Walter Potter Ritchie was born in Glasgow on 27th March 1892 to Helen and Walter snr. (a blacksmith). Having already been a boy drummer in the Royal Scottish Rifles, Walter joined the 2nd Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders in 1908 and at the outbreak of the War in 1914 he was posted to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).
Having survived the second battle of Ypres in 1915, Ritchie was at Beaumont Hamel for the first day of the Battle of the Somme (1st July 1916). He was among 9 men that were awarded a Victoria Cross for action during that first day when nearly 20,000 British combatants perished. His VC citation appeared in the Edinburgh Gazette on 12th September 1916. He was 24.......
The citation read:
"For most conspicuous bravery and resource, when on his own initiative he 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.
This action showed the highest type of courage and personal initiative. Throughout the day Drummer Ritchie carried messages over fire-swept ground, showing the greatest devotion to duty.
Drummer, Corporal Walter Ritchie was presented with his VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on Saturday 25th November 1916. Click on the image left to see how the story was reported.
The Musicians' Company had decided in 1914 to recognise all professional musicians that received the VC honour by awarding them also a Gold Watch. It was agreed that Ritchie would be presented with his Watch by the Lord Mayor at Mansion House on 4th December 1916.
To the right is a page from the Daily Mirror of 5th December 1916, click the image for a close up of the relevant photograph. The Lord Mayor (Sir William Henry Dunn Bt) is seen handing over the Gold Watch - the Master Musician at the time was past Lord Mayor, Sir George Wyatt Truscott who read out the citation during the ceremony and can be seen standing in the centre.
The Musicians' Company Court Minutes discuss the presentation - Click Here for MB10, look at pages 94 and 99.
The image below left is a page from the Aberdeen Weekly Journal of 8th December 1916, which includes a write-up of the Gold Watch presentation ceremony at the Mansion House - Click on the image for a close up of the actual article. Below middle is Ritchie as Drummer Corporal and on the right he is shown following an elevation to Drummer Sergeant.
Credit: With permission of The Highlanders' Museum (Queens Own Highlanders Collection), Fort George, Ardersier.
Walter Ritchie VC married Mary McLagan in 1919 and was posted to Belfast in 1921 (see him in the image right at a War Memorial unveiling ceremony at the Ulster Bank in 1925.
He eventually made Drum Major and left the Army in 1929. He died in Edinburgh on 17th March 1965. His VC was last sold to a collector in Australia and the existence or otherwise of his Gold Watch is unknown.
Photo Credit: © Royal Bank of Scotland.