THE remarkable story of a distinguished prisoner of war (POW) from Barrhead has inspired a Czech museum curator to look into his past. 

Roman Janas has launched an appeal for information about a Scottish soldier who was tragically shot dead in a Czech POW camp in 1945, just as Europe was in the final throes of the Second World War. 

Mr Janas runs a museum exhibition in his home province of Jesenik, in the Czech Republic, which commemorates soldiers who perished in prisoner camps during the war. 

And one man that piqued his interest happens to have roots in East Renfrewshire. 

Private Frederick Ratcliffe was a soldier in The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders 6th Battalion 93rd Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery. 

He left his parents, James William and Margaret Eliza Ratcliffe, from Barrhead, in 1940 to join the British Expeditionary Force in France.

Mr Janas contacted the Barrhead News, communicating through a translator, after discovering Pte Ratcliffe’s story through records and is keen to hear from any relatives he may still have in the area. 

“I want to find out more about Frederick Ratcliffe’s life before the war, if any of his relatives are alive, or if there are any photographs of him,” he told the Barrhead News

Sometime in June 1940, during the Dunkirk evacuation, Pte Ratcliffe was captured and sent to VIII B - an infamous German Army prisoner of war camp in Lamsdorf (now Lambinowice) in Poland which saw 100,000 ally soldiers pass through its gates during the war. He was only 20 at the time.

Barrhead News: A photo from the mid-1940s of Stalag VIIIB Lamsdorf, where Pte Ratcliffe was stationedA photo from the mid-1940s of Stalag VIIIB Lamsdorf, where Pte Ratcliffe was stationed


From Lamsdorf, Pte Ratcliffe was passed from one camp to another along the Polish-Czech border during four gruelling years. 

He laboured alongside 62 fellow prisoners at Camp Bransdorf, then was forced to work for the Koch and Co construction company in Krnov, before being deployed in nearby Chomyz. 
He even worked as a butcher in Heindorf, when he was stationed there for a brief spell in 1944. 

As the end of the war approached and western Europe was on the cusp of peace, Pte Ratcliffe finally sensed freedom. 

Sadly, however, he would not make it home to Barrhead.

He was instead transported to a work camp in Velká Kraš in Jeseník where, along with 60 prisoners, he was deployed for field and forestry work.

Pushed to exhaustion after years of forced labour, Pte Ratcliffe made one final bid to be free and, along with three other prisoners, attempted an escape.

But their efforts were in vain. On February 16, 1945, all four men were shot dead on the run. James and Margaret would never see their son return.

The following March, Pte Ratcliffe was posthumously awarded a gallantry medal by the King for distinguished services in the field – a conciliatory honour to mark his tragic war effort. 

His body was buried at the Roman Catholic cemetery in Vidnava, alongside his accomplices, Privates Collins, Harper and Humphries. 

After the war his body was exhumed and transported to Olšany in Prague, where it rests today. 

Now, 74 years after his death, Mr Janas is eager to learn more. 


Barrhead News: Pte Ratcliffe on Barrhead War MemorialPte Ratcliffe on Barrhead War Memorial


“For me, the stories of all prisoners captured in our district are interesting. But Frederick’s story is all the more interesting because he was shot here. And I can’t accept that we don’t know anything about his fate.” 

Mr Janas feels an affinity with those prisoners detained in his home province and has vowed not to let their stories be forgotten. 

“For what the prisoners lived through here, they deserve medals,” he added. “That is right.

It’s just too high a price. 

“He was better off going home to his family.”

Pte Ratcliffe’s name is engraved on the Barrhead War Memorial, which gives hope to Matthew Drennan, of the Neilston War Memorial Association, that he may still have relatives in the area. 

“You think you’ve found everything you can on a person and then something will just fall on your lap,” said Mr Drennan, who has spent years researching war memorials and fallen soldiers in East Renfrewshire. 

“I’ve researched some men for years and then someone contacts you out of the blue with new information. You never know, there might be somebody out there who’s related to him.” 

Mr Drennan is encouraging anyone with information on Pte Ratcliffe to come forward – a call echoed by his Czech counterpart. 

Barrhead News: Roman Janas' museum exhibition in Jesenik in the Czech Republic. Roman Janas' museum exhibition in Jesenik in the Czech Republic.

“Thirteen years ago, I started searching for information about prisoners of war from the Second World War,” he added. 

“Although I do not speak English or French, I managed to find the names of 1,500 prisoners from our district. 

“They are prisoners from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, France and the Soviet Union. 

The Czech researcher is hoping to publish a book of his findings next year.

He said: “It is important for the families of prisoners. 
“It must not be forgotten.”