WHITTON and RITCH -Surname Studies and people from the Island of GRAEMSAY, Orkney

Robert Ritch

Robert Ritch

Male 1895 - 1966  (71 years)

Personal Information    |    Notes    |    All

  • Name Robert Ritch 
    Born 4 Feb 1895  School Place, Kirkwall, Orkney Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 23 Mar 1966  Winnipeg, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I321  Ritch
    Last Modified 16 Oct 2019 

    Father David R Ritch,   b. 8 Oct 1856, Lighthouse, Deerness Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Aft 1899, Not Located in Scotland see Notes re diviorce in 1921 Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age > 44 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Mother Mary Smith,   b. 1861,   d. 8 Jul 1944, 2 East Road, Kirkwall Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 83 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Married 26 Jan 1880  Tiffey Hall, Deerness 014-2 Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Divorced 1921 
    Family ID F129  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Jessie Ann Slater,   b. 1894, Kirkwall, Orkney Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married 14 Feb 1913  East Road Kirkwall 021-8 Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
     1. Robert Slater Ritch,   b. 14 Apr 1913, Junction Road, Kirkwall, Orkney Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 24 Aug 2008, Misericordia Hospital, Canada Obituary Winnipeg F-P 25-8-2008 Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 95 years)  [natural]
    Last Modified 16 Oct 2019 
    Family ID F228  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • at 1901 census at Deerness UPC Schoolhouse ref 14-4-001
      at 1911 census at Frasers Close, Kirkwall a Boarder Stationers Apprentice
      address at marriage 22 Clay Loan Kirkwall Stationers Assistant
      Attestation papers available on-line
      a Teacher Wife address Groundwaters Buildings, Kirkwall had served in 79th CHof C Royal Garrison Artillery, on 19-7-1915, N153 474 at Winnipeg, Canada
      There was an article in the Orcadian about Mr Ritch who watched his friend Will Heron die at the hands of German Gunners on October 4th 1916. Mr Ritch wrote to his friends father explaining that both men had left Scotland in about 1912 for Canada and had joined the Canadian Highlanders TA. Months later they were sent to France. Roberts own brother had been killed in September 1916.
      R Ritch 153 474 Grenades Section, 43rd Battalion Canadian Camerons.
      In 1919 Robert returned to Fort Rouge, Winnipeg and his wife and son followed in 1920. They had remained in Orkney during the War.
      at 1921 census at 466 Burrows, Winnipeg, Manitoba a Miner

      Both David jr. and Robert served three years in the Orkney Royal Garrison Artillery, Territorial Force. David was aged 19 when he sailed from Liverpool on 18th April 1912 on the steamship Lake Manitoba, bound for Quebec, Canada. Robert was aged 18 when he married Jessie Ann Slater in Kirkwall on 14th February 1913. Robert left Liverpool on S.S. Arabic on 29th March for Halifax, Canada to make a home there for his family, but the outbreak of war changed his plans.

      David Ritch was working as an auto trimmer in Winnipeg, Manitoba when he joined the 43rd Battalion CEF (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) on 5th January 1915. It sailed for England on S.S. Grampian on 1st June. Robert was working as a teamster when also joined the Cameron Highlanders in Winnipeg on 19th July 1915, he reached England just before the end of the year.

      David Ritch spent only a short time training in England, before landed in France on 17th July 1915 as one of 386 other ranks sent by 43rd Battalion to join 16th Battalion in 1st Canadian Division. After losing 5,469 casualties in the Second Battle of Ypres and 2,400 at Festubert, the Division was then holding the “quiet” Ploegsteert Sector. 16th Battalion was in comfortable billets at La Grande Manque (close to the Piggeries) in a support role when David joined it, providing work parties to the front line every night. 16th Battalion (fighting strength 565) relieved the 15th in the front line in the evening of the 18th, but there was only intermittent shelling and few casualties before 3rd Battalion relieved the 16th on the 21st.

      Robert Ritch was in one of four drafts from Winnipeg that took 43rd Battalion back up to strength. It was one of the supernumerary battalions in 9th Brigade that joined 3rd Canadian Division when crossed to France on 22nd February 1916. When 3rd Canadian Division was heavily attacked at Mount Sorrel on 2nd June, 43rd Battalion was in reserve and was rushed forward to help stabilise a new front line, but escaped heavy casualties. David’s battalion lost 257 casualties, as one of four that drove the Germans back to their original positions in a successful counter-attack on 13th June.

