Rank: Private
Number: 40310
Date of Death: 29 May 1918
Age: 20
Cemetery: La Kreule Military Cemetery, Hazebrouck, Nord, France

Tom was the son of William Ratcliffe. He lived with him and his stepmother, Alice, at 191 Long Lane (later Wilmslow Road). He enlisted at Manchester, probably quite early in the war as his original service number was 2635.

Tom was wounded in action and would have been brought to one of the three Casualty Clearing Stations that were operating adjacent to the cemetery where he is buried. Presumably, nothing could be done to save his life.

It is not possible to establish exactly when Tom was injured but, prior to 25 May 1918, the Seaforths had been away from the front line for some time. On the 25th, it returned to action, taking over a section of the front line at Le Thieushouk, in northern France, close to the Belgium border. The Battalion War Diary describes the area in front as "broken by shell-struck houses and hedges with the trenches cut through fields of wheat or beans". It was not possible for the soldiers to easily move during the day as they could be observed by the enemy in trenches in nearby Meteren.

During the night of 25/26 May, patrols were sent out to try and establish exactly where the enemy was. In each case, they found that the Germans were much closer than they had been advised and the patrols were shot at. One man was wounded. During this time, the enemy also shelled the Battalion's positions with several men being wounded.

Shelling continued during the afternoon of the 26th, including an attack of mustard and phosgene gas. This particularly affected "C" Company who were occupying low lying ground in the second line of trenches. Again, several men were badly affected.

At lunchtime on the 27th, the enemy again shelled with gas and 11 men were injured. The Battalion would remain in the trenches until the end of the month but, by then, Tom had already died.

(Note: Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)

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