Major General John L. Sharpe, CMM, CD commenced his military career at the age of twelve when he joined Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps #2302, sponsored by the Royal Canadian Legion and affiliated with the South Saskatchewan Regiment in Weyburn , Saskatchewan. As a Master Cadet and senior cadet in his Corps he attended the Banff National Army Cadet Camp in 1953.
After two years Militia service with the South Saskatchewan Regiment, MGen Sharpe joined the Regular Army. From 1957 until his promotion to Brigadier-General in 1982, he served with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Within Canada he served at Calgary (three times), Victoria (twice), Petawawa, Kingston, Ottawa (three times) and Yellowknife in a variety of command and staff appointments. He served three tours on NATO duty in Germany and also served in Cyprus and Ghana, West Africa .
Principal command appointments include Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Commander of 1st Canadian Brigade Group, and Commander of Canadian Forces Europe.
His last military appointment was in Ottawa as Chief of Operations, Plans and Force Development for the Canadian Armed Forces. He retired as a MGen after 37 years of military service and is the recipient of the Commander of Military Merit and the Canadian Forces Decoration.
From 1991 to 1996 MGen Sharpe was President & General Manager of the Ontario Safety League in Toronto. The League is one of Canada’s oldest safety organizations and is most active in road and child safety.
Sharpe assumed a three-year appointment as Colonel Commandant of the Royal Canadian Army Cadets in September 2000. After a one-year extension he relinquished his appointment on 31 August 2004 .
General Sharpe shared some reminiscences of his life and his comrades in The Queen’s Own through the Powder Horn in 2003.
“Having commenced my Regular Force service with the Queen’s Own – and very much benefiting from the opportunity – I have nothing but fond memories of the Regiment. As a new Regiment (in the Regular Forces), we were blessed with officers and senior non-commissioned officers who understood they had a very important role to play. And that was to identify, train and groom the future leaders of the Regiment. Many had previously
served with the PPCLI. Some came by choice, some were chosen, but regardless of how they arrived at the Queen’s Own – the majority were determined to make this an excellent Infantry Regiment.
Had I first gone to the Patricia’s, I suspect that the outcome for me would have been quite different. Resting on their laurels, which were not insignificant and very much deserved, too many senior Patricia officers failed to understand the need to develop and promote their best. Proof of that came in the early 1970s shortly after 1 QOR of C rebadged to 3 PPCLI in Victoria. All three Patricia battalions were commanded by officers who, until 1970, were Queen’s Own officers. They were LCol John Sharpe (1 PPCLI), LCol Jim Allan (2 PPCLI) and LCol Dick Cowling (3 PPCLI). As difficult as it was to leave one’s Regiment, the situation was made palatable by the fact that we already knew many of the Patricias and by the warm and sincere welcome by all ranks. MGen (Ret’d) Cammie Ware, Colonel of the Regiment of the PPCLI, spoke with eloquence and sincerity in his inspection of the rebadged 1 QOR of C on the Monday following the Battalion’s final parade at Work Point Barracks in Esquimalt. His example was thereafter emulated by all.
Germany – 1 QOR of C – early 60s.
When LGen Geoffrey Walsh, Chief of the General Staff, was inspecting 1 QOR of C in Germany, our self-assured WW2 company commanders and CO were almost reduced to babbling idiots through their absolute fear of the General. Walking down the road with his entourage he pointed to a building that they were passing and not inspecting. Walsh stopped and demanded, “What’s in there?”
Before a Major or the CO could reply an older and absolutely unflappable Captain immediately replied, “Everything we don’t want you to see, Sir.” As a grin slowly came on Walsh’s face he said, “Very well, let’s go to the Mess and have a drink!” And the inspection was over. And, of course, the building did contain much of what the Battalion had squirreled away from the general’s eyes!
Same Route as the Last Two Years – Germany – 2 QOR of C – Jan 1960.
I arrived in Germany as a reinforcement officer on 6 Jan 1960. Within less than a week of my arrival, the Battalion’s vehicles were assembled on the parade square in preparation for the move to the Putlos Training Area which is located on the Baltic Coast north of Hamburg – a day’s drive away from Deilinghoffen.
I was to command a packet of vehicles and reported to the parade square to hear the briefing by the Battalion Transport Officer. With what looked like a large scale map of Europe mounted on an easel, the TO briefed us on the route. He was brief and to the point and essentially said, “Same route as last year except the lunch halt will be north of Hamburg and not South as it was last year.Any questions?” I had not been issued a road map. I had not been issued a route letter. And I had absolutely no idea how to get to the autobahn to start our journey. With some hesitation, as no one else felt the need to ask
a question, I raised my hand and asked, “Which way do I turn outside the Main Gate?” Laughter broke out as the officers concluded that this new guy Sharpe is going to be all right … he has a great sense of humour. Before I could say any more, my Platoon Sergeant quietly approached and said, “It’s OK Sir, we’ll get there.” Having learned to trust my Platoon Sergeants I didn’t pursue the matter any further with the TO – and we did
get to Putlos, reasonably directly. There is, of course, an important moral to this story. Don’t presume that all leaders have the same knowledge and experience.”