      David was promoted to Corporal on 10th July, while 16th Battalion was resting and training near Ypres. Robert’s battalion was in the line at Zillebeke then, spent almost two more months in the Ypres Salient alternating between spells of rest and training and front line duties. 1st Canadian Division began the relief of 4th Australian Division NE of Pozières in the northern Somme battlefield on 31st August. David was promoted again, to Sergeant, on the next day, when his battalion moved to Brickfields near Albert. Two more moves on the next two days took it to La Boisselle, leaving it poised to enter the attrition fighting that had already cost the lives of many thousands of British Empire troops and was now about to extract its share from the Canadians.
      16th Battalion began to move into the front line in the early hours of 4th September, completed with great difficulty while under heavy German bombardment on the following night. Although there were only patrol sized attacks by the Germans, they continued heavy shelling and when 15th and 14th Canadian Battalions completed on the 7th the relief of 16th Battalion, it had lost 401 casualties, 25% were killed or missing. Sergeant David Ritch was one of the about 100 killed.

      David’s Canadian Army service records and his Commonwealth War Graves Commission internet record both give his date of death as between 4th and 7th September 1916. His photo appeared in The Orcadian a few weeks later, stating he was killed on the 4th, but the exact date will never be known. David’s body was found, identified and given a marked burial. It was probably moved after the war, into one of the large Somme concentration cemeteries, Serre Road Cemetery No. 2. David Ritch lies in Grave 9, Row A, Plot XVI in that impressive cemetery, one of its 2,184 identified burials (while 4,944 are unidentified). David had assigned $15 a month ($20 from April 1916) of his pay to his mother, who was awarded a gratuity of $180 as his dependent in August 1920.

      Brother Robert also took his turn in the grim fighting that slowly advanced the Canadian front line up Pozières ridge, at great cost to both sides. 2nd Canadian Division took over the right of 1st Canadian Division’s line on the night of 11th/12th September, while 3rd Canadian Division took over its left on the following night. While 43rd Battalion moved up through Albert to bivouac on Usna Hill on the 15th, Robert was wounded by shrapnel in his right knee, but after treatment at 4th Canadian Field Ambulance he was discharged to duty later that day.

      That light wound was the only physical trauma that Robert Ritch suffered during the Battle of the Somme, but his mental suffering then was not restricted to news of his brother’s death. On 20th September 43rd Battalion attacked Zollern Graben, where one of the Canadians killed was John Barron of Kirkwall (probably known to Robert). Robert saw a close friend, William Heron of Wishaw, killed by shellfire on 4th October, probably heard of the death of another some time later. George Laird of Kirkwall, also then aged 18, had sailed to Canada with Robert on S.S. Arabic in 1913 – he was killed in action serving in 38th Battalion CEF on 27th October.

      While Robert served in France and Flanders, he assigned $20 of his $35 a month pay to his wife, Jessie, who remained in Kirkwall during the war with their young son, Robert, at Groundwater Buildings in Junction Road. Robert left France to return home to Orkney on leave on 9th August 1917 and rejoined his unit on 22nd August. It was then in the line near Lens, where Robert was wounded again by shrapnel on 27th August. This wound was to the face, but was also slight and Robert was discharged to duty next day, after treatment at 9th Canadian Field Ambulance.

      Robert had two more spells of home leave, one from 27th January to 12th February 1918, the other after the Armistice, from 8th to 26th January 1919. When 43rd Battalion left for Canada on R.M.S. Baltic in March 1919, Jessie and young Robert stayed on in Kirkwall, but they travelled out to join Robert in Fort Rouge, Winnipeg in August 1920. Like many CEF veterans, Robert Ritch rarely spoke to his wife Jessie or son Robert about his experiences on the Western Front. He surely felt fortunate to have survived nearly three years front line service there almost physically unscathed, although must have endured many harrowing days whose details he took with him to the grave, when he died in Winnipeg on 23rd March 1966.

      Address in 1944 at brothers death in Liverpool, 16 Milan Apertments