Father: Robert Christian 'Bob' Ramsay (b. 1861 in Cheltenham, Glos - d. 25 Jun 1957 in Bekesbourne, Kent), mother: Olive Zillah [Voss] (1886 - 24 Dec 1957 - Lincolnshire)
Her father Robert was an amateur cricketer who played for Harrow, Cambridge University and Somerset. "In 1882, he also played for the Gentlemen of England under W.G. Grace". He and his brothers owned enormous sheep stations in Australia - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Ramsay_(cricketer)
Younger sister of Joan, also of the ATA: (see Ramsay, Olive Joan).
They had 2 more sisters (Susan Mabel Christian 'Betty' [Homer] b. 1908, and Norah Honor [Johnston] b. 1911) and 3 brothers (Alexander b. 1910, Norman b. 1915 and David b. 1924)
Robert having grown up in Australia, the Ramsays moved to Kent in 1920.
They lived at 'Howletts', Bekesbourne, nr. Canterbury, Kent (the Ramsay family home, now a 90 acre wild animal park):
Robert, Olive Zilla and Olive Joan, David and Diana (age 7) sailed to Australia in Nov 1925, returning Jun 1926
The Flying Ramsays
"Diana learnt to fly at Kent Flying Club - her father was one of the founders" - Daily Herald
[In fact, Robert and Alexander, together with John H Barringer (the Chief Flying Instructor, who had taught Robert to fly in 1932), formed 'Air Sales and Service Ltd' in 1935 "to acquire property and assets of the Kent Flying Club and carry on business of carriers of passengers and goods by air" - Flight]
Robert personally owned, at various times:
- G-AAKO, G-AAEU and G-AAGT, all 1929 DH Moths;
- a 1932 Cierva Autogiro C.19 IV G-ABUH (which was sold to Australia in 1934);
- a 1933 Miles M2 Hawk, G-ACHZ (which crashed at Bekesbourne in 1939, killing the student pilot, Cecil Dobson);
- G-ADCY, a 1935 Miles M.2H Hawk Major, and
- G-AHDI, a 1935 Miles M.3a Falcon Major,
In 1933, 'Flight' reported that Mr Ramsay "still continues to fly both a 'Moth' and an 'autogiro', although 71 years of age".
Alexander also owned a 1930 DH Moth, G-AAWX, and G-AAVD, a 1930 Southern Martlett (which competed in the King's Cup Air Race in 1930, but retired near Newcastle)
Robert, Susan, Norman and Alexander all held RAeC certificates, all taken at Kent Flying Club.
Sadly, Norman died in an air crash in his father's plane; G-AAEU was "written off (destroyed) when it stalled and crashed during an aerial treasure hunt at Adisham Downs, near Charing, Kent 2 Sep 1934; pilot Norman Ian Ramsay [owner's son, aged 19] and passenger John Wilfred James (aged 33) were killed."
Joan also made her first solo aged 16, but neither she nor Diana appear to have gained a pre-WWII RAeC Certificate.
Postings: 5FPP, 1FPP
7 accidents, mostly her fault:
- 2 Sep 1942, one wheel of her Master Ic T8447 ran off the perimeter track while taxying at Prestwick, and the aircraft tipped onto its nose
- 17 Oct 1942, the hood of her Master I N7631 blew off in flight after an airman released it on the ground when talking to her (but she should have re-checked it)
- 15 Dec 1942, she landed late at an unfamiliar airfield in Bedfordshire in Spitfire IIb P8521, the undercarriage hit an obstruction and collapsed
- 17 Jan 1943, a wheels-up landing in Mustang I AG603, although no fault was subsequently found
- 15 Nov 1943, she made a heavy landing at Heston in Spitfire IX MJ462, damaging the tail unit
- 2 Jun 1945, a forced landing in Mosquito VI NP120 at Benson, after a port engine fault
- 5 Jul 1945, Whilst attempting a forced landing at White Waltham in Tempest V MW827, "the aircraft overshot and crashed in a wood a mile beyond the boundary of the airfield. The primary cause of the forced landing was an engine defect which fixed the pressure at +5 lbs boost with no throttle control. The cause of the gross overshoot was an error of judgement on the part of the pilot in handling the situation, for which she was held responsible; she was held not responsible for the engine failure"
Her nephew kindly tells me that she was "said by at least one American ATA pilot during a radio interview some years ago – the transcript of which I have somewhere – to have been one of the ATA's most amazing pilots until the throttle of her Tempest jammed one day and forced her to land in a grass paddock at horrendous speed."
Royal Aero Certificate 22869 17 Jun 1947 at Wiltshire School of Flying, on an Auster
She sailed to Australia in Nov 1951, describing herself as a 'Secretary'
d. 7 Jun 1952 - Lismore, Richmond, NSW
"Despite her claims that she came away from the crash with only a few scratches, she was never the same ebullient person she had been before. She died alone of a drug overdose on a remote road near Lismore in northern New South Wales in 1952. The coroner declared that the overdose was accidental and, even though they suspect otherwise, her close relatives are happy to accept that."
"Miss Diana Patricia Ramsay, aged 34, of Canterbury, Kent, crack war-time ferry pilot, was found dead beside a new car on a lonely country road yesterday. A large sum of money was found with her body, but police do not suspect foul play"
"Attractive and wealthy, Miss Ramsay left England last December to visit friends and relatives in Australia. Her father, R C Ramsay, and her uncles owned vast sheep stations there. " - Daily Herald, 9 Jun 1952
["Ramsay Brothers & Hodgson acquired numerous Queensland sheep stations and, after the premature death of Edward Hodgson in 1896, became one of the largest sheep-farming enterprises in the world." - Wikipedia]
"A farmer, who had seen her new car parked for two days near Lismore, New South Wales, found her lying dead beside it. At the inquest, opened and adjourned on Moday, it was said the a post-mortem had failed to find the cause of death. A relative said Miss Ramsay had been highly nervous since a wartime crash."
"Her sister, Mrs E C Boucher [i.e. Joan], of Bexon Manor, Bredgar, Sittingbourne, told the Kentish Express: "The news of Diana's death came as a great shock to the family. Her letters home had said how happy she was." - Kentish Express - 13 Jun 1952
"Diana Ramsay, 34-year old British wartime ferry pilot, who was found dead by her car on the road near Lismore New South Wales in June, took an overdose of a sedative drug unaware of its lethal effect', the Coroner found at the inquest yesterday. It was not suicide, the coroner decided." - Daily News (London) - 7 Jul 1952
"Four Years a Ferry Pilot in the A.T.A.
Brave Gentle Di. At last you are at rest.
You proved your courage and you passed your test
But paid the price with shattered nerves
That brought you here."