WALLACE JAMES SHARPE, D.S.O., CROIX de GUERRE
Updated from the 1974 Article in Prairie Grass To Mountain Pass
Wallace Sharpe, the only son of Emma and Sam Sharpe, was born in Pincher Creek on August 31st, 1889. Most of his early life was spent working and helping on “The Willow Ranch” raising purebred cattle and thoroughbred horses, but he attended school in Pincher Creek and Cowley and then went onto the Western Canada College in Calgary where in 1905 – 1906 he received the silver medal for good conduct. He also attended the Military College in Brandon, Manitoba. As young people, he and his tag-a-long sister, Ethel (who became Mrs. Larmour), and Dick and Harry Hinton, who were not only cousins but very good friends also, used to go fishing in the South Fork River catching unbelievable numbers and sizes of fish, using home-made fishing equipment such as willow branches and string or wire. Being an excellent horseman, Wallace played polo with the North Fork Polo Team. He also was active as a spare player with the Pincher Creek Hockey Team of 1908 – 1909. The team won the Southern Alberta championship that season.
Although devoted to ranching and farming, he had taken military training, holding before the First World War a Lieutenant’s Commission in the 23rd Rangers. He and all other officers of this unit reported immediately upon the declaration of war in 1914, for service in any capacity and were informed that they would best serve in that capacity. Thus it was, after anxious waiting, the 1st day of February 1915, found Lieutenant Sharpe and his fellow officers falling into line. “A” Squadron and the Regimental Staff of the 13th Canadian Mounted Rifles were stationed in Pincher Creek for some months.
The Regiment was transferred to Sarcee Camp, Calgary, and while there, Lieutenant Sharpe left for overseas in August, 1915 with a draft for Cavalry, taking his own horse. On reaching England, he was transferred to the Fort Garry Horse with which unit he went to France. On May 31st, 1917 he was decorated by French Generals with the Croix de Guerre for gallantry on the battlefield. He was the first Canadian officer to win this distinction.
After safely passing through major engagements in November, 1917 he was severely wounded by a bursting shell on the Canal bank in front of Cambrai, when Canadian Cavalry supported the British attack upon that position. Shortly before his last engagement, Major Sharpe, Acting Adjutant, which commission he had by that time achieved, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for gallantry.
Hospitalized in England, amputation of his left leg was necessary and upon his recovery he was returned to Canada. While overseas, during the Christmas Season of 1916 – 1917, his marriage to Miss Norah Mitchell, formerly of Lundbreck, took place. On their return for a time, Major Sharpe was with the Soldiers’ Settlement Board in Calgary, but the call of the south country could not be resisted for long. Despite his severe handicap, and wearing an artificial limb, he farmed and ranched west of Pincher Creek, near “The Willow Ranch, on Wal Eddy’s homestead “Fir Grove”. He owned and raised magnificent Clydesdale horses which he used in his farming. By this time he and Norah had a son, also named Wallace.
Wallace Sr. did, however, have a great deal of trouble with that stump of a leg, and several times he had to undergo operations to have another piece of the stump removed. That trouble, together with contracting scarlet fever and pneumonia caused his untimely death on January 12th, 1923 at the age of 34 at “Fir Grove”. It is interesting to note that the pallbearers were Captain Thomas J. Cumberland, Major J. H. Jackson, Major William W. Henderson, Sergeant George Cox of Pincher Creek and Private Harry Rogers of Lundbreck.
Wallace was deeply esteemed for his excellence of character and his undaunted success in all his undertakings, and his early death brought sorrow to all the south country. The funeral cortege was a great length, even roadsides being lines with sorrowing friends and neighbors as he was laid to rest in the Cowley cemetery. A soldier’s headstone marks his grave, and a family memorial tablet hangs in St. John’s Anglican Church in Pincher Creek.