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Air Commodore S L G Pope (08046)

Sydney Leo Gregory             b: 27 Mar 1898               r: 2 Mar 1946                     d: 5 Nov 1980

CBE - 1 Jan 1946, MC – 1917, DFC - 28 May 1926, AFC - 1 Mar 1929, MiD - 8 Jun 1944, ON(C) - 20 Oct 1942.

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

(Army):- 2 Lt: 3 Jun 1916, Lt: 3 Dec 1917.

(RAF):- Lt: 1 Apr 1918, (T) Capt:  10 Aug 1918, (G) Capt:  1 May 1919 - 4 Aug 1919, Fg Off: 4 Aug 1919, Flt Lt: 30 Jun 1923, Sqn Ldr: 1 Feb 1932, Wg Cdr: 1 Apr 1937, (T) Gp Capt: 1 Jun 1940, Act A/Cdre: 8 Feb 1944?, Gp Capt (WS): 8 Aug 1944, A/Cdre: Retained.

xx xxx 1915:          Officer Cadet, Inns of Court OTC. (reaching the rank of Lance Corporal)

 3 Jun 1916:            Appointed to a commission on the General List for service with the RFC

xx xxx 1916:            U/T Pilot, Northolt

xx xxx 1916:            U/T Pilot, Croydon.

29 Aug 1916:           Flying Officer, RFC

xx xxx 1916:            Instructor, Tern Hill

11 Apr 1917:           Attached, No 1 AD

17 Apr 1917:           Pilot, No 60 Sqn.

 1 Dec 1917:            Returned to Home Establishment

13 Dec 1917:           Re-embarked for France

14 Dec 1917:           Pilot, No 60 Sqn.

26 Dec 1917:            Returned to Home Establishment

xx Jul 1918:              Flight Commander, 'Billy William's Circus'? (Scotland)

xx Oct 1918:            Flight Commander, No 208 Sqn (Snipes)

 1 May 1919:           Flight Commander, HQ Army of Occupation

24 Oct 1919:           Awarded Short Service Commission in the rank of Flying Officer (Aeroplane & Seaplane).            

30 Oct 1919:            QFI, Flying Wing, RAF (Cadet) College.

21 Apr 1922:            Pilot, No 8 Sqn.

24 Sep 1923:            Flight Commander, 'C' Flt, No 55 Sqn.

27 Dec 1924:            Air Staff - Training, HQ RAF Middle East.

27 Sep 1926:            Supernumerary (non-effective - sick) (suffering from para-typhoid)

 1 Feb 1927:             Flight Commander, No 22 Sqn.

13 Jul 1929:              Staff, Joint Directorate of Scientific Research and Technical Development.

 7 Mar 1932:            Officer Commanding, No 54 Sqn.

21 Jan 1933:            Attended RAF Staff College.

28 Aug 1933:           Supernumerary, RAF Depot.

 7 Sep 1933:            Officer Commanding, No 801 Sqn FAA.

xx xxx 1936:            Supernumerary (Non-effective - sick)

27 May 1936:          Adjutant, School of Naval Co-operation.

21 Apr 1937:           Officer Commanding, RAF Debden.

 1 Mar 1939:           Officer Commanding, No 226 Sqn (Battles - Harwell)

 9 Feb 1939:            Officer Commanding, RAF Reims

17 - 29 Mar 1940:            Officer Commanding (Temporary), No 76 Wing

 1 May 1940:            Returned to Home Establishment

xx May 1940:           Officer Commanding, RAF Leuchars.

xx Nov 1941:           Carried out inspection of training schools in Canada

 1 Mar 1942:            Officer Commanding, No 32 OTU, Canada.

17 Nov 1943:          Officer Commanding, No 5 Lancaster Finishing School/RAF Syerston

 8 Feb 1944:            AOC, RAF Leuchars.

17 Feb 1944:           Base Commander, No 52 Base.

 1 Oct 1944:            Base Commander, No 56 Base.

23 Apr 1945:           Base Commander, No 53 Base.

 1 Nov 1945:           Supernumerary, HQ Bomber Command.

xx xxx 1945:            Attached, No 1 Personnel Holding Unit.

Born in Dublin, he was educated at Belvedere College, Dublin and St Mary's, Dundalk.  Originally joining the Inns of Court OTC in 1915, he transferred to the RFC in 1916, gaining RAeC Certificate No 2074 in August 1916.  Posted to No 60 Squadron, he claimed two victories whilst flying Nieuports after which the squadron re-equipped with the SE5A.  He claimed a further four victories with the squadron before being wounded causing him to force land on 18 November 1917.  In July 1918, he joined 'Billy William's Circus' at Ayr in Scotland, where he was tasked with training instructors at the schools in the area in the 'Gosport' system. 

He was awarded the DFC for operations in Iraq.  On 24 February 1929 he baled out OK of Parnall Pipit, N233 at Yate, Gloucestershire after the tail broke off in a dive during a test as part of its acceptance trials before delivery to the RAE, which then crashed into a railway embankment.

