When World War II began, Ramsay returned to active duty and received command of the port of Dover. Following the German invasion of France in May 1940, he organized and executed Operation dynamo, the successful evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkerque between 29 May and 5 June 1940, for which he was knighted. Ramsay, now with the rank of acting admiral, was assigned to planning for Operation torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa, and he directed the landings at Algiers and Oran on 8 November 1942. After the Axis collapse in North Africa, he planned the invasion of Sicily and commanded the eastern task force for the landings that began on 10 July 1943. Reinstated on the active list, he was appointed commander of British naval forces in the Mediterranean.
On 29 December 1943, Ramsay was appointed Allied naval commander in chief for the upcoming Allied invasion of Normandy. He planned and executed this huge operation, which involved more than 2,700 warships and well over 4,000 minor vessels supporting the initial landing of troops on five beaches, plus subsequent landings of troops and armor. He was criticized on occasion for his insistence on detailed planning, but he contended it was necessary given the complexity of the task, and the outcome certainly justified this assessment. For his efforts, he was promoted to full admiral on the active list in June 1944.
Ramsay turned over control of the French ports from Le Havre southward, as they were captured, to the U.S. Navy, while retaining responsibility for those to the north and east. He later directed amphibious operations to clear the South Beveland Peninsula and Walcheren Island in October and November 1944, which opened the port of Antwerp. Ramsay died on 2 January 1945 when his plane crashed on takeoff from the airfield at Toussus-le-Noble near his headquarters at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France.
Paul E. Fontenoy
Chalmers, W. S. Full Cycle: The Biography of Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1959.; Love, Robert W., Jr., and John Major, eds. The Year of D-Day: The 1944 Diary of Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay. Hull, UK: University of Hull Press, 1994.; Stephen, Martin. The Fighting Admirals: British Admirals of the Second World War. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1991.