Remembering Bill Sharp’s Uncles – 100 years after Passchendaele

Bill and Joan Sharp with family; children Beverley &husband John, son Graham, son Simon & wife Sharon, grandchildren, Adrian Harley, Liam, granddaughter Eleanor & Luke, her partner, & Natalie.

Bill Sharp’s full name is William Cecil Sharp.

Well, what of it you may ask.

Bill’s mother’s maiden name was Susan Harley – and both her brothers, William and Cecil Harley, were killed in 1917, fighting for their country in the first world war.

They were only 19 and 17 years of age.

Bill and his wife Joan and their family, went to visit the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery where Cecil is buried, on the 100 years anniversary of Passchendaele.

They stayed in a converted farmhouse called Victory Farm that back in 1917 was used to store arms and ammunition.

Outside there is a road called Victory Walk that circumvents a large field where the bomb craters are left as a reminder of the barrage endured.

Using that as their base, the Littleport party toured the cemeteries and museums before visiting the one that has special meaning for them.

Although William was listed as missing presumed killed in action and unfortunately, many thousands of bodies were never found, he could be among those who were formally buried there, and on whose grave-stones is inscribed, ‘Known only unto God.’

There are 10,754 men buried in that one cemetery alone – and one woman. She was 26-year-old Army Staff Nurse Nellie Spindler of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, who was killed that August when the Germans shelled the hospital…

Joan Sharp was shocked to find out that only officers were buried in coffins, and other, lower ranks were wrapped in blankets, remarking that the class system was operating even in death.

But as was commented by the writer, those soldiers are in the best company, as Jesus was also buried wrapped in a cloth.

Something is known of Gunner Cecil’s life in the army, as he wrote home as regularly as he could, and every letter ended with, ‘Hopefully, this war will soon be over.’

His letters are now in the Museum out there.

He was wounded at the battle of Nieuwpoort on July 7, and it took 3 long days to get him the 45 kilometres to the hospital. Tragically, Bill’s Uncle Cecil died on the day he arrived, July 10.

To commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele, The Royal British Legion has created a limited edition lapel pin made from the brass shell fuses used in the battle. They have even mixed a little of the soil from the battlefield into the enamel. Joan and Bill Sharp are now the proud owners and have a certificate with Cecil’s name on, to go with it.

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