As another Remembrance Day approaches our thoughts turn to residents from Southwell and the surrounding area who, 100 years ago, fought and died in the First World War. A memorial service to mark the centenary of the Battle of Loos in which soldiers from Southwell died will take place during Evensong in the minster on Wednesday (14th October).
Andy Gregory, chairman of the Nottinghamshire branch of the Royal British Legion, would like people to join the act of remembrance to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle.
Mr Gregory has researched the stories of some of the Southwell soldiers who lost their lives in the battle on the Western Front. They include two brothers, Captain Henry Handford, known as Basil, and Lieutenant Everard Handford, both of Elmfield House, Burgage.
Both brothers served in the 8th Bn Sherwood Foresters. On 15th October 1915 they were killed in action on the same day during the disastrous attack on the defensive strongpoint of the German 6th Army in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France. The inscription on the memorial window, Southwell Minster reads: ‘For a remembrance before God of Henry Basil Strutt Handford, Capt. VIIIth Battn Sherwood Foresters, and of Everard Francis Sale Handford, Lieut. VIIIth Battn Sherwood Foresters, who were killed in action in France on Oct. 14th (sic) 1915. Lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided.
Local resident, Robin Sharman, has also kindly shared with us an extract from his Family History project. This 14th October will see the centenary of the 1915 death of Robin’s great-uncle John Sharman.
John Sharman was the eighth of 13 sons and daughters of Thomas Hoyles Sharman and Hannah Ann (née Mettham), born in south Lincolnshire in 1895.
Successive moves from 1900 onwards eventually took the family to Woodborough and then to Southwell. At first they lived on Park Hill to the south of the town, by 1910 they had moved down to The Holme at Westhorpe.
In the 1911 census John Sharman was listed as a “Gentleman’s Servant” working for the Warrand family at nearby Westhorpe Hall. At some time between 1911 and 1914 he went to work for Herbert Edward Steel, the butcher whose shop was in Westgate in Southwell.
John became engaged to Mary Walters, a domestic servant, as things turned out, they never did marry.
In November 1911 John (falsely claiming to be already 17 years old) signed up for four years service as a territorial soldier in the 8th Battalion of the Notts and Derby Regiment (The Sherwood Foresters).
On 3rd September 1914, just over five weeks after the beginning of the First World War, John signed up to become liable to serve anywhere outside the United Kingdom. He was soon mobilised, serving in B Company of the 1st/8th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters (Notts. And Derby Regiment). They were in England until 1st March, and arrived in France the following day.
John Sharman was mentioned by name in “The History of 1/8th Battalion Sherwood Foresters 1914-1919” by Captain W.C.C. Weetman (published by Thomas Forman and sons in 1920). Included in the narrative for 15th June 1915 is the reference: “Pvte. J. Sharman of B Company, who was practically the only man left in the trench when the enemy tried to occupy it, shot one and drove off another, both of them having attacked him at the same time. He was hit in the leg by a dud bomb, and got a bullet through his haversack.”
As a result of this John was wounded in the thigh. He managed to visit his family in Southwell in the August of 1915. The Newark Advertiser of August 28th 1915 reported that he had been awarded the Russian Medal of St. George 4th Class (equivalent to the British Distinguished Service Medal) for conspicuous bravery in the field. On 27th August 1915 John Sharman was promoted to Lance Corporal, and subsequently to Corporal.
In chapter four of his book Weetman related the events at Hohenzollern Redoubt from 1st October to 17th October 1915.
On the evening of 13th October B Company of the 8th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters were in a reserve trench waiting to attack the enemy. The explosion of a shell nearby stunned a Private W. Gregory, and John Sharman took him into a dugout. He stayed with Gregory into the night until the latter was taken out of the trench by stretcher bearers. At about 6.45 on the morning of 14th October he found D Company. One of its two platoons waiting to go “over the top” was commanded by Sergeant G. Layhe, who told John that he did not know where B Company was. John then told Layhe that he would go over the parapet with him. This he did, and at a later inquest he was said to have kept next to Layhe the whole time. When they reached the German wire John Sharman was hit in the head by a bullet, and according to Layhe he died instantly.
John Sharman was originally listed as missing; but, based on evidence given by Private Gregory and Sergeant Layhe at an inquest held on 4th January 1916, it was ruled that he had been killed in action on Thursday 14th October 1915 at Hohenzollern Redoubt. He has no known grave but is commemorated on the memorial at Loos, Pas de Calais in France as well as on the memorials in Holy Trinity church and the Minster in Southwell.
CLERGY, Choir and Congregation from Southwell Minster will be joining Royal British Legion members at Southwell Burgage Green War Memorial from 10.30am on Sunday 8th November.
All residents are invited to join them for the two minutes silence at 11am and Wreath Laying by representatives from RBL and Southwell Town Council together with other uniformed groups.
The parade will then move to the Southwell Minster for the Main Service and afterwards to the War Memorial at the Recreation Ground gates where the RBL will lay a wreath.
There will also be a service at the Westgate entrance to Southwell Minster on Tuesday 11th November at 11am.
Picture courtesy of A J Loughton (1865 – 1953)