Captain David John Ramsay

David John Ramsay was born in Sydney, New South Wales on 14 January 1948 into a naval family. He was the son of Commodore Sir James Maxwell Ramsay, KCMG, KCVO, CBE, DSC, RAN, who became Queensland’s 20th Governor. https://www.navy.gov.au/biography/commodore-sir-james-maxwell-ramsay

During David’s early years, he and his three sisters accompanied their parents as they moved around Australia in step with his father’s naval career. In January 1963, David joined the Royal Australian Naval College as a Junior Entry Cadet Midshipman. There he proved himself an accomplished all-round sportsman, a gifted golfer and champion high jumper. On graduation from the Naval College in 1967, he completed his midshipman’s sea time in HMA Ships Yarra (III) and Sydney (III).

In the latter half of 1968, the then Sub Lieutenant Ramsay was part of the last cohort of Australian officers to train at the Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) at Dartmouth in the United Kingdom. On completion of Operations and Weapons Courses in 1970, he was awarded the Queen’s Medal for achieving dux of the course and for topping his year at BRNC. He was also the recipient of the Robert Roxburgh Memorial Prize, awarded to the BRNC naval cadet obtaining the highest aggregate mark for the passing out examination, and the Ian Macdonald Memorial Prize awarded to the RAN officer with the highest marks on the Junior Officers Warfare Course.

On his return to Australia, David joined HMAS Brisbane (II) on 11 May 1970. There he gained his Bridge Watch-keeping Certificate and promotion to Lieutenant on 16 September 1970. He remained on board Brisbane during what would prove to be the RAN’s final deployment in support of operations with the US Navy Seventh Fleet in Vietnam.

Lieutenant David Ramsay accepts the Royal Navy Queen's Gold Medal from Rear Admiral GJB Crabb, under the approving eye of his father, Commodore James Ramsay, centre, 24 October 1971.
Lieutenant David Ramsay accepts the Royal Navy Queen's Gold Medal from Rear Admiral GJB Crabb, under the approving eye of his father, Commodore James Ramsay, centre, 24 October 1971.

At the beginning of 1972, David joined No 84 Pilots’ Course and underwent flying training with the Royal Australian Air Force, graduating in March 1973 as dux of the course. A posting to HMAS Albatross followed where he completed the Operational Flying Training (OFT) conversion course to the Douglas A4 Skyhawk fighter-bomber. On completion, he joined VF805 Squadron in December and for the next 18 months much of his time was spent embarked in the Majestic Class light fleet aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (II). During that time his airborne call sign was Ramsdog.

In the latter half of 1975, Lieutenant Ramsay completed an Air Warfare Instructor’s Course, before joining VC724 Squadron to instruct OFT students in the finer points of air combat and weapons delivery techniques. His colleagues and students considered him a natural instructor and it was an aspect of his job he enjoyed doing.

Lieutenant David Ramsay piloted A4 Skyhawk aircraft embarked in HMAS Melbourne (II) while posted to 805 Squadron. He went by the airborne call sign 'Ramsdog'.
Lieutenant David Ramsay piloted A4 Skyhawk aircraft embarked in HMAS Melbourne (II) while posted to 805 Squadron. He went by the airborne call sign 'Ramsdog'.

Lieutenant Ramsay joined HMAS Duchess in 1977 to refresh his seamanship and bridge watch keeping skills, before joining HMY Britannia as the RAN Contingent Officer during HM the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Royal Tour of Australia. He then returned to VF805 Squadron, before embarking in HMAS Melbourne for the jubilee deployment to the United Kingdom and the fleet review held at Spithead.

In 1978, he rejoined VC724 Squadron for flying instructor duties. On promotion to Lieutenant Commander on 16 September, he joined HMAS Albatross as the Naval Air Station Air Warfare Instructor where he remained until the end of 1979.

In preparation for the possible acquisition of HMS Invincible as a replacement for HMAS Melbourne, Lieutenant Commander Ramsay undertook a Sea Harrier VSTOL conversion course with the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom followed by OFT at RNAS Yeovilton.

