PILOT OFFICER BENJAMIN (Benny) RAMSDEN
LM658’s bomb aimer P/O Ramsden was an RAF regular who had enlisted before the war in 1936. Initially his ambition to be a pilot was thwarted as at the age of 23 he was considered at the time to be too old to start pilot training so he served in an administrative role. Wartime requirements changed all that and he was eventually accepted for pilot training and qualified, receiving his wings. P/O Ramsden re-trained as a bomb aimer during late 1943 / early 1944 and was posted as operational to 100 squadron at Waltham in the early summer of 1944. At 31 P/O Ramsden was senior to most of the other operational aircrew, whose ages averaged in their early 20’s.
Biography by his daughter, Anne Merritt (nee Ramsden);
Benny was born in Wyke, Bradford on the 4th August 1913, the eldest of two boys, to Leonard and Annie Ramsden, (oddly his age was recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as 35, but he was actually 31 when he died, I am in the process of trying to correct this). Benny and his brother, Eddie, were both educated at Bradford Grammar School. Benny was a naturally gifted pianist who could play music by ear, a talent which sadly I did not inherit! My mother told of many happy family gatherings, singing around the piano. His father, Leonard, along with two brothers, Charles and Herbert, owned a thriving corn mill in Wyke and it was understood that his sons would join the family business. However neither were inclined to do so. My father’s ambition was always to become a pilot but he was considered too old at 23 to join the RAF for pilot training. Despite this, after a spell as a salesman, he decided to join the RAF anyway as an accountant. Eddie was to become an interpreter with the Foreign Office for the duration of the war.
Benny met my mother, Marjorie Coates, in 1936 at a dance, according to my mother their eyes met across the room and it was love at first sight. They married in 1939 at the start of the war. My father was eventually accepted for pilot training and they moved to RAF Norton at Gleadless, near Sheffield. From here he was posted to Bedford, then to East Dereham, Peterborough, and Tadcaster. By that time I was expected and my parents sought some stability. They finally moved back to Bradford in 1943 and bought what was to be their first home together in Ransdale Drive. After further training as a bomb aimer my father was eventually posted to 100 squadron at RAF Waltham, but their happiness was to be short-lived as, on his 29th mission, he was posted as missing.
I was told that after my father had completed his tour of operations he was to be offered a posting in Alexandria. How different life would have been had he lived. My mother never re-married and moved to East Yorkshire to be close to me, my husband and three sons until she died in 2002, aged 86.
In 1948 I was taken to visit my father’s grave. This photo was taken in Hardenberg by my mother and shows from the left, Eddie Ramsden, Mrs Bruin, Leonard Ramsden, Annie Ramsden, Miss Bruin and myself. Mrs Bruin tended the graves in Hardenberg and corresponded with my mother for several years. I seem to remember that we stayed with her family on our visit. I don’t know if any of the Bruin family are still in that area. It would be wonderful if they were and could get in touch!
Contact welcomed via the LM 658 Website.
Note from the author:
In the summer of 2012, Anne and her husband, accompanied by other members of the family travelled to Hardenberg to visit her father’s grave, I am informed it was a very moving experience for all present. The family also visited the Gerald Hood memorial site in de Vloedbeld, near Zenderen where once again they were very moved by what they found. The respect shown by the Netherlanders of all ages and the dignity in which such locations are kept left a deep and lasting impression, as did the people they met and the towns and villages which they visited.
To quote Anne;
“We were so impressed by the respect and care still being given by the residents/councils of both Hardenberg and Zenderen for a war which most of its population will not remember.”
“I could not have wished for a better resting-place for my father.”