Norman SHARPLES
Rank: Sapper
Number: 107171
Unit: 40th Division Signal Company ROYAL ENGINEERS
Date of Death: 20 May 1918
Age: 22
Cemetery: Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

The Stockport Advertiser would later describe Norman as being a "Victim of German Barbarity" when he was killed during an air raid whilst he was in hospital.

He was the youngest child of James and Mary who, at the time of the 1901 Census, were living at 24 Shepley's Buildings, Marple. His older siblings were Matilda (19), May (14), Janet (12), James (known by his middle name of Everatt) (10) and Eveline (6). The family worshipped at Marple Ridge United Methodist Church and Norman also furthered his education by attending the Church's Sunday School.

He had started work as a clerk at Rose Hill Station, Marple but more recently he had been a clerk in the office of the District Superintendent of the Great Central Railway at London Road Station (now Manchester Piccadilly). On 8 November 1915, Norman travelled to Doncaster, most probably with workmates, to enlist into the Army. He was assigned to the Engineers and became a telegraphist. 40th Division went overseas in the early summer of 1916 and Norman was one of its original soldiers.

In early April 1917, bad news came to Marple when his brother, Everatt, was reported killed in action. Shortly after this, Norman was injured in his foot. It was not a serious injury but it required hospital treatment and he was evacuated to one of the main military hospitals that were along the Channel coast. He was recovering well and had written home. He mentions in one letter that he was writing it from the sand dunes.

On the night of 19/20 May, the Germans undertook a heavy air raid on the Etaples area. Many were killed or injured. Norman suffered a fractured skull and died a few hours later.

The raid was controversial and was extensively reported in the press. What was less reported was that this a retaliation raid for an attack on Koln on 18 May, which had left 40 German civilians dead.

It is unlikely that the German pilots deliberately targeted the hospitals, although it is possible. Etaples was effectively one very large military camp. As well as the hospitals, there were rest camps, training areas, stores, railways, etc. It is not known which hospital Norman was in at the time - several were hit by the bombing. The following is an account from the official records of 7th Canadian Stationery Hospital:-

Last night, about 10:30., we had a disastrous air raid as a result of which we lost two men (one killed and the other died of wounds) and had one man wounded and also the O. C. Major E. V. Hogan, wounded. Enemy aircraft suddenly were heard, and began dropping bombs without our having received warning. Practically the entire Etaples hospital area was subjected to an aerial bombardment for fully an hour, after which the raiders departed, returning again some time after midnight, and dropped more bombs. They also employed machine guns. It is unofficially estimated that the total casualties in the Etaples area were about one thousand. Casualties were numerous in the staffs of several of the hospitals, and certain patients were also casualties. --- Bright moonlight last night. The anti-aircraft fire appeared to be feeble."

After the War, Mrs Sharples was recorded as living at "Lyme View", Hawk Green, Marple. Mr Sharples is thought to have died, aged 63, in 1913.

Further information about Norman, including a photograph, can be found in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.

   
           
   
     
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