Born in Headington, he was the son of Sir Edward Bagnall Poulton, the zoologist and his wife Emily Palmer. He was educated at Rugby School, and Balliol College Oxford. He played for Harlequins and the Barbarians. He captained England and against France in 1914, making four tries.
He joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment. He was one of 26 English internationals who lost their lives in WWI.He was shot by a snipers bullet, to a man his company wept at the news.