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  • Photograph is courtesy of Dennis Weston
Person Details
He was the eldest son of Thomas Snodgrass Ratcliffe and his wife Agnes Horsborough nee Adams. Thomas was born in Greenock, Renfrewshire, and Agnes in Dundee, Scotland. They were married in 1893 (J/F/M Nottingham) and had three children: Dorothy Adams b. 1894 (O/N/D Basford), William Henry b. 1897 (A/M/J Nottingham) and Henry Adams b. 1899 (A/M/J Nottingham). In 1901 Thomas was living at 'Crail', Gedling Road, Carlton, with his three children, Dorothy (6), William (4) and Henry (1). Thomas's unmarried sister, Jessie Ratcliffe (33), was living with the family and he employed a female domestic servant. His wife, Agnes (38) was a patient at the Eresfield Hospital, St Leonards on Sea, Hasting, Sussex, at the time of the 1901 census. She died later the same year on 30 September. Thomas married Mary Arundel (b. 3 May 1877, Dunkeld, Perthshire) in 1905 (A/M/J Nottingham) and at the time of the 1911 Census the family was living at 30 Milner Road, Sherwood. Thomas and Mary had been married for five years and she and Thomas had two sons, Robert (Roy) Arundel (4) b. 1906 (A/M/J Nottingham) and Tom Arundel (7 months) b. 6 August 1910 (J/A/S Nottingham). Thomas' three children by his first marriage were living with them. Thomas' address in January 1917, when he was awarded probate of his son's estate, was (38) Tavistock Drive, Mapperley Park; the same address given on William's medal roll. Thomas and Mary were living at The Shieling, 71 Cyprus Road, Mapperley, at the time of the 1939 England & Wales Register; Thomas' occupation was given as a retired company director (Chemist). He was still living at this address when he died on 23 September 1948. Thomas was survived by his wife Mary, daughter Dorothy (m. (1) Alexander Haining 1935 J/A/S Nottingham, m. (2) David Hastings 9147 A/M/J Huddersfield) and his sons by his second marriage, Robert (m. Moira Ethel Winifred Greig 1934 A/M/J Bingham, d. 19 June 1963) and Tom (m. Norah V Greenall 1935 O/N/D Nottingham, d. 4 February 1977). Thomas' second son by his first marriage, Henry (Harry) Adams, has not been traced after 1911 and was not mentioned in a newspaper report of his father's death in 1948.
He was educated at High Pavement School. The family attended St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Nottingham. He was a member of University College OTC. He was employed by the Boots Company. In 1911 William's father's occupation was described as accountant, wholesale chemists, so it is likely he was also employed by Boots Company.
01 Jul 1916
548206 - CWGC Website
Second Lieutenant
4th Bn South Staffordshire Regiment
South Staffordshire Regiment 4th Bn attd 1st Bn. He is buried in Dantzig Alley British Cemetery, Mametz (grave ref Sp.Mem.7). He qualified for the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
Personal inscription, CWGC gravestone: 'In my Father's house are many mansions.' Inscription family gravestone, Nottingham General Cemetery: 'In loving memory of Agnes Adams wife of Thomas S Radcliffe who died Sept' 20th 1901 aged 28 years. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. And of their son, William Henry, 2nd Lieutenant South Staffordshire Regiment, killed at Mametz, France, July 1st 1916 aged 19.' Boots 'Comrades in Khaki', May & June 1915, 'The gazetting of Mr W Ratcliffe to a commission as Second Lieutenant in the 4th Staffs. has made Mr TS Ratcliffe [father] one of the happiest and proudest of men, and everybody else at Boots rejoices with him.' (Nottinghamshire Archives, RB.38) Boots ‘Comrades in Khaki’, May & June 1915 (photograph): ‘Second Lieut. WH Ratcliffe. Second Lieut. WH Ratcliffe, 4th South Staffs, Regiment, the youngest officer from Boots, is the son of Mr TW Ratcliffe, popular in every section as Director of Boots Pure Drug Co. Lutd. He was educated at the High Pavement School, Nottingham, and passed the Oxford Local Senior Examination with honours in June 1913. Three months later he joined Boots Analytical Dept,. and in June 1914 passed the London Matriculation Examination in the first division. He joined the Nottingham University Officers’ Training Corps in November 1914 but did not devote his full time to this until February last, when he resigned his position in the Analytical Dept. for the purpose of quicker and more thorough training. He was gazetted as Second Lieut. on 23rd April 1915, and joined his regiment on 7th May, followed by the good wishes of all Boots men at Nottingham. He is a respected son of his father.’ (Nottinghamshire Archives, RB.38) Boots 'Comrades in Khaki', July 1915: 'Yesterday when I had changed for dinner' writes Second Lieut W Ratcliffe, 'I heard that we were to go on night operations. After dinner I slipped back into service dress with startling rapidity, and paraded at 9.30pm. There was a slight hot wind blowing, and a practically cloudless sky with stars overhead. I could see the lights of three lighthouses and hear the sea breaking on the rocks hundreds of feet below. While walking up and down, two dim lines of men could be seen digging trenches with their entrenching tools no bigger than a large trowel, and I wondered if it was all a dream, and that I might suddenly wake and find myself in bed at home after a hard day's work in the Analytical Department. About 10.30pm there was a flash of lightning behind a white luminous cloud in the horizon. The flash appeared to light up the cloud with a great ball of fire in the middle, and after this had happened several times, half a dozen stars fell from the heavens. this atmospheric disturbance quite distracted the minds of the men from their exertions, and then and there various opinions were offered on the phenomenon. Some said it was a Zeppelin, while others declared that it was a sign the War was over. All were more or less awed, and it was quite a job to get them working again. 