Number: 22120 Private Arthur Ratcliffe 4th and 2nd Bn Grenadier Guards (Died after Discharge)
Arthur Ratcliffe was born on 23 November 1895 and baptised on 26 February 1896 at St. Mark’s Church, Worsley. His mother was Mary (née Williams) and his father Albert, and they lived at 42 Leigh Road, Boothstown. In 1901, Arthur, who was now 5, had a 3 year old sister, Rachel, and the family were still living at 42 Leigh Road. Boothstown. In 1911, he was then an Underground Labourer in a Colliery and was living with his family at 52 Vicars Hall Lane, Boothstown.
Arthur Ratcliffe enlisted in to the Grenadier Guards on 15 January 1915 at Atherton, Manchester. His address at the time was 52 Vicars Hall Lane, Boothstown, Manchester, and his age was given as 19 years and 53 days and his trade was Collier. His next of kin was his mother Elizabeth, and he was 5’ 10 ¾” tall. He joined Caterham Guards Depot on 19th January 1915 and, after training, would have joined the 5th Reserve Battalion at Chelsea Barracks before being posted to the 4th Bn. and deployed to France on 6th November 1915.
On 4 January 1916, he had been supplied with an upper set of dentures at a cost of £2.00. On the 22 January 1916, he was in hospital with an I.C.T., R. Ankle. On the 24th, he was hospital at Rouen and, on the 31st, he boarded the Hospital Ship Copenhagen, arriving in England on 2nd February. On 13 August 1916, he was transferred from the 5th Bn. back to the 4th Bn. On the 20 February, he was admitted to hospital in the field, then to Rouen on the 22nd, and to the Hospital Ship St. George, sailing for England; and on the 24 December 1916, he was admitted to the North Staffordshire Infirmary, Stoke on Trent, with a moderately severe case of trench foot and remained there until 10 March 1917.
On 10 June 1917, he was posted from the 5th Bn. to the 2nd Bn. in the field, until he was wounded in action at Langemark on 9 October. In an undated pencil written letter sent from the front line back to his Mother, it says:
"Dear Mother, I am sending the birthday cards back & also a piece of the cake & I wish you to take care of the same till we meet again. The card that Grace sent me, please hand over to her also. It is my wish you should do this, Dear Mother; & then, at the time when we meet again, it will help us all to recall these times. I am very glad to say that the cake kept me a treat & was not broken. We have just finished the cake off & they all wish me to tell you the cake was fine & send their very best respects. I am sorry to say that I was not fortunate enough to get anything out of the cake, for one Sergeant got the baby & is just sending it home; & another Sergeant got the button, & a young chap got the threepenny bit opposite me, & another fellow the ring. I will close now in haste. With best of love. From your loving son Arthur XXXXXXXXXXXX"
Medical Report on an Invalid Army Form B179.
Statement of Case Date of Origin of Disability. 9.10.1917. Place of Origin of Disability. Langemark Essential Facts of the Disability.
He says after 22 months service he was blown up by a shell while advancing to attack. He then ran after his Battalion which had advanced and got wounded to his left knee. He was then sent (1) To the base hospital at Caumières where he was kept 4 days. (2) Then he had 3 weeks in a convalescent camp No 5 at Cayeaux. (3) Then 4 weeks in convalescent cap in Havre. (4) Then was kept at the base at Le Havre for 2 months.
Then, on 28 January 1918, he was sent to England as P.U. (Permanently Unfit). During all this time, he suffered from breathlessness on exertion. Private Ratcliffe was discharged “no longer physically fit for War Service” on 4 April 1918 and had served 3 years and 80 days. For his war service, Arthur was awarded the 1914/15 star, and the British War & Victory Medal. He was also awarded Silver War Badge number 3451713 having been discharged due to wounds. Arthur was buried at St. Mark's Church, Worsley, in grave number W2192 on the 15 April 1918 at a cost of £1. 8s. and 6d. The payment was received by Frank Derbyshire, the clerk. His documents were marked 'died after discharge' and a war pension was paid to his sister Rachel. The circumstances of his death less than a month after being discharged are unclear. His discharge documents from the 5th (Res) Battalion Grenadier Guards dated for the 4 April 1918 in London say that he had a fresh complexion, blue eyes and brown hair and that he was a fruiterer. His military character was Very Good and he was described as being “A clean sober and hard-working man”. A newspaper article with a photo of Arthur reads:
Boothstown Local Guardsman’s Funeral
"The death took place at 52, Vicars Hall Lane yesterday week of Arthur Ratcliffe (22) late of the Grenadier Guards, who was discharged from the Army about a month ago after being gassed. Deceased enlisted in January 1915 and had been to France three times, having during that time been wounded, invalided home with sickness and gassed. The funeral took place at Worsley Parish Church yard on Monday with Military Honours among those who followed the remains to the grave being a Sergeant, Firing Party and bugler from Leigh Prisoner of War Camp, Boothstown Boy Scouts, under Scoutmaster Barnes and the Sons of the Temperance who were represented by Mr. R. Greenhalgh (Grand Scribe) and other officials. The Rev. Percy Burnett conducted the Funeral Service and at the close the bugler sounded the “Last Post”. Mr. J. Edge made the arrangements for the Military Funeral. Rest In Peace".
After landscaping work in the early 1970's, Arthurs resting place became unmarked. On the 26th July 2023 the Commonwealth War Graves Commission installed a new Headstone for Pt Arthur Ratcliffe. With the help of the church graveyard plans they were able to install it where he is buried.
[This biography was submitted to the church by an anonymous donor in recognition of the bravery and valour of ARTHUR RATCLIFFE, whose body was laid to rest in the churchyard,