Researched and written by Anne Wright
Cpl H W Pope
Army Service Corps (ASC)
Herbert William Pope lived a peripatetic life before the outbreak of war in 1914. He moved around the country working with horses; however, he was not a countryman by birth having been born in Marylebone, London in about 1876. Herbert married Frances (Fanny) Pearce of Truro, Cornwall in the summer of 1898 at Whitechapel. By 1901 he was employed as a groom at Boveridge House racing stables at Cranborne in Dorset. Herbert and Fanny shared their home with six boarders – all jockeys or racing lads. Their son, Ernest William, was born on 22 August 1903 at Cricklewood, London and baptised on 7 February 1904 at Colerne in Wiltshire. Ten years later the family lived at 6, New Road, Leighton Buzzard where Herbert worked as a groom at hunting stables.
His experience of working with horses must have led to his deployment to a Remount Squadron with the ASC. By 1915 Herbert had moved to Surrey; he underwent his medical at Chertsey Town Hall on 22 August and enlisted at Guildford the next day. He was five feet and six inches tall, had brown hair, grey eyes and a sallow complexion. Herbert was assigned to Romsey Remount Station where he remained throughout the war. At the start of the conflict the British Army had 19,000 horses, by the end they had purchased 468,000 animals in the UK and a further 688,000 from N. America. To process this vast number, remount stations were set up around the country including Ormskirk, Bristol and Romsey – all with essential close access to port facilities. Herbert was likely to have travelled to Devonport to collect horses from America; some were wild and unbroken and needed very skilful handling. They were then transported to Romsey by train as were other horses from around the country. Herbert would have been involved in walking the animals through Romsey to the Remount Station; there was usually one man to three horses. They were taken at first to the reception area known as the Kraal where they spent about two weeks. Many arrived frightened and tired; some had to be put into stocks for grooming. Herbert would have needed all his skills to deal with such difficult cases. As many as 830 horses might be received in one day. He may have been among those who escorted 1,200 horses over three days in March 1917 to Southampton. Horses spent about one month at the centre.
From March 1918 Herbert’s health deteriorated: in that month he was hospitalised with sciatica, followed by influenza in July and in December he was admitted to the Central Military Hospital at Winchester with bronchial pneumonia, but was diagnosed with tuberculosis in both lungs. This was deemed to be attributable to his war service. He was discharged on 19 April 1919. Herbert died in Greenwich on 8 November. His home address at the time of his discharge was at Moorcroft Stables, Heath Road, Weybridge.
Herbert’s widow and son continued to live in Weybridge, at 16 Monument Road. She died in 1928; Ernest remained at the same address and in time was joined by his wife Margaret and their family. On the eve of the Second World War he was a toolmaker (aircraft), like his father bringing specialised skills to the war effort. Ernest was at the same address when war ended in 1945.
In July 2015 a statue of a war horse and soldier was unveiled in Romsey’s Memorial Park.
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long, Long Trail – Army Service Corps Remounts Service, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
British Army Service Records, 1914-1920, www.findmypast.co.uk
England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007, www.ancestry.co.uk
George, Pat Romsey Remount Depot, LTVAS Group Newsletter, July 1999, www.ltvas.org.uk
The 1939 Register, www.findmypast.co.uk
Romsey, Hampshire: Preparing Horses for Battle, www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01z6pqk
Romsey Remount Depot, www.romseyboysww1.com
Surrey Electoral Registers, 1832-1962, www.ancestry.co.uk