Book Review-‘ Mastermind of Dunkirk and D-Day: The vision of Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay’ by B. Izzard,

By Richard Harding, published March 2021


Writing a biography of Bertram Ramsay is never going to be easy. Ramsay played a vital role in the most significant amphibious operations in the European theatre during the Second World War. From Dunkirk in 1940 to the opening of the Scheldt in November 1944 Ramsay was a key directing and co-ordinating figure. At the time of his death in an air accident on 2 January 1945 he was still working on the logistical operations to support the Allied drive across the North German plain.   Ramsay’s death meant that he was not part of the post-war memoir publishing in which senior officers of all services assiduously positioned their own contribution and commented, not always favourably, on the behaviour of others. However, Ramsay was not self-publicist by nature and it is possible he would not have been part of this in any case. As the subject of a biography, his career did not have the dramatic tension of some of his contemporaries. Aside from the period between 26 May and 4 June 1940 when Ramsay was directing Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, the clash of arms is less evident than the relative calm of the planning and administrative offices. The one flash of drama after 1940 in Ramsay’s time as Flag Officer Dover was the failure to stop the Channel dash of the battle cruisers, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in February 1942 (Operation Cerbus). That lack of battle experience was a factor in American support for Admiral Andrew Cunningham, rather than Ramsay, as naval commander for the invasion of North Africa in November 1942 (Operation Torch), despite the latter having more experience in planning complex amphibious movements…

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