Ferry Command

Gander Streets





S/L Frank Ratcliffe

by Frank Tibbo


The former military cemetery in Gander, which is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, has many markers. Plot 6, Row 14, Grave 12 has the following information:

RATCLIFFE, Sqdn. Ldr. FRANK LATHAM, 172923. RAF (V.R.). 1st May, 1945. Age 42. Son of Mrs. M.J. Ratcliffe, of Wallasey, Cheshire, England; husband of F. Margaret Ratcliffe, of Wallasey.

Ratcliffe Street, Gander is named to honour Frank L. Ratcliffe who lost his life on May 1, 1945, in the crash that also claimed the life of Joe Gilmore. The body of Mr. Gilmore is also interred at the Commonwealth Graves Cemetery, Gander.

There are four streets in the Town of Gander that are named for the same persons as were streets in the airport residential area. Ratcliffe Row was a street located on the RAF Side. The other streets are Elizabeth, Pattison and Wright. MacDonald Street was on the airport side, but it was not called after the same person as is MacDonald Drive in the Town of Gander.

Ratcliffe Row on the airport residential area and Ratcliffe Street in the Town of Gander were named to honour Squadron Leader Ratcliffe, RAF. Ratcliffe was the officer in charge of the Communications section of RAF Ferry Command. He was killed when the Norseman aircraft, in which he was a passenger, crashed en route from Gander to Montreal. Ratcliffe

Ratcliffe came to Botwood, Newfoundland, with the British Air Ministry in the mid-1930s to establish a base for flying boats. At the outbreak of WWII he came to Gander with the Ferry Command (RAF) and was granted the rank of Squadron Leader. Except for two short term transfers, once to Montreal, and the other to the Bahamas, he remained in Gander.

He, his wife and son lived in a duplex on Chestnut Street. Mrs. Ratcliffe and son Michael returned to England in 1945 and later settled in Australia. They made a trip to Gander in 1978, and Mike returned again in August 1992.

From the notes of Tom McGrath:
"The RAF Ferry Command took over the ferry organization in July, 1941, and on October 7, the RAF also took over the radio station from the Air Ministry, (with F.L. Ratcliffe as officer in charge) as well as the transatlantic control unit."

From the Notes of F.G. Chafe:
“It is worthy to note that prior to the arrival of these planes the first plane to land on the new runways was the Gypsy Moth owned and operated by Mr. Douglas Fraser. The second plane to use the runways was a Beechcraft owned by Dupont Chemical Works of the USA and was the first to try night flying from the airport. All the Feil lighting had been installed at that time and was placed in operation. Squadron Leader Pattison and Mr. F.C. Jewitt were taken up on the first flight and Messrs. Ratcliffe, Bailey and the author (F. Chafe) on the second.”

From: The Propagander [Published quarterly at the U.S. ARMY AIR BASE Gander, Newfoundland – FALL 1944]
"Early in 1937 Squadron Leader F.L. Ratcliffe and Flight Lieutenant C.M. Brant engaged the local staff, among the first of which were Vince Myrick, Art Pittman, and a little later, Bill Heath, Charlie Blackie and Bill Lahey. In a short time the radio station was ready for operation with facilities for direct communications across the Atlantic.

In February, 1939, Chestnut Avenue, named after Mr. Chestnut the engineer, was built with its comfortable houses. Squadron Leader and Mrs. H.A.L. Pattison, Squadron Leader and Mrs. F.L. Ratcliffe, Mr. and Mrs. Ron Hayden of Shell Oil and Mr. McTaggert-Cowan, meteorologist of the Department of Transport, Canada, were among those who established homes."


Submitted by F. Tibbo


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