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The memorial plaque to Harold Ricketts.


Harold Frank Ricketts (1893 - 1916) was a London Police Officer, serving with the Metropolitan Police's F-Division.

His memorial in Postman's Park reads, "P C Harold Frank Ricketts, Metropolitan Police, Drowned At Teignmouth Whilst Trying To Rescue A Boy, Bathing and Seen To Be In Difficulty, 11 Sept 1916."

What is not mentioned on the plaque is that Harold Frank Ricketts had, less than a month before his death - on August 19th 1916 - married Kate Ellen Gilpin, and the two of them were, in fact, on their honeymoon when tragedy befell them.


In its edition of the 15th of September, 1916, under the above headline, The Western Gazette reported on his death, and provided its readers with a brief obituary of the deceased constable.

"Many Wimburnians have learnt with deep regret of the tragic death of P. C. Harold Frank Ricketts, twin-son of the late Police Superintendent Ambrose Ricketts, of Wimborne (prior to which he was stationed at Portland), whilst on his honeymoon at Teignmouth.

The deceased, who was 23 years of age, was married about a fortnight ago in London to a Teignmouth young woman, and was spending part of the honeymoon at the popular watering place.

It appears that, on Monday evening, he was boating on the River Teign with his wife, his mother-in-law, and another woman and her two children, when they saw a lad who had got into difficulties while bathing.

In an attempt to assist him their boat capsized. Ricketts was drowned, but the others were rescued.

His wife has partially recovered, but the mother of Mrs. Ricketts is reported to be in a critical condition.

The two children of the other woman are recovering in hospital from their immersion.

Harold Frank Ricketts (who was born at Portland) was well known and esteemed in Wimborne by a large circle of friends.

Previous to joining, with his twin brother, the Metropolitan Police Force, nearly three years ago, he served an apprenticeship (as a turner) with his twin brother at the Eclipse Works, where a younger brother, Arthur (a sergeant in the Minster Company of the C.L.B Cadets) is similarly employed. He was a playing member of the Wimborne Football Club, rendering excellent service as right back.

Deceased, when his father was in charge of the Portland Division, attended St. John's School in the Island, and was successful in winning a junior scholarship, and continued his education at Weymouth Secondary School, and later, when his father was transferred, at Wimborne Grammar School.

Sincere sympathy is extended to the deceased's mother (who a little over a year ago lost her husband) and the other members of the family.

His eldest sister is the head-mistress of the Wimborne Minster Girls' School."


On Thursday 14th September 1916, the Western Morning News carried the following report on the tragic loss of the brave young constable, and of the subsequent inquest into his death:-

"Mr. S. Hacker held an inquest at Teignmouth yesterday on Harold Frank Ricketts, a Metropolitan policeman, aged 23. Mr. G Pedrick was foreman of the jury.

Mrs. Dorothy F. Westlake, Bishopsteignton, said Ricketts, her brother-in-law, had been married three weeks.

He and his wife had been staying on holiday with her mother in Teignmouth.

On Monday evening a party left the beach in her mother's boat to go to Shaldon Bridge, on the way to Bishopsteignton. The boat, licensed to carry five persons, formerly belonged to her father, the late pilot Jenkins.

They started from Teign View Beach, she rowing with both sculls, her mother, who weighed 12 stone, sitting in the stern

As they were passing the second quay, Ricketts wife called attention to a little boy in difficulties hanging on to a rope attached to a boat in the river.

They turned and went to the boy. The boy let go of the rope, and Ricketts caught hold of him, and had got him half-way into the boat, when the boy put his arms around his neck and pulled him over the side of the boat.

Ricketts was dragged out, and the boat keeled over.

The boat became half-filled with water, and all the other occupants fell out.

She was able to swim , and kept afloat her mother and the two children. She and her child were rescued by a seaman in the boat of a ship lying in the harbour, and she got her mother into the boat. Her mother and the children had gone down twice.

