Library renamed at Our Lady’s Abingdon

11 Jan 2014

Mr Oliver, Librarian Mrs Hickford and pupils from Years 9, 10 and 11 welcomed the Hon Sir Thomas Boyd-Carpenter, President of the Berkshire branch of the Royal British Legion, to officially open the school library on Tuesday, renamed the Ratcliffe Library after a former pupil.

Bertram Ratcliffe (1893-1992) was a pupil at Our Lady’s Convent School, as it was formerly known, from 1902 to 1905. He was among the first British soldiers to be wounded in the First World War, at the Battle of the Aisne in September 1914. He was captured by the Germans and imprisoned at Ingolstadt in Bavaria.

In 1917, whilst being transported via train to another camp in northern Germany, Ratcliffe seized the opportunity to escape: he leapt off the train and used a compass that his mother had sent him, concealed in a tin of Harrogate toffee, to navigate his way to the Dutch border. He was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery and invited to Windsor Castle to tell King George V the story of his daring escape.

Ratcliffe went on to become a successful author, and made major contributions to the library at Our Lady’s in 1948. As a result the library was named after him, but some time later the name fell into disuse. When school’s current Principal, Mr Stephen Oliver, found out about the lost connection, he was keen to reinstate it as soon as possible. He gave a talk to Year 9, 10 and 11 pupils at the school about Ratcliffe’s life, just before Sir Thomas presided over the ceremony renaming the library.

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.”

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.”