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Historians wanted – to research lives of local war heroes

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SCHOOLS and community groups in Warrington are being encouraged to research the lives of local war heroes, to mark 100 years since the end of World War One.

LiveWire and Culture Warrington are urging schools, and community groups, to become history detectives and research into a local war hero, while also learning the skills of a historian too.

Any schools or local community groups wishing to take part can email Philip Jeffs, at Warrington Museum, who will help to get the research started – pjeffs@culturewarrington.org

A remarkable story of a war hero helped pupils at Christ Church Primary School in Padgate to appreciate the sacrifice many servicemen and women made for the next generation.

A history club at the school decided to research the life of a former pupil who lost his life while serving for his country.

The group, comprising of year five pupils, investigated the life of John Ratcliffe who attended the school between 1895 and 1901.

His name is engraved on a plaque at the school and on the war memorial at Bennett’s Rec in Padgate along with 19 other former pupils who lost their lives during both World Wars.

Head teacher Ian Williams said: “Our school is here to serve our children. One of them, John, later gave his life for his country.

“He may no longer be with us, but he will always remain part of our school family. The history club has given his story a chance to live again.”

Using material held at Warrington Library, a detailed picture of John’s life was pieced together.

The children looked at census forms, maps, birth certificates, newspaper cuttings, company directories, regimental history publications and war diaries.

While at the library, a newspaper obituary was found which included a quote from the sister in charge at the casualty clearance station in France where John died – she was able to describe his final moments.

John had originally fought with the South Lancs Regiment, whose barracks in Warrington were within walking distance of his house.

He had been gassed at Ypres in 1917 and when he recovered he joined up with the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.

John, who previously worked at Corn Merchant William Barlow at Winwick Road, grew up on Fearnhead. He married during the war in 1915 and moved to Ridgeway Street.

Teachers Lynsey McHugh and Phillipa Shaw ran the history club with volunteer from LiveWire, Chris Bent, whose father also served his country.

Phillip Jeffs, heritage manager at Warrington Library, added: “In the archives we had two great hopes for this project. The first was to help the children understand that every name in those long lists on a war memorial is a real person just like them.

“The second was to give the children the thrill of finding facts for themselves instead of just reading them from a history book. We would love to help other schools give their students a new perspective on history and a closer connection to the people who have shaped their world.”

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