Charles Ratcliffe MCCLELLAN
Rank: Private
Number: 265447
Unit: 1/6th Battalion CHESHIRE Regiment
Date of Death: 10 February 1917
Age: 20
Cemetery: Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium

Charles' family originated from the Carlisle area, but had moved to Stockport in the mid 1880s. Charles had been born in Edgeley. The 1901 Census shows that he was then the youngest of seven children. Three older siblings had also been born in Stockport - George (6), James (9) and Elizabeth (11). Margaret (15), Roland (15) and William (17) had been born in Carlisle. Their mother, Janet, was then aged 44. Their father, John, had died between December 1900 and February 1901, aged 44.

He was married to Lizzie and they lived at 61 Bamford Street, Stockport with their young son, Matthew. He worked at Christy & Co, hatworks.

Charles' original service number is 1642 which confirms he was a pre-war member of the Territorials. The Battalion was mobilised in August when he was only 17. This was too young for him to go on active service and it is possible he did not leave England until he was 18. However, it is more likely that a "blind eye" was turned to his age. The battalion's early months of war service are described here.

After a period in reserve, the Cheshire's moved back into the front line on 9 February 1917, at Wieltje, to the east of Ypres (now Ieper). The next day, their trench was hit by an enemy shell. Charles and Arthur Arnold were killed. Another 10 were wounded, including Alf Ball.

His officer wrote to Lizzie "It was during a bombardment of our trenches that the dug-out in which your husband was taking cover was blown in. I helped to carry him to another dug-out at once, with the assistance of stretcher bearers and attended to his wounds which were in the back and left arm. He never regained consciousness after being hit and, unfortunately, death took place fifteen minutes afterwards. I would like to say I have known your husband and his brother for a very long time and both have acted as my orderlies, always doing their duties very efficiently. I have known your husband well from mobilisation and he has always been in my Company. He was at the time of his death my Company runner which is a very honoured job as they have to take messages under fire at all times. During all this time he has been in my Company, he has always been keen and ready to do all that has been requested of him and duty was ever his first thought. Please accept my heart felt sympathy in your bereavement which I hope you will bear bravely, knowing your husband died for his King and Country."

It is not known which of Charles's brothers was being to referred to by the officer, but it was not William. He had been killed in action with the 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment in 1915.

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