He was born in Ashford, Kent By concealing his age he joined the Home Guard aged 14 and at age 16 joined the merchant navy as a midshipman. His ship was torpedoed the next year (1942) and he spent two weeks in a lifeboat with the few other survivors. After he was invalided out the only obvious sign of the injuries he had suffered was a joint missing from one finger due to gangrene. Pope then went to work for a Kentish newspaper, then in 1944 moved to The Evening News in London, where he was the naval and defence correspondent.
His first book, Flag 4, was published in 1954, followed by several other historical accounts. C. S. Forester, the creator of the famed Horatio Hornblower novels, encouraged Pope to add fiction to his repertoire, and in 1965, Ramage appeared, the first of what was to become an 18-novel series.
He took to living on boats from 1953 on; when he married Kay Pope in 1954, they lived on a William Fife 8-meter named Concerto, then at Porto Santo Stefano, Italy in 1959 with a 42-foot ketch Tokay. In 1963 he and Kay moved to a 53-foot cutter Golden Dragon, on which they moved to Barbados in 1965. In 1968 they moved onto a 54-foot wooden yacht named Ramage, aboard which he wrote all of his stories until 1985.
Most of the novels are based on real events in the late 18th and early 19th centures. The year of these events is shown before the book title. The year of publication between 1965 and 1989 is shown after the title.