So, who was the face of our Criminal Records post from earlier this week? The story below relates to a young man in our Reformatory school collection – and you can find out more about him by viewing our criminal records collection Ancestry.co.uk!
Well, it was the face of a young man called Stephen Ratcliffe. Not only was he caught breaking the law, he was also later caught bending the truth…
Stephen was born in (Great) Yarmouth on the 8th October, 1892. He attended the Market School, but at some time in his early youth had to bear the tragedy of the death of both his mother and father. It appears that he had already spent time in an Industrial School in Yarmouth as a voluntary case, presumably as a way of putting him on the straight and narrow.
By 1908, he had moved to Leeds and was living with his sister, Alice Birkett, at 33 South Mount Street, Beeston Hill, Leeds. He was employed at Fowler’s works, and had been in some trouble already after it was alleged he had been stealing from them – even though he was considered later to have a ‘respectable’ character!
However, he was convicted in April 1908 of stealing a horse rug. Aged 15 and only 5 foot 3 inches tall, he was sent to East Moor Community Home School, Leeds, for the term of three years.
Like many of his friends, on his discharge in 1910 he enlisted in the Army – a life of discipline and adventure obviously appealing to him. Serving in the King’s Royal Rifles, regular updates suggest he was living a fine, upstanding life.
In early December 1914, he returned to the school. His discharge notes say that he gave ‘a very vivid description of his sufferings and three wounds during the retreat from Mons’. Moved, the Masters noted that ‘much sympathy [was] lavished on him’.
But there was one problem. It seems that Stephen was being liberal with the truth again, as his notes go on to state that ‘two days later we were informed that just returned from India and had not been to France’.
In 1915, Stephen was (genuinely) laid up in a military hospital suffering from frostbite. In his bed, he received a letter from one of his old teachers at Eastmoor, SL Whitman.
I am sorry to hear that you are in hospital again.
After those three terrible wounds you received at Mons (wasn’t it?) you must feel keenly the indignity of being laid up with such a humdrum complaint as frostbite.’
Stephen no doubt reflected that you can run from some things – but you can’t run from the truth or, indeed, the withering eye of a teacher scorned.
All of these records are available in their original format at our Leeds office, though some restrictions may apply. Ancestry.co.uk is also available free of charge at all our sites.