William Ritchie was a from a forestry family. His father, James Stewart Ritchie, trained as a crown land bailiff in the 1890s at Creswick under the now famous John la Gerche.
William was born at Glen Park near Ballarat in 1895 and was one of the first students to enter the Victorian School of Forestry (VSF) at Creswick when it opened in 1910 but lasted for only one year.
In 1912 he was a trainee forester at the nearby forest nursery established by la Gerche but still attended night lectures in Tremearne House at the Forestry School in order to graduate in 1914.
In 1913 he went tree planting at French Island and later in 1915 to the State nursery at Macedon.
But on 25 September 1916, aged 20, William enlisted Royal Australian Naval Bridging Team and sailed off to the war. He switched to the AIF as a Sapper with the 1st Army Troops Company of the Royal Australian Engineers in March 1917, while in Egypt.
His military records indicate he mostly served in England.
On returning to Australia in May 1919 William resumed with the Forests Commission and took the job at the newly established Moonlight Flat Plantation near Harcourt.
By 1926 he was promoted to OiC at Bright to oversee the massive Ovens plantation project where he supervised the planting of millions of pine trees on the steep hills and river flats denuded during the earlier gold mining.
During WW2, because of severe staff shortages, William was the District Forester for both Bright and Ovens Plantations.
In 1950 William was appointed as the District Forester for Creswick, which included the nursery where he started, and by 1955 rose to Assistant Superintendent of Plantations for the FCV based in Head Office.
William Ritchie retired in 1960, aged 65, and died in 1989.
Oddly, William is listed on the VSF honour role as W. L. Ritchie while on FCV honour roll he is listed as W. S. Ritchie, but on his enlistment papers he has no second initial at all… I can offer no rational explanation…
And to add more branches to the family tree, William’s son is well-known FCV forester Russ Ritchie who graduated from VSF in 1944 and retired as Divisional Forester at Wangaratta in 1984.
Furthermore, there is Trevor Ritchie (son of Russ) who graduated from the Forestry School at Creswick in 1967, and then Ted Stabb (nephew of Russ), who graduated in 1971 and remarkably is still working as a forester for DELWP.