202010 CPL. C. RATCLIFFE. L.N.LAN.R.
Charles Ratcliffe was born in 1893 in Chatburn, near Clitheroe, first child of Robert Ratcliffe (b. 1863 in Bamber Bridge) and Margaret Ada Sherlock (b. 1865 in Willaston, Cheshire). Robert and Margaret had 7 children, 5 of whom survived infancy: Charles, then Robert Arthur (b. 1895), Harry Sherlock (b. 1898), Lucy (b. 1901) and Frank (b. 1903). Robert had several jobs and his family moved around; he was first a weaver in Bamber Bridge, had moved to Chatburn by 1891, where Charles was born, then on to Burscough by 1901, where he was a police sergeant, and finally to Lostock Hall in 1911 where Robert was working as a rubber pressman and Charles had begun work in the mill as a spinner. The family were living at Almond Terrace, 100 Watkin Lane.
Charles attested that he was willing to serve in the army on 10 December 1915 and was posted to the reserves the following day. By this time he had left the mill and gave his occupation as motor driver. He was a member of the Wesleyan Church community. He was mobilised on 3 January 1916 and posted to 2/4 Battalion with the service number 4825, which became 202010 when the new numbers were issued the following year. The Battalion formed part of 170th Brigade in the 57th (West Lancashire) Division. In the months before their departure for France, the Battalion engaged in training at Willsborough, Barham Downs and in and around Aldershot. They embarked at Southampton on 7 February 1917 and disembarked at Le Havre the following day and then made their way to Sailly sur la Lys (near Armentières on the Belgian border) where they first went into the trenches on 17 February. Although the fighting was light at this time, the conditions were appalling: trenches were poorly maintained and often under water; communication trenches were narrow, deep in mud and all but impassable; parapets were low and in bad repair and the enemy had marked superiority in sniping. The thaw, after the winter, made conditions doubly uncomfortable. Charles obviously proved an effective soldier and leader as he was promoted first to Lance Corporal on 27 February, then to Corporal on 14 June.
The Battalion remained in this area throughout the summer but, after a month’s further training in September, they moved north to Boesinghe, just north of Ypres, where they went into the trenches on 24 October, as 57th Division prepared to make its contribution to the Second Battle of Passchendaele.
At 3.40 on the morning of 26 October the Battalion was formed up in its assembly position and moved off to attack at 5.40 and captured their immediate objectives (Mendling and Rubens farms) fairly quickly and with relatively light casualties. In the process, however, all four company commanders had become casualties. The centre of the attack was then held up by heavy fire from German pill boxes. The pill box was eventually taken and a more dominant position achieved, but further advance was impossible due to heavy German machine-gun fire from all sides. The Battalion captured 18 Germans and destroyed several enemy machine-guns. The ground advanced over was very bad, swampy and covered with shell holes. Charles Ratcliffe lost his life in this attack. He was 24 years old. His body was not recovered. There are no records as to what happened to his effects.
Service No: 202010
Date of Death: 26/10/1917
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment 2nd/4th Bn.
Panel Reference: Panel 102 to 104.
Memorial: TYNE COT MEMORIAL