Uxbridge-Scott Historical Society

A window into the past

Lt. Col. Samuel Sharpe

Bringing back a forgotten hero!!!

Financing the statue

A $70,000 grant from the Federal Government’s Department of Canadian Heritage, awarded to the Uxbridge-ScottHistorical Society, will cover half of the $140,000 project. The “other” $70,000 is being sought from the community – fromorganizations and individuals. Only generous support can make this a reality. Donations may be made to: The Uxbridge-Scott Historical Society (“Sam Sharpe”), P O Box 1301, Uxbridge ON L9P 1N5 – or on line through www.ushs.ca/samsharpe. Tax receipts will be issued for donations over $20, and donations of $1,000 or more will be given permanent recognition at the site.

The heroic life…..and tragic death…of Sam Sharpe

Samuel Sharpe was a member of a prominent Uxbridge area family, and served as Uxbridge’s lawyer for a number of years. He was elected a Member of Parliament in 1908. When the First World War broke out, he recruited a battalion from the Uxbridge area and led them to Europe as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. His 116th Battalion saw action at Vimy, Passchendaele and Avion, among other battle zones, losing many men in the mud and barbed wire of Flanders. Sharpe led his men personally into battle, and was awarded the DSO for bravery. He was re-elected in 1917 – the only MP ever elected from the battlefield. In 1918, Sharpe suffered increasing melancholy and then a mental collapse, following the loss of many of his men, including John Walton, a close personal friend. In that era, it was called “shell shock” or “operational disorder”. Today we know it as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and recognize it as aserious mental condition. Sharpe was invalided to England, and then to Canada. While on a train home, he suffered a collapse, and was hospitalized in Montreal. On May 25, 1918 he jumped to his death from a hospital window. It was suggested by those who knew him that he could not face the prospect of returning to Uxbridge, and facing the families of those who had died, many of whom he had recruited personally. Of the 1,100 men he had recruited, only 160 were on active duty when the battalion returned.

Statues of military heroes usually portray them in a heroic, often pompous, pose. Not so with Sam Sharpe. He is depicted as he ponders writing a letter, agonizing over how to tell Mary Walton that her husband has been killed. The letter in his hand begins: “Dear Mary . . .” For almost 100 years, Samuel Sharpe was virtually forgotten – his name buried with thousands who had succumbed to “shell shock”. In those days, shell shock was considered a lack of moral fibre, and Sharpe a disgrace to the regiment. Finally, he is being brought home as a true hero.

The statue…..and the message

The focal point of the “resurrection” of Sam Sharpe is a bronze statue that will tell the story of his heroism, his bravery . . . and his tragic death. It will also tell the story of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and help us to understand the impact of this mental condition, now known to be a condition requiring treatment, rather than bringing disgrace. The most effective way of telling the PTSD story is through the real-life story of one sufferer. There is no more poignant story than that of Sam Sharpe.

The larger-than-lifesize statue is being created by Uxbridge sculptor Wynn Walters. It will be installed beside the CIBC Bank at the intersection of Brock and Toronto streets – appropriately, across the road from the Cenotaph listing the battles he fought in, and from the mural celebrating his men marching off to war. The CIBC has generously given permission for this use of their land.

There is a subtle message in the posture of the figure. Traditionally in statues of military heroes, a figure with one foot lifted off the ground indicates he died in action. Often in equestrian statues, the horse has one hoof lifted. In effect, such was the case with Lt. Col. Sam Sharpe. He died not in battle but of battle.