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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 132729
36th Machine Gun Corps
Who died on Thursday, 11th April 1918
Age 19

No Known Grave Panel 154 to 159 & 163a
Memorial to the "Missing", Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele, West Flanders, Belgium

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Tyne Cot Cemetery

Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium1

Ernest George William Sharp was born in Hornsey, Middlesex in 18992, the youngest of six children of Matthew Thraves Sharp (b. c1860, Swayfield, Lincolnshire) and his wife Ada Alice (b. c1864, Holborn, London, née Piper). In the 1890s, Matthew was trading in partnership with a Richard Krohn as manufacturers of leather goods from premises in London's Barbican area and had demonstrated an inventive mind in other areas too - in 1898 he had patented improvements to roller blinds - but, in 1900, the business failed and was declared insolvent. By 1901, probably seeking a new start, the family had moved to The Birkholme, Corby Glen, Grantham, Lincolnshire from where Matthew could continue to make use of his knowledge of the leather goods market as a manufacturer's agent3.

It appears, however, that they had retained a valuable contact in London. George Sneath, a senior partner with a large accountancy firm was a Justice of the Peace and took a particular interest in education as a member of Hendon Education Committee. He and his second wife, Marion Eliza Harriett, lived at Gloucester Lodge4, a substantial home in the then rural Golders Green - now largely overtaken by the growth of suburban housing in the Hendon area of north London. Together they worked tirelessly for the benefit of the local community and to help the poorer children of London's East End. Their annual summer event held for the enjoyment of 300 to 500 children from the East End of London. in the fields surrounding their home, which included dinner, tea and other refreshments and amusements, was always a truly memorable event for those who took part5. In Ernest's case, it seems, that he was particularly fortunate, as one of her godsons, by being 'adopted' by Mrs Sneath when he was ten years of age. This meant that he received an education at a local private preparatory school in Hendon run by a Mr Bacon and then went on to Palmer's School in Grays, Essex. He was also encouraged to join the Boy Scouts and he became a very keen member, becoming assistant scoutmaster and taking charge when the leader went to war. And, when it came to starting a career, a place was made available with the leading accounting firm where Mr Sneath was a Principal6. Notwithstanding this special relationship, connection with his parents continued. In April 1911 they were still living at the same address in Grantham and he was staying with them, recorded as a schoolboy7.

But, from 1916 onwards, conscription into the armed forces had become compulsory for all single men when reaching the age of 18, and they would then be eligible to be sent abroad on reaching age 19. Accordingly, Ernest enlisted, apparently in February 1917 at Golders Green and joined the London Regiment (Queen's Westminster Rifles) and later transferred to the 36th Machine Gun Company for training. On 1 March 1918, the Company was amalgamated into the 12th Battalion Machine Gun Corps, becoming part of 12th Division. Very soon after he became 19, he joined 12th Battalion in France, on April 1st 19188.

On 21st March, the German Army had launched its Spring Offensive from the Hindenburg Line with the objective of ending the war before American troops and resources could tilt the balance towards the Allies. The objective was to smash through the Allied lines, push the British forces into the sea and to cut off their supply lines by seizing the ports. The German advance had been preceded by a very heavy bombardment which included gas shells. The advancing attack had gained ground and despite a strong defence, parts of the line had been forced to effect a planned and orderly retirement to a new line, closely followed by the enemy. In the next several days, more ground had been lost and the British troops had become increasingly disorganised. There had been heavy casualties and reinforcements were needed urgently. It is against this desperate background that new drafts - which included Private Sharp - arrived. Even with these new additions the sadly depleted Division could only form a single Brigade but, nevertheless, were ordered to hold the line between Bray and Rosiefas-en-Santerre at all costs9. On April 11th, after less than two weeks in France, Private Sharp was killed in action playing his part in the defence of the line.

As his body was never identified, Private Sharp is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing within the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery of that name. The cemetery grounds were assigned to the United Kingdom in perpetuity by King Albert I of Belgium in recognition of the sacrifices made by the British Empire in the defence and liberation of Belgium during the war. On the forward slope of the Passchendaele Ridge is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any war. The cemetery and its surrounding memorial are located outside of Passchendaele, near Zonnebeke in Belgium. The Cross of Sacrifice is to be found in a central position in the cemetery, at the base of the cross a small patch of the original German Block House can still be seen, contained within a bronze wreath, while on the far side, between it and the memorial wall, is a collection of some 300 graves. These are the original battle-field burials left where they were found after the Armistice. The other some nearly 12,000 graves which stand in parade ground order, were brought in from the surrounding area after the Armistice. The stone wall surrounding the cemetery makes up the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing. On completion of the Menin Gate memorial to the missing in Ypres, it was discovered that it was too small to contain all the names that were originally planned. An arbitrary cut-off point of 15th August was chosen and the names of the UK missing after this date were inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial instead. The memorial contains the names of 33,783 soldiers of the UK forces and a further 1,176 New Zealanders10.

