Robert Ryder

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Robert Ryder
Robert Edward Dudley Ryder.gif
Robert Ryder c.1940s
Nickname(s) Red
Born 16 February 1908 (1908-02-16)
British India
Died 29 June 1986 (1986-06-30) (aged 78)
At sea off Guernsey
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1926–1950
Rank Captain
Commands held HMS Opportune (1944–45)
HMS Prince Philippe (1941)
HMS Fleetwood U73 (1940-41)
HMS Edgehill ex Willamette Valley (1939–40)

Second World War

Awards Victoria Cross
Mentioned in Despatches (3)
Polar Medal
Légion d'honneur (France)
Croix de guerre (France)
Other work Member of Parliament for Merton and Morden

Robert Edward Dudley Ryder VC (16 February 1908 – 29 June 1986) was a Royal Navy officer and a British recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He became a Conservative Member of Parliament after retiring from the navy.

Early life[edit]

Ryder was born in India in 1908 to Colonel Charles Henry Dudley Ryder, Surveyor General of India, and Ida Josephine Grigg. He was a great-grandson of the Right Reverend Henry Ryder, youngest son of Nathaniel Ryder, 1st Baron Harrowby. Ryder had two brothers; both were killed in the Second World War. Lisle Charles Dudley Ryder died in the Le Paradis massacre of 1940 in France.[1] Ernle Terrick Dudley Ryder died in captivity after the defence of Singapore. Ryder was educated at Hazelhurst School and Cheltenham College before he entered the Royal Navy in 1926.[2]

Naval career[edit]

Ryder served on several ships throughout his career. He served as a midshipman on the battleship HMS Ramillies from 1927 to 1929. As a lieutenant he served in the submarine HMS Olympus as part of the 4th Flotilla in China from 1930 to 1933. Ryder also commanded several expeditions. This included captaining the ketch Tai-Mo-Shan on a 16,217 mile voyage from Hong Kong to Dartmouth, England during 1933–1934. From 1934 to 1937 he captained the schooner Penola during the British Graham Land Expedition in Antarctica.[2]

When the Second World War started, Ryder was serving as a lieutenant commander on HMS Warspite. In 1940, he was promoted to commander of the Q-ship HMS Edgehill which was sunk by a torpedo in the Atlantic, 200 miles west of Ireland, Ryder was adrift for four days before rescue. Appointed commander of frigate HMS Fleetwood.[3]:33 In early 1941, he went on to captain the Prince Philippe a cross channel steamer converted to a Commando ship, which sank after a collision in the Firth of Clyde. Ryder, now a commander, led the St Nazaire Raid, codenamed Operation Chariot on 28 March 1942. This was a successful operation to destroy the "Normandie Dock" in the German naval base in the town. The stated aim of the operation was to deny large German ships, particularly the German battleship Tirpitz, a base on the Atlantic coast.[4] For his actions during this operation he was one of five people awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for valour of the British Empire.

Victoria Cross[edit]

The official citation:

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the Victoria Cross for daring and valour in the attack on the German Naval Base at St. Nazaire, to:

Commander Robert Edward Dudley Ryder, Royal Navy.

For great gallantry in the attack on St Nazaire. He commanded a force of small unprotected ships in an attack on a heavily defended port and led H.M.S. Campbeltown in under intense fire from short range weapons at point blank range. Though the main object of the expedition had been accomplished in the beaching of Campbeltown, he remained on the spot conducting operations, evacuating men from Campbeltown and dealing with strong points and close range weapons while exposed to heavy fire for one hour and sixteen minutes, and did not withdraw till it was certain that his ship could be of no use in rescuing any of the Commando Troops who were still ashore. That his Motor Gun Boat, now full of dead and wounded, should have survived and should have been able to withdraw through an intense barrage of close range fire was almost a miracle.[5]

His medal is held by the Imperial War Museum, London.[6]

Later naval career[edit]

Ryder took part in the Allied attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe, Seine-Inférieure on the Northern coast of France on 19 August 1942. The Dieppe Raid was largely a failure but it helped influence planning for Operation Overlord, the landings at D-Day. Ryder achieved a final rank of captain in 1948. He commanded the research vessel Penola on the Rymill Expedition to the Antarctic and later served as naval attaché at Oslo.[2]

Later life[edit]

Following his naval career, he stood for election to the Houses of Commons as the Conservative Party candidate for Merton and Morden at the 1950 general election. He was elected and served as the Member of Parliament for five years.[7] He died on 29 June 1986, whilst on the yacht Watchdog during a sailing trip to France. He is buried in Headington Crematorium, Oxford.[8]



  1. ^ CWGC entry for Lisle Charles Dudley Ryder
  2. ^ a b c "The Papers of Robert Ryder". Janus, University of Cambridge. Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  3. ^ Dorrian, James G (1998). Storming St Nazaire. Leo Cooper. ISBN 0850524199. 
  4. ^ "HMS Campbeltown Commemorates the Raid on St Nazaire 28 March 1942". Royal Navy. Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  5. ^ a b "No. 35566". The London Gazette. 19 May 1942. p. 2225. 
  6. ^ "Victoria Crosses held by the IWM". Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  7. ^ "No. 39372". The London Gazette. 30 October 1951. p. 5665. 
  8. ^ "Victoria Cross recipients burial locations: Oxfordshire". Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  9. ^ "No. 35729". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 October 1942. p. 4325. 
  10. ^ "No. 36794". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 November 1944. p. 5218. 
  11. ^ "No. 36846". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 December 1944. p. 5807. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Hopton, Richard. Reluctant Hero: The Life of Captain Robert Ryder VC.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Merton and Morden
Succeeded by
Humphrey Atkins