Dudley Pope Biography

by Peter on January 14, 2011

Dudley Bernard Egerton Pope (29 December 1925 - 25 April 1997), was a British writer of nautical fiction and history. Nautical fiction fans probably remember him mostly for his Lord Ramage series of navy fiction novels. However, Dudley Pope also authored another, less known, series of navy fiction books, the Buccaneer Ned Yorke series. And in addition, he has authored a considerable number of non-fiction books, mostly historical and dealing with the history of the Royal Navy.

Pope came from an old Cornish family. His great-great-grandfather was a Plymouth shipowner in Nelson's time. Born in Ashford in Kent, he joined Dudley Popethe Merchant Navy as a midshipman in 1941 at age 16. He was torpedoed in 1942, and suffered spinal injuries that plagued him until the day he died. Pope's novel Decoy, set during WW2, is dedicated: "In memory of my shipmates killed or wounded when Convoy SL 125 was caught in the 'Great Blackout'."

He joined a local newspaper in Kent and, in 1944, became naval and defence correspondent for the London Evening News. His first book was Flag 4, in 1954, a carefully researched account of Coastal Forces’ operations in the Mediterranean. Next was Battle of the River Plate, 73 North and, in 1959, England Expects, his account of the Battle of Trafalgar.

C.S. Forester, the author of the Hornblower naval-historical novels set in Lord Nelson's age, encouraged Pope to write fiction. And in 1965, Pope wrote Ramage, the first in a series of 18 novels about Lord Ramage, also set in Nelson's time during the Napoleonic wars. As mentioned above, Dudley Pope also wrote the Yorke series which spans 280 years.

His books are "based on his own wartime experiences in the navy and peacetime exploits as a yachtsman as well as immense research into the naval history of the eighteenth century."

As a historian Pope was very knowledgeable, and could flavour his books with a lot of facts about shipboard life and practices and naval warfare experiences and techniques.

Yacht RamagePope lived aboard boats whenever he could. In 1959, he and his wife, Kay, lived aboard and cruised in a 42-ft ketch in Italy. In 1968, Dudley and Kay Pope bought the 54 ft overall (16,4 m) classic wooden yacht which they named Ramage (see picture). All of his books written in the period 1968-1985 were written onboard this vessel.

After his purchase of the yacht Ramage, the Popes finally settled on the French side of the island of St. Martin in the West Indies. In 1985, after nearly twenty years of cruising, his health forced them to give up the yacht and live ashore. In 1989, loss of memory associated with his spinal injuries forced him to give up writing.

Dudley Pope died April 25, 1997 at the age of 71 on the island of St. Martin. In May 1997 Dudley Pope's ashes were spread at sea from his former yacht "Ramage."

You can read more about Dudley Pope in Wikipedia or at this fansite. See also this article in the New York Times.

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