Private 75519 James Ratcliffe

Killed in Action on Sunday, 31st March 1918, age 19.
Commemorated on Panel 68 to 72 of Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France.

15th Bn., Durham Light Infantry. 64th Brigade of 21st Division.

Son of Mr A. and Mrs A. R. Ratcliffe, of 57, Albert St., Prince's End, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Princes End, Enlisted: Wolverhampton, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, post 31st December 1915.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the St. John's Memorial.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1587214/

Genealogical Data

Birth of James Ratcliffe registered December quarter 1898 in Dudley.

1901 Census
33 Queen Street, Coseley, Staffs.
Alfred Ratcliffe (45, Labourer in Ironworks, born Sedgley), his wife Ann M. (25, born Sedgley), and their 2 children: Thomas (5, born Sedgley), and James (2, born Sedgley).

1911 Census
51 Albert Street, Princes End, Tipton, Staffs.
Alfred Ratcliffe (55, Disabled, born Coseley), his wife Ann Marie (35, born Coseley), and their 3 surviving children of 5: Thomas (15, Horse Driver, born Coseley), James (12, School, born Coseley), and Clara (3, born Coseley).

Although Queen Street (1901) is Coseley, it is very much on the border of Coseley and Princes End, Tipton.

Personal Data

After James's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £0/1/11d (1 shilling and 11 pence); this was paid to his father, Alfred, in October 1919. His War Gratuity was £6/0/0d (6 pounds exactly), this was also paid to his father in October 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that James had enlisted in October 1916.

Action resulting in his death

For the first 3 weeks of March 1918, the 15th Battalion Durham Light Infantry (15/DLI) was in Divisional reserve and was used to provided working parties every day.

In response to the massive German assault launched on 21st March the battalion moved forward to successfully deliver a counter-attack to regain territory near Heudicourt - 10 miles north-east of Peronne. The gains were held throughout the day and only in the evening of 22nd March was an order received to withdraw towards Templeux-la-Fosse.

On 23rd March, the battalion fought a stiff rear-guard action near Aizecourt-le-Haut. Over the next few days the enemy continued to press hard, prompting several tactical withdrawals as the 15/DLI were driven south west towards Peronne and the River Somme.

Between the 21st to 31st March, 15/DLI had 6 Officers and 149 Other Ranks killed, with 79 Other Ranks shown as killed in action on 31st March. As the 15/DLI were not in action on that day, it seems to be the date assigned to those men who were killed whose details were lost in the haste of the retreat.

James Ratcliffe is shown on Commonwealth War Graves as killed in action on the 31st March, his Soldier’s Effects papers show uncertainty as his date of death is shown as ‘between 21st and 31st March 1918’. James has no known grave and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial.

Newspaper Cuttings