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Vyvyan Pope
2nd Lieut. Vyvyan Pope photographed in Cambridge in August 1914, shortly before embarking for France as the junior subaltern of the 1st Battalion, The North Staffordshire Regiment.
Born (1891-09-30)30 September 1891
Died 5 October 1941(1941-10-05) (aged 50)
Buried at Cairo War Memorial Cemetery
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Rank Lieutenant-General
Commands held 3rd Armoured Brigade
XXX Corps
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross

Lieutenant-General Vyvyan Vavasour Pope DSO MC (30 September 1891 – 5 October 1941) was a British Army Officer who briefly commanded XXX Corps during World War II.

Military career[edit | edit source]

Early life and First World War[edit | edit source]

Vyvyan Pope was born on 30 September 1891 in London, the son of James Pope, a civil servant, and his wife Blanche Holmwood (née Langdale) Pope.[1][2] He was educated at Lancing College, and was commissioned into the North Staffordshire Regiment in 1912, becoming the junior subaltern of the 1st Battalion.[3][4] He saw service in Ireland, but following the outbreak of World War I the battalion was transferred to England, and embarked for France in September 1914.[5][6] Pope remained with the battalion for most of the war, seeing action in the First Battle of Ypres, in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle (where he won the Military Cross), in two serious gas attacks in April and June 1916 (in the first of which his actions won him the Distinguished Service Order), in the Battle of the Somme, and in the Battle of Messines.[7][8] He also participated in the Christmas truce of 1914.[9][10] In June 1917, now a Captain with the acting rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, he took over command just in time to see the battalion take a prominent role in the Third Battle of Ypres.[11][12]

On 21 March 1918, the 1st Battalion was in front-line trenches near St. Quentin when the Germans launched Operation Michael, the opening attack in their Spring Offensive: there were extensive casualties, and, in a highly confused and fluid situation, Pope received a bullet wound in the right elbow.[13][14][15] By the time he reached a hospital gas gangrene had set in, and his right arm had to be amputated.[16] Every year thereafter he drank a glass of port on 21 March in memory of his fallen comrades.[17]

Following his discharge from hospital Pope attempted to find a route back into military service, but before he could do so the Armistice had been signed.[18]

Interwar years[edit | edit source]

Still anxious to pursue a military career, Pope managed to secure a position in 1919 in the North Russia Relief Force, part of the Allied intervention on the side of the White forces in the Russian Civil War.[4][19] Having reached Arkhangelsk, he took command of a Slavo-British unit largely made up of prisoners freed from Arkhangelsk prison, but the exercise was not a success.[20] On his return to Britain, and following a brief period of service with the North Staffordshire Regiment in Ireland, he transferred in April 1920 to the Royal Tank Corps.[4][21] He promptly returned to Ireland with an Armoured Car company, and saw action in the Irish War of Independence.[22] In 1922 he took command for a short period of the 3rd Armoured Car Company in Egypt, but then again returned to Britain.[23] He entered the Staff College, Camberley, in 1924, and in 1926 was appointed Brigade Major to the Royal Tank Corps Centre, Bovington, where he was at the centre of emerging ideas about the use of armour in battle.[24] He held a post as a General Staff Officer at Southern Command from 1928 to 1930, and at the War Office from 1930 to 1933.[25] In 1935, at the time of the Italo-Abyssinian War, he was posted by Brigadier Percy Hobart to Egypt, as Commander of the Royal Tank Corps there, and with a brief to promote the advantages of mechanized forces: the episode taught him valuable lessons about the challenges of operating vehicles in a desert environment.[26]

In June 1936 he was posted to the Directorate of Military Training at the War Office under Alan Brooke; and in 1938 to the General Staff of Southern Command.[27]

Second World War[edit | edit source]