'The red comets do carry the portensions of Mars', says Sir Thomas Browne, and doubtless astrologers will read a meaning into this portent. The majority, though, believing it is safer 'not to prophesy unless you know' will be disposed to wait in patience the course of events without speculation upon signs and wonders in the heavens.' (Nottinghamshire Archives, RB. 38). Boots 'Comrades in Khaki', September 1915, 'By the Way', 'Among the visitors to the office during the month were Second-Lt W Ratcliffe who passed seven days leave at home early in August.' (Nottinghamshire Archives, RB.38) Boots 'Comrades in Khaki', March 1916, 'By the Way': 'Second Lieut. Ratcliffe was among the month's visitors to the home town, wile spending a short leave of absence with his parents.' (Nottinghamshire Archives, ref. RB.38) Photographs of six men reported missing after the Battle of the Somme were published in the Daily Sketch on 4 August 1916 under the heading, 'Missing men of whom news is anxiously awaited at home.' The details included addresses of relatives who were seeking information about them. One of the men was Second Lieutenant WJ Ratcliffe. All the men were later reported killed. (Source: www.greatwarlondon.wordpress.com/2012/08/) A letter written by Henry shortly before his death is quoted in an academic paper posted on the internet (www.uhu.es/hum676/revista/pingleton.pdf): AMERICAN@ ISSN:1695-7814 Vol. I. Issue 2 Hemingway’s War Fiction and “The Best God-Damned God You Ever Knew” Tim Pingleton, Columbia Independent School EXTRACT: 'This part of “the Doughboy’s religion”—the maintenance of faith in the face of despair—is found in Hemingway’s war fiction, too. But the Hemingway protagonist modifies Blunden’s unending faith in two major ways: first, Hemingway’s characters have uncertain religious stances to begin with, and, second, they find their religion in non-traditional ways and places. Keeping in mind Blunden’s divine perspective on a sunset near the front, note the distinction Second Lieutenant William Henry Ratcliffe makes in a letter home from France (written June, 1916--about one month before being killed in action): 'I was reading a story in one of the magazines that you sent out which was trying to prove that this war had a good effect on men’s minds and made them more religious that they were before. [. . .] What is there out here to raise a man’s mind out of the rut? [. . .] Everywhere the work of God is spoiled by the hand of man. One looks at a sunset and for a moment thinks that that at least is un-sophisticated, but an aeroplane flies across, and puff! puff! and the whole scene is spoilt by clouds of shrapnel smoke! (Ratcliffe 224-225) 'Ratcliffe knows the image of which Blunden writes, but it is a fleeting image, roughly smudged by the presence of war. As evidenced in the full body of the letter home, Ratcliffe’s words are full of commiseration and pity (he pleads for a break to worship the Sabbath); Ratcliffe also falls into irony to mask his spiritual nadir (“there was a church parade this morning but it was cancelled, but may come off later in the day, and so I have been throwing bombs this morning”) (Ratcliffe 224).' END. Probate: 'Ratcliffe William Henry of Tavistock Drive Mapperley Park Nottinghamshire second-lieutenant HM Army died 1 July 1916 in France Administration Nottingham 29 January Thomas Snodgrass Ratcliffe [father] company director. Effects £50.' Nottingham Evening Post, 23 September 1948: ‘Death of Mr TS Ratcliffe. Mr Thomas S Ratcliffe of ‘the Sheiling’, Cyprus-road, Mapperley Park, died to-day aged 82. A native of Greenock, he joined Messrs. Boots towards the end of the last century and was a trusted servant of the late Lord Trent in the early days of the company. Eventually he became a director, from which position he retired at the age of 65, He was much interested in the welfare and educational work of the firm. A prominent member of the St Andrews’s Presbyterian Church, Nottingham, he conducted a Bible class at the Noel-street branch for many years. He was also interested in YMCA work and served on the committee. He leaves a widow and two sons – Mr RA Ratcliffe solicitor and Dr TA Ratcliffe - also a daughter, Mrs Hastings. His eldest son was killed in the first world war.’ Probate: Ratcliffe Thomas Snodgrass of the Sheiling Cyprus-road Mapperley Park Nottinghamshire died 23 September 1948 Probate Nottingham 6 November to Robert Arndel [Arundel] Ratcliffe solicitor and Tom Arundel medical practitioner. Effects £20347 15s 3d.
Remembered on


  • Photograph is courtesy of Dennis Weston
    William Henry Ratcliffe - Photograph is courtesy of Dennis Weston
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone marking his grave at Dantzig Alley British Cemetery, Mametz, Somme, France. Courtesy of Murray Biddle
    William Henry Ratcliffe - Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone marking his grave at Dantzig Alley British Cemetery, Mametz, Somme, France. Courtesy of Murray Biddle
  • Family gravestone, Nottingham General Cemetery, commemorating William Henry. Photograph Rachel Farrand (February 2019).
    William Henry Ratcliffe - Family gravestone, Nottingham General Cemetery, commemorating William Henry. Photograph Rachel Farrand (February 2019).