Victory in fight for town memorial stone

Charlie Sharpe, winner of the Victoria Cross
Charlie Sharpe, winner of the Victoria Cross
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Slab which honours Bourne soldier’s Victoria Cross will come to town after historian’s intervention

A historian has secured a memorial paving stone to remember a soldier from Bourne who won the Victoria Cross.

Charles Sharpe won the Victoria Cross medal in 1915 while serving with the Lincolnshire Regiment during the Battle of Aubers Ridge in France in the First World War at the age of 26.

The medal is Britain’s highest military decoration for gallantry in the field and Charles was among the 633 members of the armed services who received the honour.

The memorial slabs are being presented to the home towns of all winners of the Victoria Cross during the war as part of a government scheme to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

Charles was born in Pickworth, midway between Sleaford and Bourne.

There were fears that the stone would go to Sleaford which was named in the list published by the government in August.

However after the intervention of local historian Rex Needle it has now been accepted that Bourne was his home town.

Rex said: “For it not to have come to Bourne would have been ridiculous.

“If this memorial had gone to Sleaford, a town where no-one knows about him, it would have been a calamity.

“Everyone in Bourne knows Charles Sharpe and he was held in very high regard.”

Rex pointed out in his article published by The Local on August 23, Charles always regarded Bourne as his home town and spent much of his life here.

Rex alerted South Kesteven District Council asking them to seek an amendment before it was too late.

Officials took up the case by contacting Eric Pickles, Minister for Communities and Local Government.

District council leader Linda Neal, representing Bourne West, has now received a personal assurance from the minister that the database is being changed to reflect Charles Sharpe’s home town as Bourne.

Rex said: “I am very pleased about it because I am all about promoting our history and heritage.”

Rex’s definite history of the town, A Portrait of Bourne, includes an account of Charles’ life. It reveals that he returned to England on leave to receive his medal from King George V at Windsor Castle and then came to Bourne on a recruiting drive to urge young, single men to volunteer for military service.

He was discharged from the army in 1928 with a total of 23 years’ service but returned for a further two years during the Second World War when he was in his fifties and although too old for active service, he was gainfully employed at home as a Master Sergeant Cook.

As a civilian, he worked on various jobs in Bourne including a spell as a labourer and cleaner at the BRM workshops and he also taught gardening and physical training at the Hereward Approved School in what is now Beech Avenue where the boys regarded him as a role model.

He lived at number 68 Woodview and after a spell as a council refuse collector, his last job was as a gardener for the Bourne United Charities and, ironically, one of his duties was to tend the cenotaph and surrounds in the town’s War Memorial gardens where the dead from two world wars are remembered.

He died in 1963 and was buried with full military honours at Newport Cemetery in Lincoln while his name is remembered in a short cul-de-sac off Beech Avenue which was named Sharpe’s Close soon after his death.

His decorations were passed to his children who decided to sell them in 1989 and they were sent to Christie’s auction rooms in London.

In addition to the Victoria Cross there were eight campaign and commemorative medals and the set was bought by South Kesteven District Council for £17,000 on on behalf of the community to commemorate the centenary year of Sharpe’s birth and are now on show at the council’s offices in Grantham.

The decision to ensure that the memorial paving stone comes to Bourne has been welcomed by members of the Pickworth Local History Group.

Group spokesman Joe Seddon said: “Sleaford did not make sense. Bourne was as natural a connection with Charles locally as Pickworth has been historically and we are delighted that this has been changed.”

The stone will now be laid in the town centre in Bourne in 2015 to mark the 100 year anniversary of Charles being award the Victoria Cross.