Once qualified, he joined 800 Squadron which embarked in HMS Invincible in early 1981, before transferring to HMS Hermes in July. Due to the 1982 Falklands War, his exchange posting was extended by six months so that he could assist in training and trials during and after the conflict.

Lieutenant Commander David Ramsay served on exchange with the the Royal Navy's 899 Naval Air Squadron. He is seen here in a Sea Harrier, the Royal Navy's vertical take-off strike aircraft, circa 1980.
Lieutenant Commander David Ramsay served on exchange with the the Royal Navy's 899 Naval Air Squadron. He is seen here in a Sea Harrier, the Royal Navy's vertical take-off strike aircraft, circa 1980.

Promoted Commander on 30 June 1982, David then spent a relatively quiet five months as an instructor in the Royal Navy’s 899 Squadron, the highlight of which was to fly one of four aircraft participating in the eight day Farnborough Air Show.

Returning to Australia in January 1983, Commander Ramsay re-joined HMAS Albatross as Commander Air, where he experienced the demise of the RAN’s fixed wing jet capability, a result of the Government’s decision not to replace the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (II). In November 1984, David completed four weeks training in France to prepare him for his role as the Executive Officer designate for the new Australian built Durance Class replenishment ship HMAS Success (II). Following that ship’s commissioning on 15 April 1986, he enjoyed five months at sea during which time the ship’s acceptance trails were conducted.

In January 1987 Commander Ramsay was appointed the Director of Sailors’ Postings at Navy Office, Canberra, a position in which he remained for 12 months before begin promoted Captain on 30 June 1988. He then returned to HMAS Creswell as the Commanding Officer where he remained for 18 months, before re-joining HMAS Success as the Commanding Officer on 15 March 1991. He remained in Success until 8 June 1993.

For the remainder of his full time service, Captain Ramsay undertook language training before being appointed the Australian Naval Attaché to Indonesia until his retirement in 2001, and his transfer to the Royal Australian Naval Reserve. 

In 2001 he began two years as a Project and Administration Manager for a West Papuan pearl farm. He also spent time in Bali during 2002 at the time of the terrorist bombings and was instrumental in assisting Australian relief efforts.

Captain Ramsay, RANR, returned to Jakarta in 2003 as the temporary Naval Attaché, an appointment not without challenges as the Indonesian Government would not accredit him. He was also involved in a review of the Fleet Air Arm Museum, successfully arguing for its retention, restructure and resourcing.

From 2005 to 2008, he worked for the Office of Transport Security (OTS), including a stint living in Jakarta in support of transport security activities. In late 2008, he assumed the role of ‘in country’ manager for the Department of Foreign Affairs Indonesian Transport Safety Assistance Program (ITSAP). On 4 September 2012, while attending a ministerial conference in Jakarta, David Ramsay was taken ill and died unexpectedly later that afternoon.

Married in 1978 in the HMAS Watson chapel, he and his wife Janine (nee McInerney) had three children; Nicholas, James and Juliette. In 1997, he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for meritorious service to Naval Aviation leading to the formation of the current Commander Fleet Air Arm organisation, and in 2011 a Secretary’s Award for excellence for his work with the Department of Foreign Affairs in Indonesia.

As surmised by his fellow Knox Grammar school friend and fellow RANC Class mate Roger Cawthorn:

David lived life to the fullest - to him, sleep was a waste of time.

David Ramsay was well liked and admired by many and noted for his warmth, wicked sense of humour, dedication and professionalism. The then Labor Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, the Hon Anthony Albanese, on 10 September 2012 paid the following tribute in the House of Representatives:

I wish to pay tribute to and inform the House of the passing of Mr David Ramsay. Mr Ramsay was an officer from my department who dedicated the past seven years of his life to strengthening Australian-Indonesian government partnerships in the transport sector. Mr David Ramsay was a committed public servant and a skilled negotiator working for the department in Jakarta. Mr Ramsay had given his life to service for his country. Prior to joining my department, David served with distinction in the Royal Australian Navy, initially as a pilot. Later he fulfilled posts as the commanding officer of the officer training college in Jervis Bay and of HMAS Success.