|Moston, Manchester, England||Accounts Department at Kemsley Newspapers|
|Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve||2205987|
|European||No. 75 (New Zealand) Squadron|
|European air campaign (30 missions)|
Author’s note: Delaware’s World War II Fallen occasionally highlights men and women without a direct connection to the First State. Flight Sergeant Ramsay was a good friend of my grandfather’s, who lost his life in the last months of the war in Europe. Although this site is focused on telling the stories of American war dead, Ramsay’s story is a reminder of the devastating price paid by the Allies during the war. The United Kingdom lost roughly the same number of servicemembers as the United States did, and from a far smaller population.
Early Life, Family, & Early Military Career
Eric Ramsay was born on March 10, 1925, in Manchester, England, the son of Thomas (1895–1976) and Eliza Ramsay (née Brierley). He had an older sister, Florence Ramsay (later Bailey, 1920–2008). Before joining the military, Ramsay lived with his family at 1 Bordale Avenue in Moston, a district of Manchester. He worked in the Accounts Department at the Kemsley Newspapers office in Manchester.
During World War II, Ramsay joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He had been promoted to sergeant by May 25, 1944. At one point (probably early 1944), he was assigned to A Squadron, No. 3 Wing at R.A.F. Yatesbury, likely attending wireless training. Around this time, he befriended my grandfather, Technical Sergeant David A. Toll (1916–1999), a radar operator in the U.S. IX Air Force Service Command.
The Ramsay family was deeply involved in the war effort. In a letter to Technical Sergeant Toll’s sister, Gertrude Nelson (1913–2015), dated May 25, 1944, Sergeant Ramsay wrote: “My sister is an inspector of shell fuses in a Naval Ordnance centre – (or should it be center). She works pretty hard, but she is in a good position.” He added: “My father is a Heating Engineer in one of the biggest industrial plants in England. He too does a good job of work.”
Continuing his letter, Sergeant Ramsay wrote:
I suppose you would like to know what England is like after nearly 5 years of war. Well, the place has sure changed in many ways. You can’t just walk in a shop and buy candy like you could once, it’s rationed out, 12 ounces a month, ice-cream is non-existent (do I miss it) and cigarrettes aren’t what they used to be, back in the good old days. The price of them has gone up, we pay 2 shillings and fourpence for 20 cigarettes (about a half of a dollar in your money). Fruit isn’t as plentiful as it was by a long stretch, and nearly all food is rationed. Still, we are doing OK on it all, and we have something to look forward to when it’s all over.
Service with the No. 75 (New Zealand) Squadron, Royal Air Force
Sergeant Ramsay was assigned to a crew (led by Flight Lieutenant Eric George Parsons) as a wireless operator/air gunner and joined the No. 75 (New Zealand) Squadron of the R.A.F on December 5, 1944. As the suffix implies, the original core of the unit came from the Royal New Zealand Air Force, but they were supplemented by R.A.F. personnel. The squadron operated the Lancaster heavy bomber out of R.A.F. Mepal, located in Cambridgeshire, England. Although R.A.F. Bomber Command is known for its night missions during World War II, virtually all of Ramsay’s were daylight raids.
Sergeant Ramsay’s first combat mission took place on December 8, 1944. Entries in the unit’s operational records indicate that he was promoted to flight sergeant on March 4 or 5, 1945, shortly before his 20th birthday.
The following is a list of Ramsay’s missions, adopted with permission from the 75(NZ) Squadron website:
- December 8, 1944: Duisburg Marshalling Yards, Germany
- December 11, 1944: Osterfeld, Germany
- December 12, 1944: Witten, Germany
- December 16, 1944: Siegen, Germany
- December 21, 1944: Trier, Germany
- December 23, 1944: Trier, Germany
- December 27, 1944: Rheydt, Germany
- December 28, 1944: Gremberg Marshalling Yard, Cologne, Germany
- December 30, 1944: Minelaying in the North Sea, vicinity of Heligoland Bight
- January 1, 1945: Vohwinkel, Germany
- January 2, 1945: Nuremberg, Germany
- January 5, 1945: Ludwigshafen, Germany
- January 6, 1945: Minelaying in the Baltic Sea, off Danzig
- January 22, 1945: Duisburg, Germany
- January 28, 1945: Gremberg, Cologne, Germany
- January 29, 1945: Krefeld Marshalling Yards, Germany
- February 1, 1945: München Gladbach, Germany
- February 2, 1945: Wiesbaden, Germany
- February 9, 1945: Hohenbudburg, Germany
- February 22, 1945: Osterfeld, Germany
- February 25, 1945: Kamen, Germany
- February 26, 1945: Dortmund, Germany
- February 28, 1945: Nordstern, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
- March 1, 1945: Kamen, Germany
- March 4, 1945: Wanne-Eickel, Germany
- March 5, 1945: Gelsenkirchen, Germany
- March 7, 1945: Minelaying in Kiel Bay
- March 10, 1945: Gelsenkirchen, Germany
- March 11, 1945: Essen, Germany
- March 14, 1945: Heinrich Hutte oil plants, Germany
At 1348 hours on the afternoon of March 14, 1945, Flight Sergeant Ramsay and his crew took off aboard an Avro Lancaster Mk.I, PB741 AA-E, part of a group of 20 bombers from the squadron making a raid against the Heinrich Hutte oil plants at Hattingen, near Essen, Germany. Simon Sommerville’s website about the No. 75 Squadron records what happened:
At 16.35hrs on the run up to the target PB741, F/L Parsons & crew, was seen to have been hit by flak in the port-inner engine, which was then feathered. It also appeared to have been hit in the port-outer engine, which was feathered as the aircraft began descending quickly. Part of the wing caught fire and soon after, the complete wing broke off just as the Lancaster was diving through cloud.
