A Historic Wrong, Righted
The latest issue of More of Our Canada (November 2016) was, as usual, filled with many interesting stories. One in particular I found enlightening was “Noble Steeds.” Until I saw the movie War Horse, I had no idea that animals played such an important part in the war effort. However, I would like to enlighten the public about one common misconception that hopefully will be laid to rest quite soon. Lieutenant-colonel George Baker was indeed killed while on the battlefield when he was a sitting parliamentarian. However, he was not the only sitting parliamentarian who died as a direct consequence of the war. Samuel Simpson Sharpe was born in Zephyr, Ont., in 1873. He eventually attended law school, became a lawyer and returned to Uxbridge, Ont., to practice. He was elected to Parliament in 1909. In 1916, he was granted permission to organize a military group, and young men from all over Ontario joined up to follow him and become the 116th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Sam Sharpe was re-elected to Parliament while on the battlefield, not even needing to campaign. He and the 116th served at Vimy, Lens, Hill 70 and Passchendaele and incurred great loss of life. It was Sam Sharpe’s duty to write home to family and friends conveying the bad news. It took a toll on him, and in 1918 he was invalided home to Canada. Shortly after arriving in a Montreal hospital, and feeling unable to face those families back home of men he had led into battle and lost, he jumped from a window, committing suicide on May 25. Because he was not actually killed in battle, he’d been denied his due regard for almost 100 years. But thanks to MP Erin O’toole, historian and writer Ted Barris, and Port Perry sculptor Tyler Briley, a sculpture and plaque of Col. Samuel Sharpe now hang in the Parliament buildings, near Col. Baker’s. Lieutenant-general Romeo Dallaire has long championed the rights of soldiers suffering PTSD, and this is a major victory for them. Samuel Sharpe can now take his rightful place in history. Patricia Asling, Uxbridge, Ont.