Engineering, serving the country and sport: Corporal Ralph Emsley, 1920 – 2020

A career in engineering, serving in the army during World War II and playing with the ‘Clown Prince of Soccer’, Ralph Emsley really was an all-rounder.

Born in Bramley, Leeds in 1920, he was one of four children alongside sisters Clarice, Cathy and May.  After leaving school he joined Jowett car factory in Bradford where his father also worked.

Called for duty

In March 1945 Ralph was called upon to join the war effort.  He became a Private in the King’s Own Infantry based in Preston where his training included exercising with live grenades!  He then spent time with troops in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India where he rose to Corporal.

Whilst discharging military duties, he continued with his other passion, sport. He was a key figure in organising the North India Football tournament for the Cawnpore (now Kanpur) Sports Club in June 1947.

Cpl Ralph Emsley

Pictured in India: Ralph Emsley front row, centre

Ralph left the army after India gained independence from the British in 1947.  His release leave certificate described his military conduct as exemplary.  He was described as an intelligent and hardworking non-military officer (NCO) who was ‘thoroughly reliable’.

Love for sport

Football and cricket became Ralph’s new focus as he played for Bradford Rovers and at one time played with England’s Len Shackleton.  Len was dubbed the ‘Clown Prince of Soccer’ for his maverick style of playing on the field.

Ralph was also a long standing member of Carlinghow Working Men’s Club and the Batley Irish National Democratic League club until 2017 where he used to enjoy having a few drinks.

Throughout his life Ralph was an avid trade union member serving as a Branch Secretary for the Batley Branch amalgamated engineering union.

Meeting the family

Ralph enjoyed going out with his son and daughter-in-law whilst at Kirklees Council’s Claremont House in Heckmondwike where he was a resident since June 2018. The visit from his family came a close first to his beloved electric razor which he used a lot. It was a bit of a comforter.

The 99-year-old war veteran sadly passed away on 8 May (VE Day) after a short illness.

Rest in peace Ralph.


  • It was a complete honour and privilege to help Ralph all the time he lived at Clare mount house he was a nice man thank you Ralph for being in my life

  • Proud to have been a part of the last two years of your life. RIP. Ralph Emsley. All at Claremont will miss you ❤️❤️

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.