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross

POPE, Sydney Leo Gregory, F/L - Distinguished Flying Cross - awarded as per London Gazette dated 28 May 1926 in King's Birthday List and reported in Aeroplane of 2 June 1926, "in recognition of gallant and distinguished service in connections connected with operations in Iraq during the period September to November 1924." .Public Record Office Air 30/66 has citation.


                Flight Lieutenant Pope has constantly led patrols with great fearlessness and determination, often at low altitudes through mountain passes infested with the enemy, and frequently under severe fire. He carried out over 90 hours' operational flying in one month and at all times set a splendid example of courage and zeal.

Recommendation for the award of the Air Force Cross

POPE, Sydney Leo Gregory, F/L, DFC - Air Force Cross - awarded as per London Gazette dated 1 March 1929 (the New Years Honours List had been delayed through illness of King George V).

"Flight Lieutenant Pope commands a flight in No.22 Squadron, which is under the technical administration of the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment. For nearly two years he has been engaged in the daily work of testing high speed single-seater machines, and although the work is often of a hazardous nature, he always shows unflagging zeal and energy, thereby setting a splendid example to all.

(Source - Air 30/79/1-16)

NOTE: From Dix-Noonan-Webb website

"In February 1927, Pope joined 22 Squadron at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment, based at Martlesham Heath, where he became the first RAF. test pilot to save his life by parachute. Whilst at the Parnall factory at Yate, testing a Parnall Pippit, a single-seater fighter undergoing acceptance trials, Pope felt a twitch when at 800 feet. He glanced over his shoulder and was just in time to see the rudder and fin floating away in mid-air behind him. Deciding that the time had come for him and the Pippet to part company, Pope jerked the throttle shut, pulled the nose up and reached down to undo the straps of his Sutton harness. For several long precious seconds he fumbled for the string attached to the pin, unable to bend his head because he was strapped in so tightly. At last his fingers grasped a length of string and he pulled hard. Nothing happened. Nor the second time, but on the third attempt the string came away. But the straps of his harness did not, and only then did he realise that he had been pulling the string which held a pencil to the knee pad on which he scribbled his test data! Frantically now he groped for the pin that secured the four straps and succeeded when only 300 feet from the ground. After a struggle he managed to force his bulky frame through the cockpit opening and free of the aircraft only to find that the ripcord handle was not where it was meant to have been. He had somersaulted and was falling feet-first; below him he could see a row Africa Star tall oaks coming up fast. In that same split second he saw the ripcord ring hanging by his leg - it had slipped from its sheath. He reached down, gave it a despairing tug and his chute blossomed out above him with a bump. As he reached up to grasp the lift webs his feet slashed through the top branches on to the ground.

The people over at the aerodrome hadn’t seen me get out,” Pope said. “When they came running over they expected to find me in the wreckage. Instead I was running round the field like a madman, making sure that my back, which had received a severe jar, was in working order. The only visible injuries were two scratches on my ankle.” That evening he received a characteristic telegram from his colleagues at Martlesham. “Congratulations,” it read, “Forwarding clean pair of pants.”

An account of this is carried by The Times (1 March 1929) under the headline “Air Pilot’s Escape - Parachute Descent From Broken Machine” which reads, in part:

 "The value of the parachute, which is now part of the standard equipment of a Royal Air Force pilot, has been just demonstrated by a remarkable escape of a Service test pilot, Flight Lieutenant S.L.G. Pope, when testing a new and extremely fast fighting aeroplane.  When flying this machine, which is on the Secret List of the Air Ministry, at Yate Aerodrome a few days agao, the rudder and fin broke away owing, it is believed, to tail flutter, and not until the machine was about 1,000 feet from the ground was the pilot able to get clear and open his parachute.

It appears that he was flying steadily at about 1,000 feet, and was about to start gliding home to the aerodrome when violent oscillations developed with startling suddenness at the tail, and in a few seconds the machine was uncontrollable.  Fortunately the machine turned over on its back, and this enabled the pilot to fall out when he had released his safety belt.  During this process about 500 feet of height had been lost, and Flight Lieutenant Pope, who had never made a parachute jump before, must have been under 1,000 feet when he got away from the aircraft and was able to pull the release ring of the parachute.  He made a perfectly safe landing, while the machine, after falling through the air for a time, finally nose-dived into a field near a railway line, still upside down."

Citation for the award of Commander of the Order of the British Empire

POPE, Sidney Leo Gregory, A/A/C, DFC, AFC - No.53 Base, Bomber Command

"This officer was appointed to command an operational station in October 193, and in February 1944 took over the command of No.53 (Operational) Base.  He has a strong personality and has proved to be a most capable and efficient base commander who has successfully organized the squadrons under his command to a high standard.  His efforts and ability have contributed much towards the success of Bomber Command's operations."

(Source - Air 2/9121)

This page was last updated on 11/12/22

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