Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Private Roderic Dexter Sharpe 16147


The CWGC database only has one Roderick D Sharpe and he was from Liverpool.

Family Information:

This is one of the stories that really stuck with me when I was researching, probably because there was quite a lot of information but also because there is more of the family's perspective involved and I got an idea of how the war impacted the family in the years after Roderic's death.

Roderic Dexter Sharpe was born on 13th August 1896 and christened at St James' Church on 20th September that year. His parents were Alexander Sharpe (a hairdresser) and Margaret. They lived at 22 Great George Place which was across the road from St James' Church.

The 1901 census shows the family were still at this address, Alexander was a hairdresser and an employer. Roderic, aged 4,  had a brother who was one year older; his name was Mornington Dexter Sharpe.

The middle name Dexter was their mother's maiden name, Margaret Dexter and Alexander Sharpe were married in 1892 in London.

By the time of the 1911 census the family had moved a few houses down to 30 Great George Place which would seem to have included his hair salon as he was an employer and worked at home. They also had  two more children; daughters Marjorie Dexter Sharpe and Mildred Dexter Sharpe. The census return shows that they hadn't lost any children and their house with 6 occupants has 9 rooms, this was a larger than average house!

Below is an image of Great George Place in 1910, from the website The Black and White Picture Place today there is only one of these buildings left standing, the one with the pointed roof to the left of centre in the photo which was the London and Midland Bank and is now The Wedding House. The David Lloyd building on the right as demolished for road widening plans that never happened (and nearly led to the demolition of St James' Church too) There have been plans advertised lately to develop the area around the Wedding House with modern buildings.

Military Service:

Roderic Dexter Sharpe's service papers have survived in the Pension collection and are available on They tell us that he enlisted on 1st October 1914 aged 19 years. His occupation was clerk and he was given the regimental number 17/16144 in the 1st City Battalion, The King's (Liverpool Regiment) He was in the 17th Battalion which was one of the famous 'pal's battalions'

Roderic passed his medical inspection and the form tells us that he was 5ft 7 inches tall,weighed 130lbs and had a fresh complexion, blue eyes and brown hair.

His training took place at Grantham 20/4/15 - 4/9/15 and Lark Hill, Salisbury 5/9/15 - 6/11/15

He arrived in France 7/11/15

Roderic Dexter Sharpe was killed in action on the 1st or 2nd of July 1916.

He was buried "In an area North East of Marincourt, about 4 1/2 miles North East of Bray-Sur-Somme. Buried near Briqueline Road on right looking North. Ref to map sheet 62c square A.10.c.2.6"

Roderic's Medal Card from shows an incorrect spelling of his name ending with K. It records that Rodric first entered the war in France on 7th November 1915. He was eligible for the Victory Medal, British War Medal and 1915 Star.

Death and Commemoration:

In with his papers are some letters sent by his family, they give us a bit more of the story. In the first his father writes:

July 14th 1916
To Infantry Record Officer, Preston

I received an intimation from one of the Liverpools in France that my son Pte Roderic Dexter Sharpe 16147 Scouts Section, 17th Service Battalion, King's Liverpool Regiment was killed on July 1st have you had any notification of same if so will you please communicate by wire enclosed cost.
Yours Truly A Sharpe

On the back of the letter is the following note:

Wire to addressed overleaf, no casualty. 15.7.16

We can tell from this exchange that Roderic's family received a letter from one of his friends at the front informing them of his death.When his father tried to get confirmation from the army he was told that his son was not a casualty... only to find out at some unkown later date that the initial report was true.  It also tells us more about Roderic's unit - I have not come across the term 'scouts section' before so I will look into that. It could be that he was a scout who went into no-man's land to look for the position and strength of the enemy etc but I don't think they had their own section. It could be how the family interpreted their son's unit.

A second letter from his father, this one is quite hard to read, blanks are words that I can't read and words in brackets are 'best guess':

Dec 11th 1916
Officer in Charge
Effects Section
Enclosed please find receipt for some of the (received) effects of the late Pte R Sharpe 16147 K.L.R.  I would like to point out you have (returned) his (cross) but not his watch he had a small watch no 725x502 J.A.E. which he must have been wearing for the (cross) to have been recovered.
Also I should like you to forward the effects of Private M D Sharpe 26120 A Co 17th Service Battalion King's Liverpool Regiment he was wounded in head and left foot on June 26 1916 in Marincourt and is now in _______ Military Hospital, _______ with his left foot amputated as it will be impossible for him to return to military service can you please forward his personal effects also could you please give me the (amount) of pay (associated with having) ______ ____ is the______ _____ _____ (casualty).
Yours Truly A Sharpe

PS whomever is in charge of the department has sent enclosed with the effects of the late Pte R Sharpe a __________ bearing the name and address of Pte W _____ * 24976 K.L.R. together with _____ paper + ______ +______ which I have forwarded to the address ____________

*Although the name of the soldier is not clear the CWGC database shows it was William Ernest Jones, he was in the same battalion as Roderic and was killed on the same day as him.

