William Ratcliffe, Private 303963, 2nd/10th Bn. Manchester Regiment
Killed in action 26th November 1917 in Belgium, aged 31
William Ratcliffe was born in Macclesfield and baptised on 17 November 1886 at St Paul’s Church, Macclesfield, the son of Emily and John Thomas Ratcliffe, a cotton spinner of Cuckstoolpit Hill, Macclesfield. In 1901, fourteen-year-old William was, like his father, employed as a cotton spinner, and living at 1 Court 3 Cuckstoolpit Hill with his parents and siblings Fred (22), Mary (19), Phillip (11), Emily (9) and Lily (4).
In 1916 William married Druscilla Jackson; they later had a son, Frederick.
William volunteered for military service and was rejected four times before finally being accepted in October 1917. He was drafted to France after just five weeks training, and was killed in action three weeks later.
William was reported to have been killed in the Macclesfield Times on 14 December 1917:
THREE WEEKS IN FRANCE – FATE OF PTE W RATCLIFFE
Unofficial news has been received that Pte William Ratcliffe, Manchester Regt, son of Mr and Mrs John Thomas Ratcliffe, 24 Cuckstoolpit Hill, Macclesfield has been killed in action. The information was contained in a letter from Pte Ernest Coppock, of the same regiment, who wrote to his mother, Mrs E Coppock, 30 Canal Street, asking her to convey the news of Pte Ratcliffe’s death to his parents.
Pte Ratcliffe was thirty-one years of age and was educated at St Paul’s School. He was also connected with the Church. He was formerly employed at the Clarence Mill, Bollington, but at the time of enlistment was engaged by Messrs Armstrong and Whitworth’s, Manchester. Pte Ratcliffe joined up eight weeks ago and on volunteering for active service was drafted out to France three weeks back. He had previously been rejected for military service four times.
Three brothers are serving. One, Pte Fred Ratcliffe, is in France with the Manchester Regt, and another, Pte Philip Ratcliffe, of the Cheshires, is also at the front. He joined the local Territorials on the outbreak of war, and was one of the hundred who voluntarily transferred to the 5th Batt Ches Regt for active service in France three years ago. The third brother, Pte Charles Francis Ratcliffe, Cheshire Regt, is also serving in France. All three are married.
Private William Ratcliffe has no known grave and is commemorated on panel ref. 120 to 124 and 162 to 162A and 163A on the Tyne Cot Memorial, West Vlaanderen, Belgium. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private William Ratcliffe, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
Brother of Private Fred Ratcliffe, who served with the Manchester Regt; Private Philip Ratcliffe, who served with the 5th Cheshire Regiment; and Private Charles Francis Ratcliffe, who also served with the Cheshire Regiment. All are thought to have survived the war.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Marriages
Census (England & Wales): 1901
Cheshire Parish Baptism Registers (Find My Past): St Paul’s Church, Macclesfield
Soldiers Died in the Great War (Find My Past)
WWI British Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Lives of the First World War website
Macclesfield Times: 14 December 1917