A man of courage and total integrity

Major General Charles Ramsay with Sea Fox.
Major General Charles Ramsay with Sea Fox.

Major General Charles Ramsay, who has died aged 81, was a man of high courage, unshakeable principles and total integrity.

He was a natural leader and, had there been a major war during his career, he had qualities which his country would have found invaluable. As it was, danger held an irresistible attraction for him. Risk and speed were two sides of a coin that was always part of his loose change.

Charles Alexander Ramsay was brought up at Bughtrig House in Berwickshire. He was descended from the Homes of Paxton and Wedderburn. His mother was brought up at Kames.

Charles Ramsay’s father, Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, commanded the evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940 – for which he was knighted – and the naval forces for D-Day.

He went to Eton Sandhurst and commissioned into the Royal Scots Greys. He was posted as adjutant of the Ayrshire Yeomanry. It was here that he met his wife, Mary, daughter of Lord and Lady MacAndrew.

In 1977 he assumed command of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. The following year, he commanded the Regimental Tercentenary parade in Edinburgh, attended by the Queen. He persuaded a nervous Edinburgh Council to allow Chieftain tanks to parade over the gas mains down Princes Street. In the event, the only casualty was a traffic light demolished by a tank’s gun barrel as it dipped to the right in salute.

On important occasions, instead of a regulation Army staff car, he was driven in his black V12 Jaguar. This caused considerable dismay among the top ranks after the commander-in-chief saluted him by mistake.

His final appointment was that of Director General of Army Organisation and the TA. During this job, he was asked to decide the future of the Ghurkhas. He flew to Nepal, where some retired soldiers walked for over four days to meet him. After such loyalty, his decision was made.

His superior at the time asked him to write a paper recommending changes to the organisation of the army. Ramsay consulted widely and his plan had the support of the Army Board. His boss, however, disapproved of it and ended Ramsay’s chances of further promotion. It was a great shock and a disappointment.

He handed over to his successor and was appointed CB on his retirement from the Army in 1990.

In 1974 his mother, Lady Ramsay, moved to Kelso. Charles and Mary made Bughtrig their home. He loved shooting and his dogs.

He planted woods to enable a family shoot, and made gallops for his racehorses. He opened its lovely garden to visitors each summer.

It contains a statue of his famous father, so cruelly killed just before the end of the War. It was rumoured if the Admiral had survived he would have been awarded a peerage, like a few other very great leaders of the Second World War.

For some 13 years, he was on the board of John Menzies, his mother’s family business, based in Edinburgh. Ramsay was Honorary Colonel of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards from 1992 to 1998.

Charles Ramsay was passionate about all things equitation. He hunted for over 65 seasons with over 20 packs. He last hunted aged 76 with his beloved Berwickshire Hunt, of which he was chairman for a decade. He had his share of heavy falls. He hated being in hospital and, on one occasion, discharged himself from the Borders General Hospital while concussed and with the drip still in his arm. Latterly, he trained his point-to-pointers at Bughtrig, with his children riding most of them.