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First World War: Putting things right to mark the sacrifice of 21-year-old Bishop's Stortford soldier Charles Tharby





A 100-year-old mistake is set to be rectified in order to properly commemorate a young solider from Bishop's Stortford who fought for his country in the First World War.

Bishop's Stortford Town Council has submitted a grant application to the War Memorials Trust to correct the spelling of Private Charles Henry Alexander Tharby's name, CHA Tharby, which is listed on the Castle Gardens war memorial as CHH Tharby.

While the reason for the mistake is unknown, it seems likely to have been a simple transcription error between the former Bishop's Stortford Urban District Council and the masons, J Day & Son, that crafted the panels for the memorial.

C H A Tharby's name incorrectly listed on the war memorial in Castle Gardens
C H A Tharby's name incorrectly listed on the war memorial in Castle Gardens

Charles was born in Bishop's Stortford on November 7, 1897. His father, also Charles, is listed as working as an under butler living at Grange Cottage, Bishop's Stortford, in 1897, having served in the Army for 12 years, from 1884 to 1896.

The 1911 Census shows that the Tharby family were living at 147 Rye Street, with Charles, 13, and his sister, Dorothy, 8, both at school.

Charles joined the war effort in December 1915, a month after his 18th birthday. He was posted to France, where he joined the 10th Battalion of the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment.

Bishop's Stortford's war memorial in Castle Gardens
Bishop's Stortford's war memorial in Castle Gardens

He spent time at the front in France and Italy and was injured twice during service. The first time, an accident with hot water saw his right foot scalded so badly that he was invalided back to England to recover for five months, from the end of February to the beginning of August 1917.

His second injury would see the war end six months early for Charles and ultimately be the likely cause of his death on July 8, 1919, aged just 21.

Charles's military records note that he suffered a gunshot wound to the hand and neck on May 8, 1918. His battalion lost seven men that day, despite not being at the front at the time; it is likely the injury was a shrapnel injury from a German shell, which were often listed as gunshot wounds.

Charles was transferred back to England on Belgian hospital ship HS Pieter de Coninck on May 31. He was then transferred to the reserve ranks, known as Z-class, on February 10, 1919.

HS Pieter de Coninck transported injured servicemen from France to England from 16 Mar 1917 to 28 Mar 1919
HS Pieter de Coninck transported injured servicemen from France to England from 16 Mar 1917 to 28 Mar 1919

Nothing is known about Charles's short time back in civilian life before his death. His occupation is listed on his death certificate as a grocer's assistant in the town, but not where.

The death certificate notes primary and secondary causes of death. The primary was marked as 'morbus cordis', a rarely-used cause of death in modern medicine due to it being so broad a term – it just means that his heart stopped.

The secondary cause of death seems significant and more informative than the primary cause: "Hemiplegia – coma. No P.M." Hemiplegia is caused by a spinal cord or brain injury and is a severe or complete loss of strength, or paralysis, on one side of the body.

Tharby deth cert (43140310)
Tharby deth cert (43140310)

The neck wound Charles received in May 1918 could easily have caused sufficient injury to result in hemiplegia. That he was in a coma at the time of his death suggests his symptoms had deteriorated.

Charles was buried in a 'common' grave – rather than a war grave – in the town's old cemetery on July 14, six days after his death.

The war memorial in Castle Gardens
The war memorial in Castle Gardens

Bishop's Stortford Urban District Council made a public request in the local press in 1920 for names that should be included on the war memorial. These were vetted by the Bishop's Stortford War Memorial Committee to ensure a local connection. Upon completion of the consultation, the memorial was unveiled by the Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, Thomas Brand, 3rd Viscount Hampden, on April 3, 1921.

The memorial has undergone two rounds of repairs since the 1960s, when the names of those who fell in the Second World War were engraved on the base on new limestone blocks.

In 2011, the War Memorials Trust offered £1,760 towards conservation works. Open and failed joints were raked out and repointed in lime mortar while lime mortar repairs were made to small areas of stone damage.

In 2014, a further £4,530 was offered through the War Memorials Trust grant scheme for additional repair and conservation works.

While the repairs which had been carried out three years earlier were still in good condition, additional damage had occurred at the steps. Water was getting into the stone which in turn was causing wider damage. To stop this process, new sections of matching stone were used to replace areas of damaged stone, which were cut out.

In addition, stone replacement was also undertaken to replace a section of damage on a surrounding bollard and a section of carved decorative stone on the memorial.



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