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Private Ralph was born in Horselees Dunkirk in 1883, the son of William and Rosetta Ralph. At the time of the 1901 census he was working with his father as a a woodman. In January 1911 he married Jessie Allen, of Albion Cottage, The Street, Boughton, and at the time of the 1911 census he was working as a general labourer and they were living at 2 Grove Cottages, Colonel’s Lane, Boughton. Their daughter, not yet named, was one day old.
Private Ralph is remembered with honour at the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, where his name appears amongst those inscribed on Pier and Face 5D. He is also remembered with honour at the War Memorial at Dunkirk Church.
Private Ralph was killed during the Battle of the Somme. On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance. Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter.
The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916.
Photos - Owen
National Archives in association with Ancestry.com. 1901 and 1911 England census database.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website: CWGC.org
Faversham and North Kent News
Dunkirk Parish Magazine