Radcliffe W


58551, Private W. Ratcliffe, 191st Company, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) was killed in action 20 June 1917 and is buried at Spoilbank Cemetery, south of Ypres, Belgium. [1] He was 19 years old and is commemorated on the St. Helen’s Colliery Memorial Cottages and the War Memorial in the St. Andrew’s churchyard, South Church, Bishop Auckland.

The Memorial Cottages panel commemorates W. Radcliffe serving with the DLI and the South Church War Memorial commemorates Ratcliffe W. serving with the DLI.

Family Details

Walter was born 1897 [2] at Tebay, Westmorland, the son of John and Sarah Ratcliffe.  There were at least 5 children, all born at Tebay:

  • Margaret bc1890
  • Annie M. bc1893
  • John J. bc1895
  • Walter born 1897
  • Arthur bc1900

John worked as a railway engine stoker.[3]  Being a railwayman, John would have been well aware of the employment opportunities that existed to the east on the Durham coalfield and perhaps Walter was encouraged to head over Stainmore to the Auckland area to try his luck.  It seems that he found work at St. Helens Colliery.

Service Details

Walter Ratcliffe enlisted at Bishop Auckland into the Durham Light Infantry being given the regimental number 32309.[4]  Sometime later he was transferred to the 191st Machine Gun Company, being allocated the regimental number 58551.  This company joined the 24th Division at Noeux-les-Mines, 15 December 1916. [5]

Between this date and the date of his death, 20 June 1917, the 24th Division was involved, 9-14 April at the Battle of Vimy, supporting the 10th Canadian Brigade on 12 April.[6]  In May, 24th Division was moved north from Arras, to become part of the reserve divisions for the attack at Messines Ridge.  The Battle of Messines took place, 7-14 June. Two brigades of the 24th Division [7] which were in reserve advanced into X Corps sector and joined in the offensive operations:

“The brigades easily reached their objectives around Bug Wood, Rose Wood and Verhaest Farm taking unopposed many German pillboxes.  The brigades captured 289 Germans and 6 field guns for a loss of 6 casualties, advancing 800 yards along Roozebeek Valley, then took Ravine Wood unopposed on the left flank.” [8]

The next action was not until 31 July 1917 when the 24th Division was involved in the Battle of Pilkem Ridge as part of the 3rd Battle of Ypres.

The service record of Private W. Ratcliffe and war diary of the 191st MGC has not been researched therefore the exact details surrounding the circumstances of his death are unknown to date.  It is highly likely that he saw action at Messines and was killed in action during the subsequent hostilities.  9 other MCG (Infantry) servicemen died 20 June 197 but none served with 191st Company.

Private W. Ratcliffe was awarded the British War and Victory medals[9] which infers that he did not enter France before 31 December 1915.


588551 Private W. Ratcliffe is buried at grave reference I.AA.1, Spoilbank Cemetery, near Ypres, Belgium.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.106 p.729 East Ward, Westmorland 1897 Q3

[3] 1901census. He has not yet been traced on the 1911 census.

[4] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[5] http://www.1914-1918.net/mg_units.htm

[6] En.wilipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Vimy

[7] Which brigades has not yet been researched but it would be unlikely that they would have taken part in any offensive action without support from the MCG.

[8] En.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Messines

[9] Medal Roll card index


RATCLIFFE W. Headstone



Medal Roll

One thought on “Radcliffe W

  1. Pingback: ST.HELEN’S | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

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