow and had three previous children. Charles had four siblings in all. One of his brothers, John, was killed in action in April 1918.
When his mother died, Charles was sent to live with his paternal grandparents in 1891 at Sabine Green, Navestock, Essex. He was educated there and on 24th April 1899 he enlisted in the Royal Marine Artillery, adding a year to his age. He served aboard HMS Renown from 30th October 1900 – 13th April 1904 and was discharged on 3rd June. He emigrated to Canada soon after leaving the Royal Marines and was employed by the Canadian Pacific Railways. He returned to London in 1906 and joined the Chelsea Division of the Metropolitan Police Force.
On 13th December 1906 Charles Pope married Edith Mary nee Smith at St Luke’s Anglican Church, Chelsea, London. After emigrating to Australia they lived at various addressees in Perth, Western Australia and took with them their two children – Edith Maude (born 1907) and Charles William (born 1909). Charles had resigned from the Police, and on arrival in Australia, became a furniture salesman for Blain & Co, Perth. He then worked for the Temperance & General Insurance Co, Perth. He enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force in Perth on 25th August 1915 and was posted to Blackboy Hill, Greenmount, Perth. He was promoted through the ranks to Sergeant and was commissioned on 10th February 1916.
On 15th July 1916 he embarked on HMAT A31 Ajana at Fremantle with 18th Reinforcement Group for 11th Battalion. He arrived in Plymouth on 1st September and joined 3rd Training Battalion at Perham Down on Salisbury Plain. He left Southampton for Le Havre on 7th December and was posted to A Company, 11th Battalion on 10th December. He was then promoted to Lieutenant on Boxing Day 1916.
On 15th April 1917 at Louveral, France, Lieutenant Pope was in command of a very important picquet post, with orders to hold it at all costs. The enemy in greatly superior numbers attacked and surrounded the post and ammunition was running short. Lieutenant Pope, in a desperate bid to save the position, was seen to charge with his men into the very superior enemy force, by which they were overpowered, although heavy losses were inflicted. This gallant officer had obeyed the order to hold out to the last and his body, with those of most of his men, was found in proximity to 80 enemy dead.
Charles was originally buried where he fell. His body was exhumed after the war and interred in Moeuvres Communal Cemetery Extension, France. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. The VC was presented to his widow by Sir Ronald Craufurd Munro-Ferguson GCMG, Governor General of Australia, at a parade at Karrakatta Camp, Perth on 23rd November 1917. His medals are held by the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. He was the only officer of the Metropolitan Police to be awarded the VC in the Great War, and the Commissioner, Sir John Stevens, laid a wreath at his grave in 2001.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA.
BURIAL PLACE: MOEUVRES CEMETERY, MOEUVRES, FRANCE.
PLOT V, ROW D, GRAVE 22
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map
Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Image of the Pope VC Medal Group at Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
Gary Richardson – Image of the Pope VC Memorial in King’s Park, Perth.