On the outbreak of World War II, Pope was appointed Chief of Staff to II Corps, which had been mobilised at Salisbury under Brooke's command.[28] (Pope designed II Corps' badge of a salmon leaping over a stylised "brook", as a play on his commander's name.[29]) At the end of September 1939 the corps crossed to France to join the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). Pope went with them, but returned to England in December to take command of 3rd Armoured Brigade.[30][31] In April 1940 he was appointed Inspector of the Royal Armoured Corps, but almost immediately received a new posting as Adviser on Armoured Fighting Vehicles on General Gort's staff at BEF headquarters in France. He soon contrived to become more closely involved in the fighting, and was a prominent commander in the Allied counter-attack at Arras on 21 May, which, although it did not halt the advancing Germans, shook their confidence.[32] The BEF was now in retreat, however, and at the end of May Pope was evacuated from Dunkirk. He returned to the War Office, where he was appointed Director of Armoured Fighting Vehicles in June 1940.[4][33] While in this post he played a key role in initiating production of the A22 tank (afterwards known as the Churchill tank).

The North African Campaign was now assuming a growing importance in strategic thinking, and by the summer of 1941 a major offensive in the desert against the Germans named Operation Crusader was being planned. It was to be fought by the Eighth Army, comprising XIII Corps, an infantry corps, and XXX Corps, a predominantly armoured corps. In August 1941 Pope was appointed General Officer Commanding XXX Corps.[34] He flew out to Egypt in September and assembled a staff. However, on 5 October, en route to General Cunningham's first Eighth Army conference on the forthcoming battle, his Hudson aircraft ran into trouble on taking off from Heliopolis and crashed in the Mocattam Hills. All those on board were killed.[35]

Personal life[edit | edit source]

Pope married Sybil Moore in 1926.[36]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Lewin 1976, p. 4n.
  2. Lancing College War Memorial
  3. Lewin 1976, pp. 5, 30.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  5. Lewin 1976, pp. 5-8.
  6. Anon. 1932, pp. 1-2.
  7. Lewin 1976, pp. 10-22.
  8. Anon. 1932, pp. 7, 16-19, 25, 29-32.
  9. Lewin 1976, pp. 11-13.
  10. Anon. 1932, pp. 13-15.
  11. Lewin 1976, p. 22.
  12. Anon. 1932, pp. 52-61.
  13. Lewin 1976, pp. 23-5.
  14. Anon. 1932, pp. 70-76.
  15. Pope's detailed account of his experiences on this day is published in Middlebrook, Martin (1983). The Kaiser's Battle: 21 March 1918: the first day of the German Spring Offensive. London: Penguin. pp. 365–9. 
  16. Lewin 1976, p. 25.
  17. Middlebrook 1983, p. 369.
  18. Lewin 1976, pp. 26-7.
  19. Lewin 1976, pp. 30-31.
  20. Lewin 1976, pp. 32-40.
  21. Lewin 1976, pp. 41-3.
  22. Lewin 1976, pp. 43-51.
  23. Lewin 1976, pp. 52-7.
  24. Lewin 1976, pp. 60-75.
  25. Lewin 1976, pp. 75-80.
  26. Lewin 1976, pp. 82-92.
  27. Lewin 1976, pp. 93-101.
  28. Lewin 1976, p. 101.
  29. Lewin 1976, p. 101n.
  30. Generals.dk
  31. Lewin 1976, pp. 105-6.
  32. Lewin 1976, pp. 107-118.
  33. Lewin 1976, pp. 123-36.
  34. Lewin 1976, pp. 136-7.
  35. Lewin 1976, pp. 138-9.
  36. Lewin 1976, pp. 66-7.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Anon (1932). History of the 1st & 2nd Battalions The North Staffordshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales'), 1914–1923. Longton: Royal Press. 
  • Lewin, Ronald (1976). Man of armour: a study of Lieut-General Vyvyan Pope and the development of armoured warfare. London: Leo Cooper. 

External links[edit | edit source]

Military offices
Preceded by
New Post
GOC XXX Corps
August 1941–October 1941
Succeeded by
Willoughby Norrie

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