Lance Corporal Arthur Ratcliffe

Machine Gun CorpsLance Corporal Arthur Ratcliffe

48619, 52nd Bn., Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) who was killed in action on 8th October 1918, aged 27

Remembered with Honour

Vis-En-Artois Memorial Panel 10
Staveley Parish Memorial


When Richard Barrow took over the lease of the Staveley Forge in 1843, he expanded the works and took on new employees. Furnace Keeper Thomas Ratcliffe and his wife, Mary, came to the area from Leicestershire in the late 1840s to work for Barrow and were living on Railway Terrace (The Long Row) at Barrow Hill in 1851 before the model village was built.

A few years later, Thomas changed his occupation and, until his death in 1872, is recorded on census returns as the Innkeeper of the Moulders Arms at 21, Lees Buildings on Hollingwood Common and farmer of 100 acres. His son, John was then just 14 years old.

John Ratcliffe married Charlotte Ward in 1876. He was employed as a railway guard and the couple made their home at 16, Railway Terrace, Barrow Hill with their children Thomas, John Henry and baby Mary Ellen. Three more children, Ernest, Emily and Ethel, were born at Barrow Hill before the family moved to New Brimington where Albert and Elizabeth were born.

By 1901, John’s employment as a Foreman of Traffic (Railway) enabled him to move to the recently built Midland Railway Cottages at Barrow Hill. 24, Midland Terrace was a 3 bedroomed cottage with a “front room” and a living kitchen – complete with a copper boiler and a fireplace with an oven – situated in a pleasant spot above the model village at the top of the hill and surrounded by fields. It was here that ARTHUR RATCLIFFE was born in the summer of 1893, followed by siblings Annie and Fred.

The 1911 Census returns show that Charlotte had given birth to 15 children in total but that 6 of them had died. Of the 9 living children, only Ethel (with her husband), Arthur and Fred were still at home with their parents. 19 year old Arthur was then employed at Staveley Works as a moulder whilst Fred was still at school.

By the time that 22 year old Arthur enlisted at Chesterfield on 25 Aug 1915 with the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), the family had moved to live at Pipe Lane in Staveley. His medical examination revealed that he was 5’4” tall and weighed 136lbs. He was assessed as A1 fit for service at home and abroad – subject to dental treatment – and had good physical development.

Arthur was posted to the 3rd Bn. (Reserve) at Hamilton for training and, in January 1916, he embarked with the 1/8th Bn. as part of the 156th Brigade within 52nd (Lowland) Division and travelled to Egypt on the “Megantic,” an ocean liner which had been called into service as a troopship in 1915. The Division had moved to Egypt after being evacuated from Gallipoli and concentrated at Abbassia near Cairo where Arthur joined it on 20 February. It subsequently moved to El Kantara and on 2 March took over No 3 Section of the Suez Canal defences.

In March, Arthur was attached to his Brigade’s 156th Machine Gun Company and, after attending a course of training, was transferred in July 1916.

The Division remained in the line near Arsuf until March 1918.

Ratcliffe 1

Ratcliffe 2

Orders were received on 24 March 1918 that the Division would be relieved by the 7th (Meerut) Division and that it would then proceed to France. The Divisional artillery was exchanged with that of the Indian Division and all units sailed from Alexandria between 4 and 11 April. The Division went via Marseilles and concentrated near Abbeville by 23 April.

On 28th April, all the Machine Gun Companies within the Division were reorganised to become the 52nd Machine Gun Battalion.

The Division took over a sector of front line near Vimy on the 6th of May until the 23rd of July when they moved to take over the line north east of Arras. They were in action at The Battle of Albert (2nd Somme), The Battle of the Scarpe and The Battle of the Drocourt-Queant Line (2nd Arras), The Battle of the Canal du Nord (Hindenburg Line) and The Final Advance in Artois.

Ratcliffe 3Arthur Ratcliffe was killed in action on 8 October 1918 during the Final Advance in Artois.

He is remembered on the Vis-En-Artois Memorial which bears the names of over 9,000 men who fell in the Advance to Victory in Picardy and Artois, between the Somme and Loos, and who have no known grave.

WW1-War-Victory-PairArthur Ratcliffe was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

*1919 – On the relatives form completed after Arthur’s death, it was noted that his younger brother, Frederick, was currently on active service in Egypt

© Ann Lucas