b. 27/03/1892 Glasgow, Scotland. d. 17/03/1965 Edinburgh, Scotland.
Walter Potter Ritchie (1892-1965) was born at 81 Hopefield Road, Glasgow, Scotland on 27th March 1892. His father, Walter senior, was employed for most of his working life as an iron fitter. His mother was Helen “Ellen” Montieth nee Murphy, who married Walter on 18th July 1884. Walter and Ellen had six children in total including Walter junior, who was the second youngest.
Walter was educated at Normal School in the Cowcaddens district of Glasgow and also at St Mary’s Episcopal Church, Glasgow. He then became a blacksmith’s apprentice and was a member of the 44th Glasgow Company, Boy’s Brigade. He enlisted with the 8th Cameronians though he was underage. He transferred to Regular service in 2nd Seaforth Highlanders on 17th August 1908 and was appointed drummer in 1909. He went with the Battalion to France on 23rd August 1914 and was wounded near Armentieres on 13th October and was evacuated to England on the 17th. He returned to France on 26th May 1915 and was slightly wounded again just before the Battle of the Somme.
On 1st July 1916 north of Beaumont Hamel, France, Drummer Ritchie, on his own initiative, stood on the parapet of an enemy trench and, under heavy machine-gun fire and bomb attacks, repeatedly sounded the “Charge” thereby rallying many men of various units who, having lost their leaders were wavering and beginning to retire. He also, during the day, carried messages over fire-swept ground.
He was gazetted for the VC on 9th September 1916, and received the medal from King George V at Buckingham Palace on 25th November 1916. On 9th December 1916, he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre, which he was presented with by Lieutenant General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston. Walter was wounded in the knee during the Somme offensive. He was wounded twice more during 1917, and by the end of the war, he had received five wounds, and been gassed twice. He was serving as a Lance Corporal at Newton Camp in Cromarty, when he married Mary nee McLagan on 7th February 1919. They went on to have two sons, Arthur Henry born in October 1919 and James Dugmore born in 1923.
In order to complete 21 years’ service, he re-engaged in Belfast in July 1921 to the 1st Battalion. He had been part of the VC Guard at the interment of the Unknown Warrior on 11th November 1920. Walter became a recruiting officer in Glasgow and later a schools attendance officer and Grand Janitor of the Royal Arch Halls in Edinburgh. In the Second World War, he was a staff sergeant in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in Scotland. He was discharged medically unfit in 1941.
Walter was a Freemason, and passed away on 17th March 1965 at West Saville Terrace, Mayfield, Edinburgh, and was cremated at Warriston Crematorium. His ashes were placed in Niche C-20 but it no longer exists. In addition to his VC and Croix de Guerre, he was awarded the 1914 Star with “Mons” clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, 1939-45 Star, War Medal 1939-45, George V Silver Jubilee Medal 1935, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953.
His medals were first sold at Sotheby’s on 30th September 1970 for £1,700. It has been sold a number of times since, and was finally sold in November 1981 for $A22,000 and went to a private collector. On 21st July 2022, the Ritchie VC medal group re-appeared at an auction at Spink & Son in London. It was sold for a hammer price of £360,000. The medals were purchased by Lord Ashcroft and are displayed at the Ashcroft Gallery in the Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
(SOLD AT SPINK ON 21/07/2022 FOR £360,000)
BURIAL PLACE: WARRISTON CREMATORIUM, EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND.