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Library honour for First World War hero at old school
A SCHOOL library has been named after a former pupil who was one of the first soldiers injured in the First World War.
The Ratcliffe Library was officially opened at Our Lady’s Abingdon last week in honour of Captain Bertram Ratcliffe.
Mr Ratcliffe – at the Radley Road independent school from 1902 to 1905 – was wounded at the Battle of Ainse in September 1914.
Captured by the Germans he escaped three years later and got home using a compass sent by his mother hidden in toffee.
He was awarded a Military Cross and went on to become a history author, with many of his books now kept in the library.
For a time the school library was named after him, but the name fell into disuse. But headteacher Stephen Oliver was keen to honour him again after discovering the connection.
Mr Oliver said: “I heard about Bertram Ratcliffe purely by chance, in a conversation with Bob Frampton from the Abingdon Museum.
“Ratcliffe’s daughter later told me that Our Lady’s was the only school where her father felt really happy, and he became a benefactor to the school in his later life.
“I am delighted that we can again commemorate his life and contributions to the school with the newly-renamed Ratcliffe Library.”
Ratcliffe was imprisoned at Ingolstadt in Bavaria but leapt from a train in 1917 en route to a camp in north Germany.
He was given his medal at Windsor Castle by King George V, who had heard of his daring escape.
After the war he took up an apprenticeship with a merchant firm in the City before establishing his own company importing Scandinavian products. He went on to become a director and later chairman of an industrial chemical firm, Brotherton’s. In 1924 he married a Belgian pianist called Andree Marie-Helene Vauthier.
He made major contributions to the library at Our Lady’s in 1948.
He died in 1992 aged 98.
The Hon Sir Thomas Boyd-Carpenter, president of the Berkshire Royal British Legion, opened the library last Tuesday.
Year 10 pupil Robson Barrett said: “It was really interesting to hear the story of one of the school’s former pupils.
“I’m pleased that the school has renamed the library after him – it’s inspiring and gives us a sense of history.
“Whenever we go in there now, we can think of Bertram Ratcliffe and all his achievements.”
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