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Arthur Ratcliffe

22120 Private Arthur Ratcliffe 2nd and 4th Bn Grenadier Guards, Died 11/04/18

 

 

 

 

Arthur Ratcliffe was born on 23 November 1895 and baptised on 26 February 1896 at St. Mark’s Church, Worsley. His mother was Mary Elizabeth (née Williams) and his father Albert Edward, 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. Another brother John had been born in 1900 and baptised on the 20th September 1900 but John sadly died that year (Q3). Their father was a Coal Miner (Hewer) and their mother worked as a Cotton Weaver.

Arthur's father died in 1908 and the family went to live with his grandfather William Williams at 52 Vicars Hall Lane, Boothstown. Arthur's mother kept house for his grandfather whilst also working as a weaver in a cotton mill. Rachel aged thirteen also worked as a weaver whilst Arthur at the age of fifteen was working as a labourer underground at a colliery. 

Arthur Ratcliffe enlisted in to the Grenadier Guards on 15 January 1915 at Atherton. His address at the time was 52 Vicars Hall Lane, Boothstown, Manchester, 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.

 

Over the next couple of years he was often in hospital returning to England for treatment. He suffered from abrasions to the head in February 1916 and was sent back to England to recover. He was issued with a new set of upper dentures at this time. Arthur returned to France in August 1916 before succumbing to trench foot in December 1916 which caused him pain, tenderness, swelling and numbness. He returned to England aboard the hospital ship 'St George' on the 23rd December 1916 and remained in hospital until 10th March 1917.

 

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" 

In June 1917 he was once again returned to the front. On the 9th October 1917 at Langemark he was again wounded, but this time seriously. He was blown up by a shell when advancing with his Battalion. Running after his Battalion to try and catch up, he then suffered a gunshot wound to his leg. He spent four days in the Base hospital, three weeks convalescing at Camp No 5 at Cayeaux, & four weeks in hospital at Le Havre. He then remained on base at Le Havre for a while. During all this time he suffered from breathlessness on exertion and was diagnosed with heart problems caused by being gassed. Deemed physically unfit, Arthur was sent home on the 28th January 1918 to be cared for in a hospital in England.

 

Private Ratcliffe was discharged “no longer physically fit for War Service” on 4 April 1918, he had served 3 years and 80 days. Arthur had seen action at the Battle of the Somme, the 3rd Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele, and the Battle of Cambrai. 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 Died at home on 11th April 1918. He was buried at St. Mark's Church, Worsley on the 15 April 1918, in grave number W2192 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 only a week 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".

By 1921, Arthur's grandfather had passed away. His mother remained living at 52 Vicars Hall Lane along with her son Fred, daughter Rachel and two boarders. Rachel still worked as a cotton weaver whilst Fred worked as a labourer below ground in the colliery. One of the boarders was William Ratcliffe, Arthur's paternal grandfather.

Arthur was awarded a Silver war badge, the 1914-15 Star, and the British War and Victory Medal.
His medals were auctioned in July 2019 as well as his honourable discharge certificate; a letter written from the front to his mother; and a newspaper cutting regarding his funeral, containing a photograph of Arthur. They were sold for just £130. Details can be found here Link

After landscaping work in the graveyard in the mid 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 exactly where he was laid to rest.

 

[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]

Arthur Ratcliffe
Private Arthur Ratcliffe
Arthur Ratcliffe
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