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November 22, 2015 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Remembrance Day on the Apley Estate

2015-11-21, Graham Jones restored the bench outside Norton School

Graham Jones restored the bench outside Norton School, inscribed with Leslie Webb’s name

Norman Sharpe, Graham Jones's photo

Private Norman Sharpe – 5th Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

Les Webb, , Graham Jones's photo

Corporal Leslie Webb – Royal Engineers

Charlie & Annie Webb, Graham Jones's photo

Bombardier Charlie Webb – Royal Horse Artillery – Royal Air Force

Philip Davies, , Graham Jones's photo

Squadron Leader Phillip Davies – Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

Graham Jones went to Norton school in the heart of the Apley Estate & about 100m from Apley Farm Shop. He has written The Apley Legion: A Parade of Servicemen from a Shropshire Estate & shared with me the pieces which were movingly read out 2 weeks ago on Remembrance Sunday, 8 November.

The congregation heard about the 4 Apley men photographed here (these are all Graham Jones’s photos): Bombardier Charlie Webb – Royal Horse Artillery – Royal Air Force; Corporal Leslie Webb – Royal Engineers; Private Norman Sharpe – 5th Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders; Squadron Leader Phillip Davies – Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders – Royal Flying Corps & RAF.

Here’s Graham’s piece about Norman Sharpe, who became gamekeeper on the Apley Estate & whose son Edward Sharpe has published his memoirs in Apley Hall: The Golden Years of a Sporting Estate.

“Edward Sharpe and his young family moved from Essex to Apley Lodge in 1902, Norman was five years old. His earliest memories were of woodland and river bank, the perfect playground for any young boy. He followed his father as he went about his duties as head gamekeeper. He learned the ways of the wildlife, pheasant and fox, trout and salmon in the Severn, deer in the park and every bird that nested in woodland and hedgerow. He was determined to learn more so that one day he would follow the same calling as his father, but first he had to complete his schooling. He was restless and it must have been a relief to Mr Davies when Norman left the village school to become an office boy!

This was not the outdoor life he had hoped for but he did get plenty of exercise outdoors. He ran around every street in the town collecting the rent from the many properties owned by William Foster.  At the end of the day he caught the train to Linley Halt and ran home to Apley Lodge. The war put an end to this routine.

Phillip Davies had joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and appeared in the heart of the village in uniform with all the trimmings. Norman may have been envious because he joined the same regiment in June 1915.

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders had such a reputation that they were often given the most dangerous tasks. Norman’s record of service showed that he had special skills, ‘sniper’,’ bomber’, and ‘runner’. He never forgot one message he carried to a company of the Black Watch. There was no one to receive it. Every man was dead, victims of a gas attack that went terribly wrong. The lethal cloud intended for the German trenches swept back over them when the wind changed direction.

Norman had an independent streak, at the training camp at Etaples he rebelled. On the first day the Argylls were given bayonet practice. These were men who had first-hand battle experience and did not need any instruction on how to defend themselves. At the roll calls that followed one of his mates answered for him and he spent his days in a railway siding writing letters home.

In the summer of 1917 he was laid low with trench fever- head aches, a rash, inflamed eyes, and leg pains. Usually patients recovered within a week. The cause was a mystery until 1918, body lice were the culprits, particularly active in the summer months.

Private Sharpe saw action in major battles and minor skirmishes. His luck ran out at Dichebusch, a village near Ypres. He was guiding a party of the Royal Artillery to a gun emplacement on the front line. Shells were falling all around them, this was nothing new they were all experienced men. On this occasion the gunners were on the receiving end. A shell fell among them and three were killed and three of their escorts were wounded. Norman was hit, splinters ripped through his leg, his war was over.

The Argylls had lost many men, Apley men had lost their lives, Arthur Foster had lost a leg. Norman must have considered himself fortunate that his leg was saved. The war ended in four months but it was almost a year before Norman was released. He was awarded Silver War Badge for ‘services rendered’.

Still troubled by his wound he returned to his old ‘office job’. His dream of walking the woods on a keeper’s beat was not realised for four years. At last his father gave him the chance to show what he could do, when Edward Sharpe retired Norman became the head game keeper. This was a determined man who never wavered, in battle or in the pursuit of a dream.”

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