Lieutenant John Edward Ratcliff, apparently known as Jack, was killed in action near Becelaere, Belgium on 19th October 1914, aged 23. He was serving with 2nd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, having previously served with the militia. Soldiers Died in the Great War records his death as being on 20th October 1914, but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour and the probate indexes list him as being killed in action on 19th October.
He was the youngest of his father’s three children and was born in Edgbaston, Birmingham on the 27th September 1891. He was baptised at St George’s Church, Edgbaston on 22nd November 1891, with parents John Francis and Catherine Esther living at The Cottage, Vicarage Road. John Francis was listed as a metal merchant.
Jack and his older brother, Francis Gerald Ratcliff (1889-1967), were the only children of their father’s second marriage. Their father’s first wife, Elizabeth Mary, died in 1880 a few days after the birth of the couple’s daughter, Elizabeth Mary Barbara Ratcliff (1880-1921), and just under a year after they were married. John Francis married his second wife, Catherine Esther, at Edgbaston eight years later.
By 1901, the family had moved to North Bromsgrove. Between 1905 and 1909, Jack attended Uppingham School (the same school that Vera Brittain’s brother and fiancé attended a few years later). Jack was a boarder at Fircroft House, and was one of 34 Fircroftians, and one of 447 Old Uppinghamians, to be killed in the war. By 1911, he was living at Widney Cottage, Knowle with his parents and brother, and was recorded as an artist’s pupil. He joined the 5th Militia and entered the Royal Warwickshire Regiment from the Special Reserve in May 1912, being commissioned as a Lieutenant in August 1913.
According to the Coventry Standard, 30th September 1914, after being granted a commission with the 3rd Royal Warwicks, he almost immediately sailed with his battalion to Malta. The article also said: “The regiment only arrived in France a fortnight ago, and the engagement in which the young officer met his death was his first experience of war.”
His mother suffered a double blow, losing her husband 10 months after her son. Solihull Parish Magazine, September 1915, announced
Mr Ratcliff, of Widney Cottage, Bentley Heath, passed away very suddenly after being in very indifferent health for some time, at the age of 66 years. No doubt his son’s death in action but a few months ago produced a shock which hastened his end. Thus Mrs Ratcliff has been called upon to part with a husband to whom she was entirely devoted and one of her two sons within a short space of time. She has indeed our truest sympathy.
John Edward Ratcliff is commemorated on Solihull war memorial and also in St Alphege Church. He’s also included in the Roll of Honour at Copt Heath Golf Club.
Solihull Parish Magazine, April 1918, records the gift from his mother to St Alphege Church of a cross and vases for the High Altar. A tablet was affixed to the wall at the side bearing the inscription:
TO THE GLORY OF GODThe Cross at the High Altar is an offering from hisMother in proud and Loving Memory of LIEUT. JOHN EDWARD RATCLIFF,5th Royal Warwicks,Who fell in Action in the Great War.
If you have any further information about the Ratcliff family, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977
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