Cedric Bassett POPKIN

POPKIN, Cedric Bassett

Service Number: 424
Enlisted: 6 May 1916
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: 4th Machine Gun Battalion
Born: Sydney New South Wales Australia, 20 June 1890
Home Town: Palmwoods, Sunshine Coast, Queensland
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Carpenter
Died: Natural Causes, Tweed Heads, New South Wales, 26 January 1968, aged 77 years
Cemetery: Mount Thompson Memorial Gardens & Crematorium, Queensland
Memorials: Palmwoods WW1 Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

6 May 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 424, 7th Machine Gun Company
20 Oct 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 424, 7th Machine Gun Company, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '21' embarkation_place: Melbourne embarkation_ship: HMAT Port Lincoln embarkation_ship_number: A17 public_note: ''
30 Aug 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Corporal, 24th Machine Gun Company
21 Apr 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 424, 7th Machine Gun Company, German Spring Offensive 1918
19 Jun 1918: Wounded AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 424, 4th Machine Gun Battalion, "Peaceful Penetration - Low-Cost, High-Gain Tactics on the Western Front", Shrapnel wound right leg. Evacuated and his leg later amputated.
26 Oct 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 424, 4th Machine Gun Battalion

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Biography contributed by Steve Larkins



Popkin was born in Sydney on 20 June 1890 and was a carpenter by trade. When he enlisted in the AIF, in Brisbane on 6 May 1916, he was living in Palmwoods, on what is now Queensland's Sunshine Coast .

Cedric Popkin left Australia on 20 October 1916 with the 6th Reinforcements, 7th Machine Gun Company on HMAT Port Lincoln.

By April 1918, Popkin – who had achieved the rank of Sergeant – was a gunner in the 24th Machine Gun Company, part of the Australian 4th Division.  The Machine Gun Copanies were soon to be amalgamated into Battalions with the same numeric designation as their parent Division;  thus the 24th MG Coy became part of the 4th Machine Gun Battalion.  In APril 1918 the 4th Division was stationed in the Somme Valley, France, near Morlancourt having earlier in the month repelled a major German attack near Dernancourt. 

At about 10:35 a.m. on 21 April, Richthofen, flying his red Fokker Dr.I (Triplane), engaged Sopwith Camels from 209 Squadron, Royal Air Force (RAF). He pursued a Camel piloted by a Canadian, Lieutenant Wilfrid May. In turn the Baron was chased by another Canadian pilot, Captain Roy Brown. The three planes flew over Morlancourt Ridge, in the 4th Division's sector, and Popkin – using a Vickers machine gun – and other Australian machine gunners and riflemen also fired at Richthofen. The Baron was hit by a 0.303 calibre bullet which passed diagonally from right to left through his chest. He then made a hasty but controlled landing, in a field on a hill near the Bray-Corbie road, just north of Vaux-sur-Somme. One witness, Gunner George Ridgway, stated that when he and other Australian soldiers reached the plane, Richthofen was still alive but died moments later.   Another eyewitness, Sergeant Ted Smout, reported that Richthofen's last word was "kaputt" ("finished") immediately before he died.

Ted visited the area in 1998 as part of a series of ceremonies culminating in his being awarded the French Legion d'Honneur.  He recalled being posted (unsuccessfully) as a picquet on Richtofen's 'plane which he said was reduced to fragments by souvenir hunters (Ed)

The RAF credited the "kill" to Brown, although it is now considered all but certain by historians, doctors, and ballistics experts that Richthofen was actually killed by an AA machine gunner firing from the ground. The identity of the person who shot the Baron remains uncertain; 0.303 ammunition was the standard ammunition for all machine guns and rifles used by British Empire forces during World War I. Many experts believe that the shot probably came from Popkin, though some believe that William John "Snowy" Evans may have been responsible.[

Autopsies revealed that the wound which killed the Baron was caused by a single bullet moving in an upward direction. It was reported that a spent .303 bullet was found inside Richthofen's clothing. These facts, and the angle at which the bullet passed through Richthofen's body, suggest that he was killed by a long distance, low velocity shot from a ground-based weapon. Many Australian riflemen were also shooting at the Baron at the time, so one of them may have fired the fatal shot. However, Popkin was an experienced AA gunner, the volume of fire from the Vickers was far greater (at least 450 rounds per minute) than the bolt-action Lee–Enfield rifles (up to 30 rounds per minute) used by the infantry, and Popkin was the only machine gunner known to have fired at Richthofen from the right, and from a long distance, immediately before he landed.

On 19 June 1918, Popkin received a shrapnel wound to his right leg, which was later amputated. He was invalided back to Australia on 5 January 1919, arriving on 7 March. After being discharged from the army, he worked once more as a carpenter. He spent most of the remainder of his life in Tweed Heads and the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. He died in Tweed Heads on 26 January 1968 at the age of 77. He is buried in Brisbane.

In 1964, Popkin told the Brisbane Courier-Mail: "I am fairly certain it was my fire which caused the Baron to crash, but it would be impossible to say definitely that I was responsible ... As to pinpointing without doubt the man who fired the fatal shot, the controversy will never actually be resolved."


Wikipedia- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cedric_Popkin