For 21 years Christopher Pope proudly wore the regimental tent hat, first as a national serviceman in the 8th King’s Royal Hussars and then for a fortnight each year as a volunteer reserve officer of the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars.

An inborn love of travel and an insatiable curiosity for exploring the remoter corners of Malaysia, Singapore and Cyprus (in the chaotic aftermath of the Turkish invasion of the north of the island) as well as to more prosaic stations in Germany and the United Kingdom.

In 1975 military regulations forced him to retire, but by this time he had achieved the rank of major and been awarded the Territorial Decoration.

Christopher John Rolph Pope was educated at Charterhouse and, after the 8th Hussars, joined the family-owned Dorchester brewers and wine-shippers, Eldridge Pope.

Four years later he became a director and then in 1972, joint managing director, ten years after that he was chairman. From that moment he became known to his friends as just Chairman, an affectionate epithet given substance by his launch of a range of wines and spirits bearing his imprint; for many years The Chairman’s Port and The Chairman’s Claret were required drinking in Dorset and beyond.

Hand-in-hand with his devotion to Eldridge Pope went Christopher’s love of his Wrackleford estate and, in particular, its most excellent shoot – so good that it rated a section in Brian Martin’s book The Great Shoots.

Many regimental friends over the years were lucky enough to experience a day at Wrackleford and revel, not only in the high birds flying fast out of coverts cunningly planted by his grandfather but also in the wonderfully generous hospitality provided by the family.

As a Dorset man, Christopher was hugely proud of his county, playing major roles in many of its charitable and business institutions: at various periods in his life he had been a county councillor, magistrate, High Sheriff and Deputy Lieutenant. He was president of the county’s Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and the Durnrovia Silver Band and vice-president of the Society of Dorset Men.

Further afield and among appointments too numerous to list comprehensively, he was Master of the Brewers Company, a Freeman of the City of London, an honorary Doctor of Law at Exeter University, a Commissioner of the Royal Hospital Chelsea and a Fellow of both the Royal Geographical Society
and the Royal Society of Arts.

At one time he briefly dabbled in politics, standing (unsuccessfully) in the general election of 1966 in Bristol against the then Anthony Wedgwood Benn.

But among all this grandeur it is for his work among the youth of Dorset for which he will be longest and most endearingly remembered.

No call from the young went unanswered: in addition to the Award Scheme and the Scouts (of which he was also county president), he played an active part in the Dorset Youth Association, the Prince’s Trust and the Prince’s Business Trust, raising money (once by climbing Mont Blanc) whenever help was needed. But his most fulfilling involvement was with the young people of the Dorset Expeditionary Society of which he was a most active patron. Into the challenges undertaken by this admirable body, Pope flung himself, heart and soul, accompanying or leading parties to Slovakia and Thailand and, astonishingly for a man who had never set foot on a mountain until he was 50, climbing widely in the Atlas, the Andes and the Alps.

Six months before his death in March 2004 he was standing with a group of young friends at 17,000ft on the ice wall of Cotopaxi in Ecuador – the loftiest active volcano in the world.

Christopher left his wife, Sylvia by whom he was selflessly supported, and a grown-up but close-knit family: daughters Emma, Alice, and Flora and son Oliver who himself served for a time in the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars.

It was a measure of Christopher’s place in the Dorset and regimental communities and the esteem in which his family is held, that at his service of thanksgiving in Sherborne Abbey in May, that lovely old church was packed with upwards of 1,000 friends.

High in the organ loft, the Last Post was sounded by a cavalry trumpeter and a lament, played by retired Pipe Major Jimmy Walker, brought the service to an end in exactly the way the Chairman would have wished.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 8th Hussars
  2. A short history of The Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars