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Lieutenant General Vyvyan Vavasour Pope CBE DSO MC & Bar (30 September 1891 – 5 October 1941) was a senior British Army officer who was prominent in developing ideas about the use of armour in battle in the interwar years, and who briefly commanded XXX Corps during World War II, before being killed in an air crash.

Vyvyan Pope
Vyvyan V. Pope 1914.jpg
Second Lieutenant Vyvyan Pope photographed in Cambridge in August 1914, shortly before embarking for France as the junior subaltern of the 1st Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment.
Born(1891-09-30)30 September 1891
Died5 October 1941(1941-10-05) (aged 50)
Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Cairo, Egypt
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service1911–1941
RankLieutenant General
Service number5475
UnitNorth Staffordshire Regiment
Royal Tank Regiment
Commands held1st Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment
3rd Armoured Brigade
XXX Corps
Battles/warsFirst World War
Anglo Irish War
Second World War
AwardsCommander of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Service Order
MC and Bar
Mentioned in despatches


Early life and educationEdit

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 Ascham St Vincent's School, an all-boys preparatory school in Eastbourne, Sussex, and then at Lancing College, an all-boys boarding independent school in Lancing, Sussex. He was at Lancing from September 1906 to December 1910, and was a member of the school's football team and its Officer Training Corps (where he reached the rank of sergeant). He was a member of Seconds House and he served as house captain in 1910.[3][4]

Military careerEdit

Early military careerEdit

On 8 March 1911, Pope was commissioned as a second lieutenant (on probation) in the 4th Battalion, Prince of Wales's (North Staffordshire Regiment), as part of the Special Reserve of the British Army. The Special Reserve were volunteer reservists (i.e. part-time soldiers) who had not previously served in the military.[5] His commission and rank were confirmed on 24 October 1911.[3] In October 1912, he sat and passed the Competitive Examination of Officers of the Special Reserve, Militia, and Territorial Forces.[3]

Pope was now eligible to transfer from the reserves to the regular army, and made the move on 4 December 1912.[6] He became the junior subaltern of the 1st Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment, then serving as part of the 17th Brigade of the 6th Division. During this period, he saw service in Ireland.[7][8]

First World WarEdit

Following the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 the battalion was transferred to England, and embarked for the Western Front the following month.[9][10] 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 the two serious gas attacks at Wulverghem 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.[11][12][4] He also participated in the Christmas truce of 1914.[13][14] In June 1917, having returned from being wounded for the second time at Messines, and now a captain with the acting rank of lieutenant colonel, he took over command of 1/North Staffs just in time to see the battalion, now serving as part of the 72nd Brigade of the 24th Division, take a prominent role in the Third Battle of Ypres.[15][16][17]

Second Lieutenant Bernard Martin of D Company, 1st Battalion, North Staffs would later write that, some days before the 31 July 1917 attack on Jehovah and Jordan Trenches near Zandvoorde, Pope had ordered, to the surprise of his officers, that the attacking lines were "not to charge at the double across No-Man's-Land as in the old tactics, but to walk at a steady pace towards Jehovah". Under orders from High Command, the battalion was able to "charge" only after taking Jordan Trench.[18] Starting the day with an estimated 550 rifles, the battalion lost 50% of their attacking force: 4 officers killed and 7 wounded, 38 other ranks killed and 210 wounded, and 10 missing presumed killed.[19]

On 21 March 1918, the 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.[20][21][a] By the time he reached a hospital gas gangrene had set in, and his right arm had to be amputated.[22][4] Every year thereafter he drank a glass of port on 21 March in memory of his fallen comrades.[23]

Following his discharge from hospital Pope attempted to find a route back into military service, but before he could do so the Armistice with Germany had been signed.[24]

Between the warsEdit

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.[8][25] 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.[26][4]

On his return to Britain, and following a brief period of service with the 2nd Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment in Ireland, he transferred in April 1920 to the Royal Tank Corps (RTC).[8][27] He promptly returned to Ireland with an armoured car company and saw action in the Irish War of Independence.[28] In 1922 he took command for a short period of the 3rd Armoured Car Company in Egypt, but then again returned to Britain.[29]

He attended the Staff College, Camberley from 1924 to 1925, and served alongside numerous future general officers, most notably Humfrey Gale, Archibald Nye, Ivor Thomas, Willoughby Norrie, Thomas Riddell-Webster, Reade Godwin-Austen, Noel Irwin, Noel Beresford-Peirse, Michael Creagh, Geoffrey Raikes, Thomas Riddell-Webster, Daril Watson and Douglas Graham.[4] In 1926 he 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.[30] He held a post as a General Staff Officer (GSO) at Southern Command from 1928 to 1930 and at the War Office from 1930 to 1933;[31] and attended the Imperial Defence College in 1934.[4][32] 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 mechanised forces: the episode taught him valuable lessons about the challenges of operating vehicles in a desert environment.[33]

In June 1936 he was posted to the Directorate of Military Training at the War Office under a former Staff College instructor, Alan Brooke; and in 1938 to the General Staff of Southern Command.[34]

