Cook William Ratcliffe

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A newspaper portrait photograph of the head and shoulders of a Royal Navy Seaman. He is facing the camera.

Cook William Ratcliffe.

Early Life:

William was one of three children born to Thomas and Merenia Ratcliffe (nee Astle). The youngest child and only boy, he was born in 1924 with two older sisters Eva Alice(born 1919) and Elsie May(born 1921). Educated at Holycroft Council School in Keighley he worked as an assistant butcher to Mr N A Smith in Beechcliffe, Keighley.

In 1939 the family were living at 36 Ethel street, Keighley including William's sisters Eva and Elsie. Except for William they all worked in the textile industry; with his father Thomas a bobbin enamellor and mother Merenia a labourer for woodwork machines. Eva was a bobbin tipper and Elsie a cloth finisher of worsted textiles.

War Service:

By 1943 William had joined the navy as a cook and had only served for 16 months before D Day. He was an officer's cook on HMS Lawford, a transformed Captain class frigate that was participating in Operation Overlord off Normandy. This frigate served as the embedded command post of Assault Group J.1, co-ordinating the landings on Juno Beach. When the Germans counter-attacked the allied ships in the Bay of Seine, HMS Lawford received a direct hit and 37 crew members were killed, including William.
His mother received notice that he was killed in action on the 8th June 1944.

The port side of a Royal Navy ship from world war two, it is painted with a camouflage pattern.

HMS Lawford in 1944.
Photo, Imperial War Museum

The Keighley News 17th June 1944:

News has been received by Mrs, M. Ratcliffe, of 36b, Darley Street. Keighley, that her son, William Ratcliffe aged 19, serving as an officer's cook. has been killed in action. He had been in the Navy 16 months and was educated at Holycroft Council School, Keighley. In civil life he was employed as an assistant butcher by Mr. N. A. Smith, Beechcliffe, Keighley

William's name is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

Information sources:

England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1916-2007
British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960
1939 England and Wales Register
The Keighley News, 17 June, 1944: Wounded in France Local Men in Home Hospital

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