A Letter home (Fred Pope’s story)
Ray Pope, of Alton Barnes, shared a fascinating letter with us, written by his uncle, Fred Pope, who, as his account below vividly describes, lost an eye in an explosion at the Front in April 1917.
The Pope family have lived in Alton Barnes since 1623, and Fred was born there, though later moved to Wales to work in the coal mines. He joined the Machine Gun Corps in WWI, and afterwards returned to Wales, where he worked as a postman. He never married. He used to return to Alton Barnes to visit the family, and Ray remembers his glass eye and the patch he wore over it. Fred is pictured here with Ray’s sister Audrey, and Ray’s daughter Heather.
Ray’s father, Charlie Pope, also served in WWI, and was stationed in France with the Wiltshire Yeomanry. Ray says his father told him only one story about those times: “My father was serving in the officers’ mess, and one of the officers could be quite nasty. Every morning, my father served him breakfast, and every morning he complained. If he took him two rashers of bacon, he would say ‘I don’t want two rashers, I want one’, and if he took him one, he would demand two. That is, until one day, when the officer said ‘I don’t want two rashers’, and Charlie took one rasher between his forefinger and thumb and whipped it off the plate in front of him. He could have been court-martialed for that.”
Ray’s cousin, Roger Pope, who also lives in Alton Barnes, added to the story about Fred Pope. He said Fred’s injuries didn’t appear to affect this life at all: “After the war, he played in goal for the local Honey Street team, even though he only had one eye, and he also played rugby.”