Bertram Ramsay

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Sir Bertram Home Ramsay
The Royal Navy during the Second World War A23440.jpg
Ramsay in 1943
Born (1883-01-20)20 January 1883
London, England
Died 2 January 1945(1945-01-02) (aged 61)
Toussus-le-Noble, France
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch United Kingdom Royal Navy
Years of service 1898–1945
Rank Admiral

First World War

Second World War

Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Member of the Royal Victorian Order
Mention in Despatches (two)
Légion d'honneur (France)
Legion of Merit (United States)
Order of Ushakov (USSR)

Admiral Sir Bertram Home Ramsay KCB, KBE, MVO (20 January 1883 – 2 January 1945) was a Royal Navy officer. He commanded the destroyer HMS Broke during the First World War and was responsible for the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940 during the Second World War.

Personal life[edit]

He was born in London, into an old family (see Ramsay Baronets). His parents were Brig.-Gen. William Alexander Ramsay and Susan Newcombe Minchener.[1] He attended Colchester Royal Grammar School. In 1898, he joined the Royal Navy. Serving on HMS Britannia, he became a midshipman within a year.[2] Following his promotion, he was transferred to HMS Crescent, and was confirmed in the rank of sub-lieutenant on 15 September 1902.[3] He was promoted to lieutenant on 15 December 1904.[4]

On 26 February 1929, he married Helen Margaret Menzies, daughter of Colonel Charles Thomson Menzies. They had two sons, David Francis Ramsay (born 1 Oct 1933), and Charles Alexander Ramsay (born 12 Oct 1936); Charles was educated at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and rose to become Director General of the Territorial Army.[1]

First World War[edit]

During the First World War, Ramsay was given his first command, HMS M25, a small monitor, in August 1915. For two years his ship was part of the Dover Patrol off the Belgian coast. Promoted to commander on 30 June 1916, in October 1917 he took command of another Dover Patrol vessel, the destroyer HMS Broke.[2][5][6]

On 9 May 1918, his ship took part in the Second Ostend Raid, a follow up to the Zeebrugge Raid, and he was mentioned in despatches.[2]

Resigning from the Navy in 1938, he was coaxed out of retirement by Winston Churchill one year later to help deal with the Axis threat.[2]

Second World War[edit]

Promoted to Vice-Admiral, he became Commander-in-Chief, Dover on 24 August 1939. His duties included overseeing the defence against possible destroyer raids, the protection of cross-Channel military traffic and the denial of the passage through the Straits of Dover by submarines.[2]

Operation Dynamo[edit]

Main article: Dunkirk evacuation

As Vice-Admiral Dover, he was responsible for the Dunkirk evacuation, codenamed Operation Dynamo. Working from the underground tunnels beneath Dover Castle, he and his staff worked for nine days straight to rescue troops trapped in France by the German forces.[7]

For his success in bringing home 338,226 British and allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, he was asked to personally report on the operation to King George VI and was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.[2]

Defending Dover[edit]

After Operation Dynamo was completed, he was faced with the enormous problems of defending the waters off Dover from the expected German invasion. For nearly two years, he commanded forces striving to maintain control against the Germans, gaining a second Mention in Despatches.[2] Ramsay was command when the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau together with escorts passed through the Channel in February 1942. Though the British had made plans to deal with this (Operation Fuller), British forces were taken by surprise, and failed in their efforts to stop them.

Operation Torch[edit]

Main article: Operation Torch

Ramsay was to be appointed the Naval Force Commander for the invasion of Europe on 29 April 1942, but the invasion was postponed and he was transferred to become deputy Naval commander of the Allied invasion of North Africa.[2]

Operation Husky[edit]

During the Allied invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky) in July 1943, he was Naval Commanding Officer, Eastern Task Force and prepared the amphibious landings.[2]

Operation Neptune[edit]

Main article: Operation Neptune
Ramsay in 1944

He was re-instated to the Active List on 26 April 1944 and promoted to the rank of Admiral on 27 April 1944.[8]

He defused a potential conflict between Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and the British Sovereign, King George VI, when Churchill informed the King that he intended to observe the D-Day landings from aboard HMS Belfast, a cruiser assigned to bombardment duties for the operation. The King, himself a seasoned sailor and a veteran of the battle of Jutland in the First World War likewise announced that he would accompany his Prime Minister. The two were at civil loggerheads until meeting with Admiral Ramsay who flatly refused to take the responsibility for the safety of either of these two luminaries. Ramsay cited the danger to both the King and the Prime Minister, the risks of the planned operational duties of HMS Belfast, and the fact that both the King and Churchill would be needed at home in case the landings went badly and immediate decisions were required. This settled the matter and both Winston Churchill and King George VI remained ashore on D-Day.[9]

Although the men fighting on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day richly deserve the attention given to their efforts, the job of the naval forces was also of vital importance. In 1944, Ramsay was appointed Naval Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Naval Expeditionary Force for the invasion.[2]


On 2 January 1945, he was killed when his plane crashed on takeoff at Toussus-le-Noble, southwest of Paris. He was en-route to a conference with General Bernard Montgomery in Brussels.[2] His body was buried in Saint-Germain-en-Laye New Communal Cemetery.[10] A memorial to all who died in the crash was erected at Toussus-le-Noble in May 1995.[11]



A statue of Ramsay was erected in November 2000 at Dover Castle, close to where he had planned the Dunkirk evacuation, and he was portrayed in the 1958 film Dunkirk by Nicholas Hannen.[2] His involvement in the evacuation and the D-Day landings has led to several appearances as a character in film and television drama - in The Longest Day (1962, played by John Robinson), Churchill and the Generals (1979, played by Noel Johnson), Dunkirk (2004, played by Richard Bremmer) and Ike: Countdown to D-Day (2004, played by Kevin J. Wilson). His name was also recently added onto the Colchester Royal Grammar School war memorial, along with other Old Colcestrians who had been omitted. A portrait is also to be put up in the school. Admiral Ramsay's legacy has been remembered by the Royal Navy; they have used his name for the Apprenticeship Centre at HMS Collingwood in Fareham, the Ramsay Building which was opened by his son in March 2012.[14]

Statue of Ramsay in the grounds of Dover Castle


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay at
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27610. p. 6611. 30 October 1903. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27745. p. 8720. 20 December 1904. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 29687. p. 7480. 28 July 1916. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  6. ^ Sumner, Ian. British Commanders of World War II, By, page 32 (Google books)
  7. ^ The Secret Wartime Tunnels Archived 4 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine. at
  8. ^ The London Gazette: no. 36501. p. 2071. 5 May 1944. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  9. ^ "24 Facts about D-Day". BBC. Retrieved 9 July 2016. 
  10. ^ Bertram Ramsay CWGC Casualty Report.
  11. ^ "Memorial". Retrieved 8 July 2016. 
  12. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 34867. p. 3499. 7 June 1940. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  13. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36783. p. 5091. 3 November 1944. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  14. ^ "Navy apprentices' new home at Fareham's HMS Collingwood honours war hero". The News. 18 April 2012. Retrieved 8 July 2016. 

Additional reading[edit]

  • Barnett, Correlli. 1991. Engage the Enemy More Closely: The Royal Navy in the Second World War. Norton & Company. London.
  • Woodward, David. 1957.Ramsay at War. The Fighting Life of Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay. – London: W. Kimber.

External links[edit]

D-Day's 'forgotten man'

Military offices
Preceded by
New post
Commander-in-Chief, Dover
Succeeded by
Robert Cunliffe