Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1941, Lieutenant General Vyvyan Vavasour Pope, C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C. and Bar, was killed in a plane crash near Abbassia in Egypt.
The only son of a civil servant, he was educated at Lancing College and joined the Officers’ Training Corps. In 1911 he received his commission into the North Staffordshire Regiment, and after the outbreak of the Great War arrived in France. That Christmas he was in the trenches in the Rue du Bois area and negotiated with a German officer for the burial of their dead, after which both sides mingled and exchanged souvenirs, the truce lasting until New Year’s Day.
In March of 1915, during the Battle of Neuve Chappelle, Lieutenant General Pope’s actions earned him the Military Cross, the citation for which read: “For the gallantry, skill, and dash with which he led his Company in the attack on the German position at L’Epinnette”. The award of the Distinguished Service Order “for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty” came after his heroic actions during a gas attack near Wolverghem, during which he was wounded twice but refused assistance until the attack was over. His cigarette case saved his life as it stopped one of the bullets directed at his chest.
After taking part in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, he accepted a staff officer position, but soon requested to return to the front. The following year he was shot but recovered, and went on to see action during the Battle of Passchendaele. In March of 1918, during the spring offensive, he was yet again wounded; gangrene set in and his arm had to be amputated. Only the end of the war prevented him returning to action. He had been Mentioned in Despatches five times.
In 1919 he spent several months in command of a Russian Disciplinary Company at Archangel, being Mentioned in Despatches twice more. He went on to serve in Ireland, Egypt, India, and by the outbreak of the second world war was serving on the General Staff of 2nd Corps, Southern Command. By 1940 he was Director of Armoured Fighting Vehicles at the War Office, and was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He was described as “tireless” during the Battle of Britain.
On the day of his death he boarded a flight to attend the first 8th Army conference. Due to what was believed to be engine failure, the plane crashed in the Mocottan Hills at Dead City near Abbassia in Egypt. Also lost were: Sergeant Lucien George Levy, Sergeant Brian Chadwick Gray, Sergeant Frank Derek Ward, and Leading Aircraftsman Charles Chapman, all of the Royal Air Force; Colonel Eric Sudeley Unwin M.C., Royal Army Service Corps; Captain George Robert Amery, 2nd Royal Tank Regiment; and Brigadier Hugh Edward Russell D.S.O., Royal Armoured Corps. Lieutenant General Pope is buried in the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery in Egypt.
Vyvyan, from London, was 50 years old and married with a son.