Colonel Harold Pope

16 October 1873 - 13 May 1938

AWM Negative Number: G01327 Caption: 1915; Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. 1915. Right to left: Captain P. Fiaschi of Australian Army Medical Corps, Colonel Glasgow of 1st Light Horse Brigade and Major H. Pope of 16th Battalion, at Destroyer Hill. Photographer: Bean, Charles Edwin Woodrow 1915

Harold Pope was born in Ealing, Middlesex, England on 16 October 1873, the son of a solicitor. He was educated at Thanet Lodge, Margate, and St Savior's College, Ardingly, Sussex. At age 16 he joined the Great Northern railway as a clerk. He emigrated to Western Australia in 1895 where he joined the railways.

Pope was commissioned into the Western Australian Military Forces as a second lieutenant in July 1900. He was rapidly promoted and became a lieutenant colonel on 13 March 1908.

Pope joined the AIF on 17 September 1914 as commander of the 16th Infantry Battalion, a Western Australia battalion of Colonel J. Monash's 4th Infantry Brigade. The battalion departed Melbourne for Egypt on 22 December 1914 where it trained until called forward for service at Gallipoli.

Pope arrived at Anzac on the evening of 25 April 1915 and was ordered by Major General A. J. Godley, commander of the New Zealand and Australian Division, of which Pope's battalion was a part, to take a mixed column of Australians and New Zealanders to support the 3rd Brigade. Pope himself undertook to lead the column. In the dark they filed up Monash Valley until they reached the fork at the end. Pope reconnoitred the hill mass in front of him and found that although there was rifle fire all round, the hill and Russell's Top to its left were almost unoccupied. Pope therefore occupied the hill, which he realised was a vital, unguarded gap, and which henceforth bore his name. From here, exposed to fire from three sides Pope's men dug in while his machine guns kept the Turks out of Monash Valley. Pope's machine gunners were a remarkable group that included Lance Corporal P. C. H. Black, who held the record for setting up a maxim gun (13.4 seconds) and later became a major before being killed at Bullecourt, and his number two, Private H. W. Murray, who later became a lieutenant colonel and won the Victoria Cross at Stormy Trench in 1917.

When the Turks broke into Quinn's Post on 29 May 1915 and the acting post commander, Lieutenant Colonel G. J. Burnage, was seriously wounded, Pope was sent forward to take command by Colonel H. G. Chauvel, who had orders from Godley to recapture the position at all costs. Pope ordered his reserve companies, Major H. Quinn's of the 15th Battalion and Major S. C. E. Herring's of the 13th to make a counterattack, which he fully expected would be extremely costly. Quinn went to Pope several times for the charge to be delayed but eventually further postponement was refused. Then Quinn was killed while reconnoitring the position, causing another delay. Just as Herring was about to order the charge, there was a sudden burst of enemy fire, which abruptly almost ceased. Herring gave the word and his men charged across the open and made it practically unscathed, their attack having coincided with a Turkish one on another part of the post and the Turkish machine gunners could not shoot without hitting their own men. The remaining Turks in the post eventually surrendered.

In the advance on the Sari Bair range on 7 August 1915, Pope once again found himself leading a night march and confronting an uncertain position. Mistakenly identifying the spur he was on as Abdel Rahman, the assembly point for the proposed attack on Hill 971 and convinced that his exhausted men could go no further, he ordered the 15th and 16th battalions to dig in. This left the 4th Brigade about half a mile short of Abdel Rahman, which itself was some three quarters of a mile from Hill 971, its objective. The brigade made a second attempt on 8 August but the battle bogged down in an attempt to take Abdel Raman. Pope got in contact with Monash by telephone and recommended a withdrawal, which was agreed to. Pope's machine gunners set up on either side of the indentation in which Pope had his headquarters, and were able to cover the withdrawal.

Pope was acting commander of the 4th Brigade in Monash's absence, and on his recommendation, from 9 October 1915 until he was evacuated sick on 17 October 1917. For his services at Gallipoli, Pope was mentioned in dispatches in June and appointed a Companion of the Bath (CB) in October.

On 1 May 1916, Pope took over command of the 14th Infantry Brigade, replacing Brigadier General G. G. H. Irving, who had been relieved by the 5th Division's commander, Major General J. W. McCay. On 19 July 1916, the brigade was engaged in the Battle of Fromelles, a battle botched by the high command, in which the 5th Division lost 5,533 men on one night. After the battle, Pope fell exhausted into a heavy sleep at around 3pm. At 4:30pm, Major General J. W. McCay tried unsuccessfully to awaken him, concluded that he was drunk and dismissed him. Pope asked Lieutenant General W. R. Birdwood to grant him a court martial, but Birdwood refused, as it would draw attention to a battle that the high command wanted forgotten.

Pope returned to Australia with his substantive rank of lieutenant colonel, where his appointment to the AIF was terminated on 1 October 1916. Pope was determined to clear his name, and in November had himself appointed to the Sea Transport Service, travelling back to the United Kingdom in charge of the transport Hororata. There he met with McCay and Birdwood, who gave him a second chance. Pope assumed command of the 52nd Infantry Battalion of Brigadier General T. W. Glasgow's 13th Infantry Brigade on 16 February 1917.

Pope managed to gain the confidence of the battalion and its staff, not always an easy thing to do. Then during the Battle of Messines on 7 June 1917, Pope was caught in a sudden barrage of heavy shells and his right thigh was broken. He was evacuated to England, and then invalided home to Australia in February 1918. For his command of the 52nd Battalion, Pope was mentioned in dispatches in December. On 21 August 1918, Pope again got himself appointed to transport duty on troop ships. He returned to Australia for the last time on 4 January 1919.

On 1 September 1919, Pope became acting commissioner of railways in Western Australia and was confirmed in office six months later. Due to the railways operating at a huge financial loss, he was investigated by a Royal Commission in 1922, which cleared him of blame. Pope remained commissioner until he retired in 1928 due to failing health.

Pope was honorary colonel of the 16th Battalion from 1925 to 1930, and aide de camp to the Governor General in 1926. He died in Perth on 13 May 1938 and was buried at Karrakatta Cemetery.

Sources: Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1899-1939, Vol 11, pp. 260-261; Bean, C. E. W., The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918. Volume I: The Story of Anzac, pp. 468-469, 594-598, Volume II: The Story of Anzac, pp. 212-222, 590-594, 660-662, Volume IV, p. 606

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Last update 8 June 2010