Stephen Oswald Sharp


Title: Sharp Stephen Oswald
Description: by-nc

Born in Conisbro’ on 8 June 1890, the eldest son of a Rotherham-born coal merchant and his Irish-born wife, in 1901 Stephen Oswald Sharp was accepted as a boarder at King Edward VI. Grammar School, Retford, at an initial cost of £2 6s 8d per term. Appropriately he was nicknamed Sos.

While at school, he became captain of the 1st XI. football and cricket teams, played as principal 1st violinist in the School orchestra, and ended his days as Senior Monitor (Head Boy). Within months of younger brother, Robert Henry Sharp, also leaving his old Grammar School, in November 1910 the pair were summonsed to court for racing donkeys along Filey Sands, after a local RSPCA official claimed that “one of the asses collapsed, and showed signs of extreme
exhaustion.” The bench halted, and then dismissed the case, following evidence given by Miss Elsie Carr, of Barnsley, who stated that she “rides to hounds with the Earl of Fitzwilliam Hounds” and “[the donkeys] showed no signs of exhaustion whatsoever.”

After attending Pembroke College, Cambridge – his application stating the intention to become a schoolmaster – and eventually gaining a B.A. in modern languages, in 1912 he became an articled clerk with John Henry Cockburn’s firm of solicitors in Rotherham, while also continuing as a keen football player and a member of both Rotherham Town Cricket Club and Doncaster Tennis Club.

On 11 September 1914, Sos joined an Officer Training Corps, effectively becoming 1048, Private S. O. Sharp, York and Lancaster Regiment. Granted a Regular Army Infantry commission in the rank of temporary Second Lieutenant on 27 November 1914, he was appointed to the 13th Battalion (1st Barnsley), York and Lancaster Regiment, being promoted to temporary Lieutenant on 1 June 1915.

Sent out to Egypt in December 1915, in order to defend the Suez Canal, the Regiment, now part of the 31st Division, left Port Said for Marseilles in March 1916. Travelling north, 18 days after arriving in France his Battalion took over a stretch of front line trenches opposite Serre village, at The Somme’s northern most end. On 1 July 1916, while leading his men of A Company into battle, Stephen Oswald Sharp, who had just turned 26, was killed at Serre on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The division as a whole suffered around 3,600 casualties, with more than half the initial strength of the Battalion becoming a casualty (missing, wounded or dead).

In a letter to his parents at Kenilworth, Avenue Road, Doncaster, A Company’s Commander wrote: “Your son died leading his men into action. He died gloriously and earned the homage and devotion of his men for his bravery and cheerfulness at a very awful moment. I know that his example and courage were a very great help to his men in the moment of their trial.” His obituary in King Edward VI. Grammar School’s magazine added that, “He was one of the
keenest and ablest sportsmen that ever passed through the School.”

Buried in grave number 3, row Q, plot 5, at Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps, France, the plot number indicates that his remains were brought there from a smaller cemetery in the surrounding area His entry on the comprehensive Graves Registration Report Form, compiled in the 1920s, noted that his initial “plain cross” was eventually replaced with a “plain headstone.” This Imperial War Graves Commission (now Commonwealth War Graves Commission) Portland
headstone, in addition to his service and death details, is also inscribed “B.A. (CANTAB) | SON OF MR. & MRS. H. J. SHARP | AVENUE ROAD, DONCASTER”; 47 letters for which his parents paid an additional 13s 8d.

Shortly after Sos’s death, younger brother Bob – Worcester Regiment and later Royal Flying Corps pilot – named his newly-born daughter Stephanie in honour. Elder married sister, Minnie Dorothy Ainley, named her son Eric Stephen when he was born in September 1918.

Following the war, Sos’s father, Herbert Joseph Sharp, made several visits to the Serre area, where his eldest son had been killed. A lantern lecture entitled “Billets, Fighting Places, and Resting Places” was presented to The League of Nations’ Union at Filey during February 1924, in which it was reported that “views were from photographs taken by Mr. Sharp himself, who is very familiar with the district.”

A similar presentation was given to the Rotherham Branch in December 1927, the 200 slides shown being mostly taken by him during three walking tours undertaken since 1921. He also thought about the Imperial War Graves Commission’s staff, who tended overseas cemeteries “out yonder,” and appealed in a December 1928 newspaper letter for readers to “send a few newspapers and periodicals (especially the illustrated ones) to the gardeners” working on what
would become “one of the wonders of the world”.

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