Corporal James David Pope 2016
1st Australian Machine Gun Company
James Pope was just 18 years old when he enlisted in January 1915 with his mate Bert Stokes. Jim had been in the Bowral Cadets from around 1908 and held the rank of lieutenant in the Senior Cadets on enlistment. He worked as a stonemason with his father Francis Pope who operated one of the trachyte quarries on Mount Gibraltar, a tradition that continued through four generations of the Pope family in Bowral. Jim’s brother Donald Alexander Pope also enlisted, serving in the Middle East from 1917.
After training in Egypt, Jim went to Gallipoli with the 2nd Battalion in July 1915 where he remained until the evacuation in December. He transferred to the Machine Gun Corps and had excelled at the machine gun school, gaining a 1st Class Certificate and Instructors Certificate. Before embarking with his unit for France in March 1916, he was promoted Corporal.
The 1st Machine Gun Company was based in a sector of the front around Armentieres called ‘the nursery’ where the troops could gain experience in the trenches. In July, they moved south to take part in the Battle of the Somme. On 20th July 1916, just four days after his 20th birthday, Jim Pope was killed during heavy shelling and gas attacks. He was buried in a trench at Casualty Corner, near Contalmaison, his grave poignantly captured in a photo taken by a mate from Mittagong, Frank Moses. Jim’s name, service number and unit were carefully picked out in small white stones. The tribute would not survive the savage bombardment that later rendered the area a wasteland and but for Frank’s photograph, there would be no visual record of the care with which Jim was buried by his comrades. His name appears on the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, one of 11,000 Australians commemorated there who died in France and have no known grave.