Memorial unveiled at Whitechapel to Victoria Cross war hero Charles Pope
PUBLISHED: 16:27 24 April 2017 | UPDATED: 14:44 25 April 2017
Old soldier Charles Pope who won the Victoria Cross for valour has finally been commemorated in the neighbourhood where he grew up — 100 years after his death.
A commemorative paving stone paying tribute to him has been unveiled at Sidney Square in Whitechapel as part of the Government’s First World War centenary campaign.
Lieutenant Pope, who was born in Mile End New Town in March, 1883, was awarded the VC posthumously for bravery after he was killed on the Western Front in 1917 making a last stand charge against overwhelming German forces.
He had orders to “hold at all costs” when his defence post became surrounded by superior enemy numbers.
Supplies couldn’t get through and he was running out of ammunition — so Lt Pope charged with his men into overwhelming enemy numbers, inflicting heavy losses against all odds. His body and those of his men were found close to 80 enemy they had killed in the desperate charge.
Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs unveiled the memorial at Sidney Square on Friday.
“It’s hard to imagine the horrors of war and the sacrifices soldiers underwent for the democracy and freedom we enjoy today,” the mayor said.
“I hope these paving stones serve as a poignant reminder of our past and encourage people to pause and reflect on our history. Lt Pope richly deserves this honour.”
Pope, a one-time London bobby like his father before him, emigrated to Australia with his wife and two children in 1910.
He enlisted in the Australian Infantry Battalion when The Great War broke out in 1914 and served at Gallipoli, before being shipped with his battalion to France in 1916 as a commissioned officer.
Pope’s Australian battalion was able to hold their sector of the battle front in Northern France, largely thanks to his last stand.
Pope is buried at Moeuvres, the village his battalion was defending, with his VC being displayed at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.