The Senator

Lieutenant Colonel W.H. Sharpe, MP
184th (Manitou) Battalion

The man who is not prepared to serve his country at the present time should have no place in the affairs of Canada.

(W.H. Sharpe, Debates, 23 Jan 1917, 9)

William Henry Sharpe was a homesteader, merchant and politician. Born in Scott Township, Ontario on 19 April 1868, he moved to Manitoba and was elected Conservative MP for Lisgar in 1908. After a failed bid in the 1915 provincial election and an appointment to the Senate, Sharpe was authorized to raise the 184th Battalion. His younger brother Sam Sharpe, fellow Conservative MP, commanded the 116th Battalion.

Although never before connected to the militia, Sharpe recruited the 184th from Manitou and southern Manitoba. The battalion sailed for England in November 1916, but was immediately absorbed into 11th Reserve Battalion and Sharpe returned to Canada.

Criticizing the system of breaking up battalions upon retaking his Senate seat, Sharpe emphasized, “I was willing to serve but there was then nothing for me or for my senior officers to do.”

During a tense debate in 1920, Ontario Senator William Bennett implied Sharpe and fellow parliamentary colonels, George Henry Bradbury and Lendrum McMeans, had been cowards for not leading their troops on the battlefield.

Sharpe joined his fellow colonels in denouncing Bennett: “Should we sit here and be insulted by a man like this? I do not think we should. I raised a battalion and took it overseas, and did my best, and spent thousands of dollars of my money.” Bennett called Sharpe a “political colonel” while Sharpe responded that Bennett was “a contemptible cur.” The Speaker of the Senate forced both to apologize.

Sharpe remained in the Senate until his death on 19 April 1942.


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