Category Archives: Bedfordshire

CWG: Stoker 1st Class Horace Sharp

Stoker 1st Class Horace Sharp

Horace Stanley Sharp was born on 13th April 1894, the oldest of eight children to Harry and Edith. Harry was a labourer from Luton in Bedfordshire, and this is where he and Edith raised their family.

When he left school, Horace found work at a local iron foundry, but he wanted more of a career and, on 25th February 1913, he enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class. His service records confirm that he was 5ft 4ins (1.62m) tall, had brown hair, grey eyes and that he had a fair complexion.

Stoker Sharp was first posted to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. Here he would have received his training, but, during this time, he went absent without authorisation, and, as a result, spent 24 days in the cells. It seems that his training was extended as a result of this, as he was not given his first posting – on board the cruiser HMS Sirius – until January 1914.

Over the next couple of years, Horace served on two further vessels – HMS Alert, where he gained a promotion to Stoker 1st Class, and HMS Swiftsure, where he was detained for a further five days. The reason for this second time in the brig is not recorded, but, as it coincided with the death of Horace’s mother, the cause seems likely to have been connected.

In 1916 he returned to HMS Pembroke, before being assigned to the brand new battlecruiser HMS Repulse, where he served for a year, taking part in operations in the Persian Gulf and the Dardanelles.

At the end of July 1917, Stoker 1st Class Sharp returned to Chatham once more. The base was particularly busy that summer, and the large number of extra servicemen meant that Horace was billeted in temporary accommodation in Chatham Drill Hall.

On the 3rd September 1917, the first night air raid carried out by the German Air Force bombarded the town, and scored a direct hit on the Drill Hall; Stoker 1st Class Sharp was among those killed that night. He was just 23 years of age.

Horace Stanley Sharp was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.

Stoker 1st Class Horace Sharp

Horace’s younger brother Harry also fought in the First World War, serving a a Private in the 1st Battalion of the London Regiment. He was assigned to the 13th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, and fought at the 3rd Battle of Ypres in 1917.

He was wounded on 5th September 1917, receiving a gun shot wound in the back. Private Sharp was admitted to hospital, and died from his injuries later that day. He was just 20 years of age and passed away just two days after his older brother. He was laid to rest in the Reninghelst Military Cemetery in Belgium.

CWG: Driver Arthur Heathfield

Driver Arthur Heathfield

Arthur Heathfield was born in Shefford, Bedfordshire, early in 1897, the oldest child to Ellen Grace Heathfield. Ellen married William Lewis in 1903, and went on to have four children in total.

When he left school, Arthur found work as a farm labourer, but by this time, war was coming to Europe. Full details of his military career are not are not available, but he enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery at some point towards the end of 1914.

Driver Heathfield was assigned to the 14th Brigade, which saw fighting on the Western Front, although it is not possible to determine whether Arthur himself went overseas. What is certain is that, by the spring of 1915, he was admitted to hospital in Frome, Somerset, suffering from meningitis. Sadly, he was to succumb to the disease on 21st April. He had not long turned 18 years old.

Arthur Heathfield was laid to rest in the graveyard of Christ Church, in the town in which he died.

CWG: Private John Lodge

Private John Lodge

John Thomas Inskip Lodge was born in Shefford, Bedfordshire, on 31st January 1899, one of seven children to John and Florence Lodge (née Inskip). When his son was young, John Sr worked as a bead lace manufacturer, but by the time of the 1911 census, he had become the manager of a steam laundry.

Florence, by this time, had passed away, and in November 1911, John Sr married again, to Florence Yarnell. The couple would go on to have four children, John Jr’s half-siblings.

By this time, war was on the horizon, and John was eager to leave his laundry job and volunteer. He joined the Royal Marine Light Infantry on 4th September 1915, giving his date of birth as three years earlier in order to ensure he was accepted. His service record shows that he stood 5ft 4ins (1.62m) tall, had a fresh complexion, brown eyes and brown hair.

As a Private, John served with the Chatham Division of the regiment; he would have seen action in some of the key battles of the war, including at Gallipoli in 1915/16 and later on the Western Front. It was while he was fighting in France in September 1916 that he was injured, and he was medically evacuated back to England for treatment.

Private Lodge recovered, and served on in Chatham, Kent, where he was billeted at the naval barracks in the town. At the start of June 1917, he had some leave owing, and so visited his parents back in Bedfordshire. When he returned to Kent, he fell ill and was admitted to the Naval Hospital in the town. Sadly, John was not to recover; he passed away on 23rd June 1917, aged just 18 years old.

John Thomas Inskip Lodge was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, not far from the Chatham barracks at which he was based.

CWG: Lieutenant John Scrace

Lieutenant John Scrace

John Scrace was born on 31st July 1892 in Chatham, Kent, the oldest of five children to John and Adelaide Scrace. John Sr was a relieving officer for the Medway Board of Guardians, a role which involved “taking charge of poor or insane persons not otherwise cared for” []. Adelaide worked in a similar role, as an infant protection visitor.

It is fair to say, therefore, that John Jr had a very supportive childhood. He attended King’s School in Rochester, where he obtained a scholarship to Peterhouse College, Cambridge.

When war broke out, John was keen to do his part. Initially joining The Buffs (the East Kent Regiment), he transferred across to the newly-formed Royal Air Force in June 1918. By this point he had risen to the rank of Lieutenant, and, as part of his new RAF role, was based at Driffield in Yorkshire.

On 24th August 1918, the aircraft John was flying at the base, spun into the ground, and John was killed instantly. A subsequent inquest identified that “the cause of the accident was due to the fact that, for reasons unknown, part of the top of the left-hand plane of the machine crumpled up in the air and thereby [caused] the pilot to lose control of his machine.” [] Lieutenant Scrace was just 26 years of age.

John Scrace was buried in Christ Church Churchyard in Luton, Bedfordshire; he is commemorated in Woodlands Cemetery in his home town of Gillingham, Kent.

CWG: Private Henry Cowles

Private Henry Cowles

In a quiet corner of a cemetery in Somerset stands a gravestone to Private HJ Cowles. It confirms that he passed away on 26th April 1920, and that he was in the Bedfordshire Regiment during the First World War.

Little additional information on HJ Cowles is available. One document, the Medal Roll Index Card, confirms his first name as Henry, and that he had initially joined the Somerset Light Infantry. He was awarded the British Medal for his war service.

Cowles is a fairly common name in the Somerset area, and, without any additional information – date of birth, familial connections – it is impossible to narrow down the name on the gravestone to a specific Henry Cowles from the area or beyond.

There is also nothing in any contemporary newspapers to suggest that Private Cowles’ passing was anything out of the ordinary.

Sadly, therefore, he remains a name lost to history. Henry J Cowles, whoever he was, and however he died, lies at rest in the Milton Cemetery in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

CWG: Private George East

Private George East

George East was born in 27th May 1879 to George and Agnes East. Agnes was George Sr’s second wife, which led to George Jr having four siblings and a further eight half-siblings. George’s father was a painter and handyman, who sadly passed away when his son was only seven years old.

Sadly, a lot about George remains a mystery, as a lot of documentation about him no longer exists. The snippets that are available give a tantalising glimpse into his life.

He married a woman called Jessie, and they had a daughter, Vera, who was born in July 1912.

George enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry on 29th September 1915, and served at the Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. Private East was based there for most of the war, but fell ill, succumbing to stomach cancer on 22nd June 1918. He was 39 years old.

George East lies at peace in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent.