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RSM Albert Pope

The grave of RSM Albert Pope

RSM Albert Pope

 

Unit : Battalion Headquarters, 1st Battalion The Border Regiment

Army No. : 3595025

 

Albert "Bish" Pope, from Bolton, joined the Army in October 1927. After 12 year's service he had risen to the position of Drum-Major and went to France with the first contingent of the British Expeditionary Force in 1939 and was evacuated from Dunkirk in May 1940.

 

Pope was serving with the 1st Battalion, The Border Regiment when it was converted to a glider-borne unit in 1942. As a Company Sergeant Major, he participated in the airborne landings in Sicily, July 1943, where his glider, as with the majority of the Battalion, landed in the sea:

 

"In many cases discipline prevailed even in the most trying of circumstances. C.S.M: Albert 'Bish' Pope landed in the sea and ordered the 12 men in his glider to retain their positions. When they were picked up by landing-craft on the morning of 10th July, Pope stood to attention in 4 feet of water, saluted the officer and reported his party present and correct before allowing them to enter the vessel." [1]

 

Upon the Battalion's return to North Africa, Pope was promoted to the position of Regimental Sergeant Major when it was discovered that RSM George Gardner had been killed in Sicily. He took part in the invasion of Italy in September 1943, when the 1st Airlanding Brigade followed the 2nd & 4th Parachute Brigades on Operation Slapstick; the landings at the port of Taranto.

 

On Sunday 17th September 1944, Pope flew in a Horsa glider to LZ-S near Wolfheze in Holland as part of Operation Market Garden. After five days, the Battalion had completed its tasks of LZ and DZ protection and had moved back to positions nearer Oosterbeek:

 

"Friday, 22 September. The night was reasonably quiet, but as usual in the early morning the enemy heavily mortared and shelled the battalion area. At about 09.00 hrs the battalion ammunition dump received a direct hit, which did considerable damage in the area and destroyed all but two of the remaining serviceable battalion vehicles. The explosion caused a fire, which set ammunition exploding in all directions, yet R.S.M: 'Bish' Pope and C.S.M: Fielding and a party of men managed to salvage mortar bombs and .303 inch ammunition before the fire reached the plastic high explosive. Everyone managed to reach cover before this went up with a deafening roar, the loudest, said Les Fielding, that he had ever heard. Trees within a radius of hundreds of yards were stripped of leaves and small branches. The fire caused by the explosion became the registration point for the enemy mortars, so any movement from the slit trenches would result in casualties. It was during this incident that R.S.M: Pope, who had served with the Regiment since 1927, was fatally wounded. He was taken to the R.A.P [Regimental Aid Post], where, even as he lay dying, he joked with a Medical Orderly about getting his hair cut. He died shortly after, a much respected and well-loved father figure. C.S.M: Les Fielding took over his duties." [2]

 

RSM Albert Pope died of his wounds on Friday, 22nd September 1944, aged 34. He was initially buried in front of the Tafelberg Hotel, Oosterbeek, but he now rests in the Cemetery at Oosterbeek 22.B.13. He was survived by his wife, Nancy, and son and daughter, Donald and Violet.

 

[1] & [2] Extracts from When Dragons Flew: An illustrated history of The 1st Battalion, The Border Regiment 1939-45.

 

My thanks to Bob Hilton for this account.

 

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