When the Mechanics Institute hall in the small rural community of Mead was moved to Cohuna after the Great War, the local pictorial Honour Roll was moved with it. The Mead Mechanics Institute was rebuilt as an extension of the Cohuna Soldiers Memorial Hall, where it remains.
Under the memorial’s carved arch, in the centre of the first row, is a photograph of Private Oscar Sharpe. In the pages of the Cohuna Farmers’ Weekly his name and wartime experiences are chronicled. His life was similar to thousands of other Australians repatriated from the Middle East and from Europe.
On 27 November 1914 the Cohuna newspaper recorded his enlistment and the farewell social held at the Mead Mechanics Institute for three young volunteers. Two of them, Oscar Sharpe and George Newman, were well-known members of ‘the local minstrel group’. That night the first part of the program was devoted to music, with Oscar singing ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ and the two men rendering ‘Sons of Australia’.
In a letter from a training camp at Heliopolis, Egypt, early in 1915, published in the Farmer’s Weekly, Private Charles Peden, also from Mead, noted that Oscar Sharpe was camped close to him.
Sharpe next appears in a sombre announcement of local casualties:
The public will have learned with deep regret of the injury of Pte. Oscar Sharpe, who was so severely wounded in recent fighting at Gallipoli, as to necessitate the amputation of one of his arms … performed some weeks ago, and Pte Sharpe is now being invalided home …
On 8 September 1916 Sharpe was discharged from the army in consideration of losing his right arm and was appointed ‘water bailiff at Cohuna by the Water Commission’. One week later the Weekly reported that he was afforded a ‘Welcome Home’ by the girls of Cohuna. At this event Sharpe announced that ‘he would not be sorry when the rest of the lads came home’.
A second welcome home was held at Mead, in the hall where he had sang ‘Tipperary’ at his farewell and in which the Honour Roll is still displayed. At this welcome home, he was presented with cufflinks, a touching but perhaps rather ill-considered gift.
In July 1918 Sharpe was elected as a committee member of the newly established Cohuna Shire Returned Soldiers Association.
Cohuna and the Great War, ed. Jenny Botcher, Cohuna and District Historical Society
The Cohuna Farmers’ Weekly on Trove.