There were no survivors from the crew of seven. They were killed in action less than two months before the end of the war in Europe. It took about eight months before Ramsay’s family received confirmation of his death. A “Roll of Honour” newspaper clipping (probably from the Manchester Evening News printed on November 20, 1945) reported Ramsay’s death, adding that “A memorial service will be held at St. John’s Church, Moston, at 7-30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23.”
The article included messages from Ramsay’s family:
O, to see your smile, and hear your voice once more
And that old familiar whistle as you knocked upon the door!
—Sadly missed by his MAM & DAD.
Treasured are the memories that cling around your name
Loved and longed for always.
—His loving sister FLORENCE and brother-in-law GEORGE.
In a letter to one of Technical Sergeant David Toll’s brothers (probably Sam), dated December 4, 1945, Thomas Ramsay wrote that his son
Had done 31 [sic] operations and was ready for leave. We found amongst His affects a letter from David, Stating He was in Belgium[.] So I thought it best to write and let you know I feel pleased that my son was able to show a Hand of friendship to your Brother and other American Boys. My only wish is the seeds of friendship between our two Countrys will remain for ever. Best respects to all members of your family for your kindness to my son, the late Eric Ramsay.
Flight Sergeant Ramsay was initially buried in Sevinghausen, Germany, but he and four members of his crew were reburied at the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery in Germany on June 16, 1947. His epitaph reads:
Down the road of memories
The light is never dim
‘Til stars cease to shine
We will remember them
Crew of Lancaster PB741 AA-E on March 14, 1945
The names of Ramsay’s crew are listed below. All were members of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Ranks (at time of last mission), service numbers, and positions are included.
Flight Lieutenant Eric George Parsons, 185301 (pilot)
Sergeant William Phinn, 1684789 (navigator)
Flight Sergeant Francis Henry Ebbage, 1615600 (air bomber)
Flight Sergeant Eric Ramsay, 2205987 (wireless operator)
Sergeant Charles Albert Longstaff, 1595982 (flight engineer)
Sergeant John Lawrence Beard, 3006185 (mid upper gunner)
Flight Sergeant John Nichol, 1670779 (rear gunner)
A Note From My Grandfather
A few years before his death, my grandfather entrusted me with the letters, photos, and newspaper clipping published in this article. In a note dated November 2, 1993, he wrote:
Please Read Letter Sent At The Time With The Photographs.
The End Just Weeks Away
Special thanks to Simon Sommerville (75nzsquadron.com) for his assistance in preparing this piece, and for permission to reprint Flight Sergeant Ramsay’s mission list and crew details.
England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837–2008. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QV3F-7W19
“Kemsley Newspapers – WW2 (Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent, Southport & Liverpool).” Imperial War Museums. https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/26494
Ramsay, Eric. Letter to Gertrude Nelson, May 25, 1944. Author’s collection.
Ramsay, Thomas. Letter to Sam or George Toll, December 4, 1945. Author’s collection.
“Roll of Honour.” Newspaper clipping (almost certainly the Manchester Evening News, November 20, 1945). Author’s collection.
Sommerville, Simon. “14/3/45 Attack Against Heinrich Hutte (Hattingen) – oil plants.” 75(NZ) Squadron website. https://75nzsquadron.wordpress.com/14345-attack-against-heinrich-hutte-hattingen-oil-plants/
Sommerville, Simon. “December 1944.” 75(NZ) Squadron website. https://75nzsquadron.wordpress.com/december-1944/
Sommerville, Simon. “EG Parsons crew 8.12.44 †.” 75(NZ) Squadron website. https://75nzsquadron.wordpress.com/eg-parsons-crew-8-12-44-%E2%80%A0/
Last updated on July 30, 2022
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