Private Sharp was posthumously awaited the Victory Medal and the British Medal11. His Army financial effects of 3 9s 9d were paid to his father on 15 August 1918 and he also received his War Gratuity of 4 10s on 28 November 191912. By this time his parents, along with most of their family, had moved to Beeston to live at 4 Lilac Grove13, an area near to the station, popular with traveling salesmen. In addition to his entry on the memorial in Beeston Parish Church, he is remembered on the war memorial at St Michael's Church, Golders Green. This memorial also includes the name of Claude Sneath, George and Marion's son who had joined the Army by 1911 and, as a Lieutenant with 4th Battalion Middlesex Regiment, was killed in action on 14th October 191414. Ernest's eldest brother, Charles Sidney Piper Sharp, served with the London Regiment from the early days of the war and arrived in France on 1st November 1914. He was Commissioned on 19 January 1916 and served throughout the remainder of the war as a 2nd Lieutenant with 10th Battalion Norfolk Regiment15.

It appears that Matthew and his family left Beeston after his wife Ada died there, early in 1923. Matthew continued with his inventive ideas, patenting an improved golf bag which featured a supporting spike later that year. He died in 1935 in the Ashby-de-la-Zouch area of Leicestershire. Two of his sons settled in Nottingham - Charles died there in 1955 and Leslie, a commercial traveller who lived at 82 Harlaxton Drive, died in 1982. Herbert settled in Willington Derbyshire and died there in 195516.

George Sneath died on 30 April 1922 after a successful career and life of public service and benevolence. He left the very substantial estate of over 137,00017. The bells at Hendon Parish Church were restored in his memory by his family. For most of the decade which followed the war, Marian Sneath continue her benevolence to their local community and beyond - including the Hendon Cottage Hospital and the local churches at Hendon and at Golders Green. She died on 1 April 1928 leaving over 32,000 with a wide range of bequests to family, godchildren, domestic staff and local hospitals18.

1The photograph of the Tyne Cot Cemetery is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Edmonton Registration District (of which Hornsey was part) in Q1/1899 (Ref 31 334). He was baptised at St Paul's Church, Haringey on 11 March 1899. The family was then living at 15 Gladwell Road, Hornsea.
3Grantham, Lincolnshire, 1901 Census, Piece 3023 Folio 7
Ernest's siblings were Florence A Sharp (b.. c1891), Charles Sidney Piper Sharp(c1893-1955), Herbert John Thraves Sharp (c1893-1965), Leslie Alfred Matthew Sharp (c1896-1982) and Mabel Alice May Sharp (b. 1897).
4Golders Green, 1901 Census, Piece 5336 Folio 113 : Gloucester Lodge. The family included children from George's first wife, Sarah, who had died in 1883, aged 39. George had married Marian Eliza Harriett Davis in 1887 and they had a further three children.
5One such event was described in the Hendon & Finchley Times on 1 July 1909.
6Ernest's relationship with Mr & Mrs Sneath is described in his obituary in the Hendon & Finchley Times on 24 May 1918. In Marian Sneath's will she remembered a number of godchildren who she no doubt similarly sponsored. These appear to have included Ernest's sister Mabel.
7Grantham, Lincolnshire, 1911 Census, Piece 19442 RD412 SD1 ED1 Schedule 162.
8His enlistment date has been calculated based on the amount of his War Gratuity. His place of enlistment and attachment to the London Regiment (as No. 554219) are recorded as part of his entry in 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'. His transfer to the Machine Gun Corps and other deployment dates are from his obituary in the Hendon & Finchley Times of 24 May 1918.
9The account of the battalion's deployment as part of 12th Division during April 1918 is derived in part from accounts on the Forces War Records site.
10This description of the Tyne Cot Memorial is based on that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
11Details from Ernest's Medal Card and his entry in the Medal Rolls - available on ancestry.com.
12Details of the payments are from the "Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929" - available on ancestry.com.
13Matthew and Ada, together with their sons Charles, Leslie and Herbert are listed at this address in the 1921 Electoral Roll.
14The dedication of the memorial at St Michael's, Golders Green was described in the Hendon & Finchley Times on 28 July 1918. It includes the names of those remembered on the memorial. There is a photograph of Lieutenant Claude David Sneath in the Imperial War Museum collection at www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205388898
15Details of Charles Sharp's military service are from his Medal Card - available on ancestry.com.
16Family details are from standard genealogical sources, including the September 1939 Registration.
17Probate of his will & codicil was granted at London Probate Registry on 16 June 1922 and certified in Edinburgh on 14 October 1922. The value of his estate equates to nearly 7 million in today's purchasing power and other measures suggest a much higher figure in present-day terms.
18Marian's obituary, which details her generosity, appeared in the Hendon & Finchley Times on 6 April 1928. Details of her will and the disposition of her estate appeared in the Hendon & Finchley Times on 9 November 1928. The value of her estate equates to nearly 2 million in today's purchasing power.

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