After they were in the boat, she saw Loosemore jump from the quay and save the other little girl, Hopper, and bring her to the slipway.

Ricketts' wife was hanging on to the side of the boat. She did not see how she was rescued, nor did she se Ricketts's after he went over into the water. He could not swim.

Mrs Back, another daughter of Mrs. Jenkins, who at the request of the coroner had gone to fetch the boat's license, returned with the explanation that there was no license, none having been taken out since the death of her father, the boat not having been let out on hire since."

The boat was a stiff-built one, 11ft long and 4½ft beam, and was big enough to carry five persons, provided they sat still.


The newspaper article, under the above subheading, then reported the testimony of Kate Ricketts, the bereaved wife of the deceased constable:-

The party of six consisted of Mrs. Jenkins (her mother), Ricketts and his wife, herself, and two children (her little girl, age four, and another girl named Hooper, age six).

Mrs. Kate Ricketts, of Irene House, Belgrave-road, Shepherd's Bush, London. said her late husband had been for several months acting as assistant clerk in the divisional office of the Metropolitan Police.

She could swim and got hold of the chain, but was frightened, and, after being assisted by a soldier, when close to the quay, was rescued by a boatman named Fraser, belonging to the schooner, Mary.

After she had been put in a boat she saw the little boy, who had been in difficulties, and was named Drew, saved.

Although it was a rather exciting time when her husband over-balanced and fell out, none of the others in the boat got up, they being used to a boat.

When her husband went over he struggled in the water, went down. and came up again, but there was no-one able, at the moment, to rescue him. He could not swim."


The newspaper also featured other evidence of what it headlined the "Gallant Rescues" that had taken place as the tragedy unfolded:-

"Thomas Hitchcock, a young fisherman, said, on hearing the screams, he spoke to Frank Loosemore, a fisherman, and both ran to the quay.

He saw the boy, Drew, going down.

He dived off and brought him up and handed him over to a Belgian, who, however, let him go, and the boy went down again, and he (the witness) dived the second time and got him up again.

Frank H. Loosemore, fisherman, said he jumped over the quay and swum out.

When he got to the upturned boat he heard a woman say, "For God's sake, save the child!"

He left the woman holding onto a chain, and then swam towards the child, got hold of it, and swam to a boat and passed the child to Fraser.

Artificial respiration was resorted to for the child, and in five minutes there were signs of life.

The place was very dangerous for bathing. The boy Drew, who had got into difficulties, had been caught by the current while bathing."


The Western Morning News went on to record the admiration that both the Coroner and the jury had expressed for the rescuers:-

"The Coroner said the jury would, no doubt, wish to commend the prompt action of Loosemore and Hitchcock for their gallant conduct in saving lives.

A juryman (Mr. E. Bennett) remarked that Loosemore had saved several lives, and he hoped a representation of the facts would be made to the Royal Humane Society, and it was understood that would be done.

The jury asked the Coroner to commend Loosemore and Hitchcock, after which they returned a verdict of "Accidentally drowned."

Mr. W. Shapter, a juryman, called attention to the danger of the spot mentioned for boys bathing, on account of the swiftness of the tide, and several other jurymen concurred.

The Coroner conveyed to Loosemore and Hitchcock the commendations of the jury for their prompt and gallant conduct in saving lives.

The jury passed a vote of sympathy with the widow and family, an expression in which the Coroner joined; and this was acknowledged by Frank Henry Gilpin, a naval seaman, brother of the constable's wife."


Harold Ricketts' body had been found at 10 p.m. on the night of the tragedy by local fisherman William Hitchcock. It was, so the inquest heard, in about six foot of water, 25 yards from where the boat was upset.

His funeral took place on the afternoon of Thursday 14th of September, 1916, with local police officers acting as coffin bearers.

Following the service, Harold Frank Ricketts was laid to rest in Teignmouth cemetery.