Roderic's father Alexander Sharpe died 29th September 1918. He left his wife Margaret £13,974 2s 6d.
Finally, some letters to the Army from Roderic's mother Margaret:
July 11th 1919
To the Officer in Charge of Records, Preston
My son's name is Roderic not Roderick as it is speld (sic) with a k on the army form enclosed I have crossed it out. (It seems that when) he enlisted gives his name with a k in it. I have his papers to (show/check?)
Yours Truly
Mgt Sharpe

This letter appears to have been sent with a completed pension application and you can see where the k has been crossed out on his name. Also interesting is the signature of the minister at the bottom - Rev C T Dawson whose brother was killed just 2 months after Roderic.

Checking Roderic's enlistment papers shows inconsistency in the spelling of Roderic, presumably where different people filled in the forms.

June 7th 1920
To the Registration of Graves Dept

Dear Sirs
I beg to ask if it is possible to have send to me the wooden cross that is on my sons grave in France when a stone is erected. If so I should like to have it for I have since my sons death in action lost my husband and I should like to put it on my husbands grave.
My sons name Pte Roderic Dexter Sharpe
16147 Kings Liverpool Regt
Killed in Action July 1st or 2nd 1916
Yours Faithfully
Mgt Sharpe

She received the following reply:
I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 7/6/20 relating to 16147 Pte R D Sharpe K.L.Regt. In reply thereto I beg to inform you that your application re cross should be made to:- Imperial War Graves Commission
Worcester House
St James Square
Please, I am Madam,
Yours faithfully
Lieut ____

Mrs Sharpe would have been unsuccessful in this request as Private R.D.Sharpe has no known grave, being commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. As the site of his burial was listed in his papers I assume that his grave marker was lost during later fighting. 

"Private R. D. Sharpe, son of Mr and Mrs A Sharpe, of 30, Great George Place, of the Pals, who was been killed. His brother, Lance-Corporal M.D. Sharpe, was severely wounded. Private R.D. Sharpe was educated at St. Margaret's Higher Grade and the Collegiate School.  Lance-Corporal M.D. Sharpe has had his left foot amputated and he also has shrapnel wounds in the left eye. He has served articles as an architect and surveyor with Mr J Williams, Collingwood-Street."

Roderic's brother mentioned in the letter from Alexander Sharpe and the newspaper notice, Mornington, was in the 17th battalion with his brother, they sailed for France together and he was injured 5 days before Roderic was killed. He survived his injuries and went on to emigrate to Canada. Records show that he sailed for Canada on the 'Metagama' on 28/2/1921 and arrived in Quebec on 30/4/1921. The arrivals form shows that he was travelling to Montreal, intending to live there permanently, he was an engineer and had disability - artificial left foot and GSW(gun shot wound) left face, (artificial jaw is written on one form). He had a job lined up and sufficient money ($10,000) to establish himself.
Mornington Dexter Sharpe didn't remain in Canada for very long though, immigration records show his return to England on 25th Sept 1921 (after only 5 months) and there is no record of his returning to Canada even though on his returning to the UK he states on his papers that Canada is his country of last permanent residence and he intends his future permanent residence to be in 'British Possessions'
Probate records shows that Mornington Dexter Sharpe died on 9th March 1928 in Highfield Sanatorium, Knotty Ash, Liverpool and his address was the home of his mother Margaret at 21 Elm Hall Drive, Mossley Hill. He left his mother £1304. 8s. 1d.

The injury of Mornington Dexter and the death of Roderic Dexter took place during the build-up and the commencement of the Somme Offensive. I am not going to try and write about that, there are many informative websites out there. Try wikipedia or the long long trail if you want to read more.

I will however add this passage from "Liverpool Pals" by Graham Maddocks:

The bombardment which opened up on the 24th June, left the Germans in no doubt that the start of the long awaited offensive was imminent. Curiously,silent at first, eventually, on 26th June, the German artillery began its inevitable counter-barrage, and the 17th and 20th battalions in their front line trenches, suffered quite serious losses. On the late evening of the 26th [the day Mornington was injured]whilst relieving the 2nd Bedfords, in the front line near Maricourt, the 20th Battalion endured a fierce bombardment, which killed nine other ranks, fatally wounded Second Lieutenant W H Jowett, and wounded three other officers, and forty-seven men.. During the course of the same night, the 17th Battalion lost seventeed other ranks killed and fifty-seven wounded.

On the first day of the offensive, 1st July 1916, the 17th King's Liverpool Regiment were very successful and captured their objectives with very few casualties. Only seventeen men are listed as killed on 1st/2nd July from the17th KLR (Roderic being one of them) and no deaths were reported as definitely from the 1st (possibly for political reasons). 100 men were wounded. If you are interested in the losses of the Pals on the first day of the Somme there is an excellent book by Joe Deveraux on the subject entitled "A Singular Day on the Somme."

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