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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.

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'Pope, Harold (1873–1938)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/pope-harold-8079/text25478, accessed 21 November 2017.

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