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D-Day landings naval operations led by Admiral Ramsay

Senior Allied military staff involved in the D-Day landings. 
Left to right, back row: Lieutenant-General Omar Bradley (1st US Army), Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey (Command Allied Naval Forces), Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh Mallory (Commander Allied Air Forces), Lieutenant-General Beddell Smith (Chief of Staff to General Eisenhower). Front: Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder (Deputy Supreme Commander), General Dwight Eisenhower (Supreme Commander), and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery (Commander 21st Army Group).

Senior Allied military staff involved in the D-Day landings. Left to right, back row: Lieutenant-General Omar Bradley (1st US Army), Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey (Command Allied Naval Forces), Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh Mallory (Commander Allied Air Forces), Lieutenant-General Beddell Smith (Chief of Staff to General Eisenhower). Front: Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder (Deputy Supreme Commander), General Dwight Eisenhower (Supreme Commander), and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery (Commander 21st Army Group).

The 70th anniversary commemorations of the D-Day landings are currently underway on both sides of the channel, and naval operations on the day that marked the beginning of the end of World War II - June 6, 1944 - were led by Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, a Deputy Lieutenant of Berwickshire.

Four years earlier Admiral Ramsay, of Bughtrig, Leitholm, had masterminded the successful evacuation of 338,000 troops at Dunkirk.

Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe in the lead up to D-Day and the landings in Normandy, described Ramsay as “a most competent commander of courage, resourcefulness and tremendous energy”.

As the Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Ramsay led the invasion fleet that took part in the D-Day landings - Operation Neptune - which involved nearly 7000 naval and merchant vessels, and 195,700 naval personnel.

Historian Correlli Barnett described the naval operations as a “never surpassed masterpiece of planning”.

When Churchill and King George VI decided they wanted to be involved in the June 6 landings, it was left to Admiral Ramsay, according to his diary, to persuade both that the risk was unacceptable.

He was awarded the KCB, KBE, MVO plus Grand Office Legion D’Honneur (France), Commander Legion of Merit (USA), and Order of Ushakov (Russia).

Sadly, Admiral Ramsay died in an air accident in early 1945, which is why historians and indeed his family believe his contribution to the war effort has often been overlooked.

Ramsay’s personal papers are now housed in the Churchill Archives Centre, and Allen Packwood, director, said they will “continue to be of great value to historians looking at this crucial period of British history”.

He went on: “Sadly, because of Admiral Ramsay’s untimely death, his undoubted contribution to the Second World War has been somewhat overshadowed by those who lived and were able to write their memoirs and receive their honours.”

And Admiral Ramsay’s son, Major General Charles Ramsay, of Bughtrig, said: “The reality is that my father’s contribution to World War II was immense and was never really recognised in the shorter term.

“If the Dunkirk evacuation, which he commanded and inspired, had not achieved the rescue of 338,000 men, it is unlikely that the British Army could have reconstituted itself for the re-invasion of Europe.

“His subsequent leadership and planning over the operations in the Mediterranean and then as Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief for the invasion, and subsequent support of the armies on the Continent, contributed crucially to the ultimate allied victory.”

Paying tribute to his father David Ramsay said: “Years later Eisenhower was asked to name the ten greatest men he had known during his career. He did not hesitate to list my father among the ten.”

David Ramsay also disclosed the telegram sent to his wife, Margaret Menzies, of Kames, Leitholm, when he was knighted after Dunkirk “Lady Ramsay, Leitholm 221. I am proud to be the first to congratulate you on your new title. Love Bert”.

Here in Berwickshire a memorial to Admiral Ramsay stands in Bughtrig Garden and there is a memorial window in Christ Church Duns. In 2007 a memorial plaque to Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay was unveiled in St Paul’s Cathedral Crypt in London; and there are memorial windows placed in Portsmouth Cathedral, plus a statue of Admiral Ramsay was erected in Dover Castle in 2000.

 

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