Second World WarEdit

On the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Pope was appointed Chief of Staff to II Corps, which had been mobilised at Salisbury under Brooke's command.[35] (Pope designed II Corps' badge of a salmon leaping over a stylised "brook", as a play on his commander's name.)[36] At the end of September 1939 the corps crossed to France to join the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).[32] Pope went with them, but returned to England in December to take command of the 3rd Armoured Brigade, part of Major General Roger Evans's 1st Armoured Division.[37][38][32] In April 1940, he was appointed Inspector of the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC).[39] He was then posted as Adviser on Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV) on General Lord 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.[39][40]

The BEF was forced to retreat and, at the end of May, Pope was evacuated from Dunkirk.[40] He returned to the War Office, where he was appointed Director of Armoured Fighting Vehicles in June 1940.[8][41] While in this post he played a key role in initiating production of the A22 tank (afterwards known as the Churchill tank).[40]

The Western Desert Campaign now assumed 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 newly created British Eighth Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Alan Cunningham, comprising XIII Corps, an infantry corps, and XXX Corps, a predominantly armoured corps. In August 1941 Pope was appointed General Officer Commanding (GOC) of XXX Corps.[42] He flew to Egypt in September and assembled a staff, but on 5 October, en route to Lieutenant General Cunningham's first Eighth Army conference on the forthcoming battle, his Hudson aircraft ran into trouble on taking off from Heliopolis, crashed in the Mocattam Hills, and all on board were killed.[32][43] Pope was succeeded as GOC of XXX Corps by Lieutenant General Willoughby Norrie, who had been one of his fellow students at the Staff College, Camberley in the mid-1920s. Although a good soldier, Norrie, a cavalryman, lacked Pope's high ability and intellect.[44]

Personal lifeEdit

Pope married Sybil Moore in 1926.[45][4]


  1. ^ Pope's detailed account of his experiences on this day is published in Middlebrook 1983, pp. 365–9.


  1. ^ Lewin 1976, p. 4n.
  2. ^ Lancing College War Memorial
  3. ^ a b c "Lieutenant General Vyvyan Vavasour Pope CBE DSO MC and Bar". Lancing College War Memorial. Lancing College. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Smart, p. 254
  5. ^ "No. 28473". The London Gazette. 7 March 1911. pp. 1959–1960.
  6. ^ "No. 28668". The London Gazette. 3 December 1912. pp. 9217–9218.
  7. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 5, 30.
  8. ^ a b c d Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  9. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 5–8.
  10. ^ Anon. 1932, pp. 1–2.
  11. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 10–22.
  12. ^ Anon. 1932, pp. 7, 16–19, 25, 29–32.
  13. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 11–13.
  14. ^ Anon. 1932, pp. 13–15.
  15. ^ Lewin 1976, p. 22.
  16. ^ Anon. 1932, pp. 52–61.
  17. ^ Tanner 2017, p. 45.
  18. ^ Martin, Bernard (1987). Poor Bloody Infantry: a subaltern on the Western Front, 1916–1917. London: John Murray. p. 151. ISBN 0-7195-4374-6.; quoted in Tanner 2017, p. 49.
  19. ^ Tanner 2017, p. 51.
  20. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 23–5.
  21. ^ Anon. 1932, pp. 70–76.
  22. ^ Lewin 1976, p. 25.
  23. ^ Middlebrook 1983, p. 369.
  24. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 26–7.
  25. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 30–31.
  26. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 32–40.
  27. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 41–3.
  28. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 43–51.
  29. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 52–7.
  30. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 60–75.
  31. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 75–80.
  32. ^ a b c d Mead, p. 357
  33. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 82–92.
  34. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 93–101.
  35. ^ Lewin 1976, p. 101.
  36. ^ Lewin 1976, p. 101n.
  37. ^
  38. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 105–6.
  39. ^ a b Lewin 1976, pp. 107–118.
  40. ^ a b c Mead, p. 358
  41. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 123–36.
  42. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 136–7.
  43. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 138–9.
  44. ^ Mead, p. 359
  45. ^ Lewin 1976, pp. 66–7.


  • Anon (1932). History of the 1st & 2nd Battalions The North Staffordshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales'), 1914–1923. Longton: Royal Press. OCLC 79656991.
  • Lewin, Ronald (1976). Man of armour: a study of Lieut-General Vyvyan Pope and the development of armoured warfare. London: Leo Cooper. ISBN 0-85052-050-9.
  • Mead, Richard (2007). Churchill's Lions: a biographical guide to the key British generals of World War II. Stroud (UK): Spellmount. ISBN 978-1-86227-431-0.
  • Middlebrook, Martin (1983) [1978]. The Kaiser's Battle: 21 March 1918: the first day of the German Spring Offensive (Penguin ed.). London: Allen Lane. ISBN 0-14139-026-3.
  • Smart, Nick (2005). Biographical Dictionary of British Generals of the Second World War. Barnesley: Pen & Sword. ISBN 1844150496.
  • Tanner, Jim (2017). "The First Day of Third Ypres: the 1st Battalion the Prince of Wales's (North Staffordshire) Regiment". Stand To! The Journal of the Western Front Association. 109: 45–51.

External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
New post
August–October 1941
Succeeded by
Willoughby Norrie