Lieutenant-Colonel Sam Sharpe is being recognized for his remarkable service and sacrifice to Canada.
He served as a member of parliament starting in 1908 after his career as a lawyer.
As a member of parliament, when the first world war broke out, Sam Sharpe used his influence to help create a new battalion for Ontario Country, which is now known as Durham Region.
“He went around and almost personally, recruited 1100 young men from the Uxbridge, Sunderland, Lindsay, and the Port Perry area,” said Wynn Walter, artist of the project.
His regiment gathered in Elgin Park and the whole town cheered them on before they departed overseas.
“When he marched off to war there was a big celebration. Going off to war, in those days, was a celebratory event,” Mr. Walters said.
LC. Sharpe’s regiment fought in all the major battles, such as Vimmy Ridge, Avion, Passchendaele, Flanders Fields, and Arras. 80% of Sharpe’s men were either killed or wounded in combat, which was not uncommon for the battles they fought in.
“As we all know, conditions back then were absolutely atrocious, both the fighting and living conditions,” Mr. Walter said.
He fought with bravery and received a Distinguished Service Order for his gallantry on the battlefield.
“Sharpe was unusual, in that he led his men personally into battle. The British regiments, by contrast, usually had the command led by the rear, out of harm’s way,” Mr. Walters said.
In 1917, LC. Sharpe began to feel the effects of the traumas he faced during the war, and developed what, at the time, was known as shellshock or operational disorder. Losing so many of the young men he recruited took a toll on his mental health.
“He could not face the reality of coming home to Uxbridge and facing the families of whom he had recruited all these kids, many of them personally,” Mr. Walters said.
In May of 1918, Sam Sharpe had a mental break down and was hospitalized at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. Shortly after the hospitalization he jumped out of the hospitals window to his death.
“He was disgraced by his regiment, as people with shellshock were back then, they knew nothing of the mental condition that we now know as PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder],” Mr. Walters said.
As Canadians learned about the very real effects of PTSD, the story of Sam Sharpe has been retold to accurately depict the war hero.
The bronze statute will represent the mental struggle Sam Sharpe had after losing so many of his men. The statute shows Sharpe sitting in a thinking position as he tries to write a letter to his friend, John Walton’s wife. Mr. Walton was a good friend of Sharpe’s who was killed in battle. The statute show’s Sharpe agonizing over how he is going to explain to John Walton’s wife that her husband is dead.
The statute also has Sharpe with one leg off the ground, which in the military symbolizes that the person was killed in battle.
“The message of this is that he was in fact killed of battle, perhaps not in battle, but never the less a battle victim,” said Mr. Walters.
The statute is going to cost $140,000, and the project has already received a $70,000 grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage. The bronze statute will be accompanied by a bronze plaque making the inscription last significantly longer.
“We came to the conclusion that the plaque explaining all about Sam Sharpe needs to be as permanent as the statute,” Walter said. “The statue is going to be there for 300, 400, 500 years. It will last forever.”
The unveiling of the statute is scheduled to happen on May 25th, 2018, exactly 100 years since Sam Sharpe’s passing. The life-size bronze statute will sit directly across from the Cenotaph, at the corner of Brock and Toronto St.
Donations for the project can be made online, at http://www.ushs.ca/samsharpe, or mailed to the Uxbridge Scott Historical Society, P.O Box 1301, Uxbridge ON L9P 1N5. Donations of $20 and over will receive tax receipts and donations of $1,000 or more will be given permanent recognition at the site.