Son of John and Mary Ramsay, of Auckland, New Zealand. A Schoolmaster. Native of Forfar, Scotland.
Attended Auckland Grammar School.
Attended Auckland University College (now the University of Auckland).
2nd Lt (on probation) Ramsay resigned his appointment, 16 May 1916, writing to the Assistant Infantry Instructor, Featherston Camp: 'I am respectfully compelled to bring before your notice a matter which gravely affects my position as an officer in His Majesty's forces.
'I am at present a platoon officer in A Company 14th Reinforcements and I few days ago I applied to be transferred to the Reserve in order that I might be dissociated from the company to which I have been attached before taking the present action.
'In the early months of the war I had doubts of the justifiability from a Christian standpoint of participation therein, being convinced that Christianity should never have limited itself by association with any national cause but as for more than a year I was medically unfit for service I left the matter unsettled.
'Six months ago the medical bar was removed and I swallowed my doubts, renewed my application and entered camp.
'For the first few months of camp life the question did not trouble me, but just before leaving Trentham I chanced to have lent me a book written by a man whom I had great cause to respect, in which Christian men were challenged to base their attitude in this crisis upon the actual teaching of Jesus Christ.
'I read the book in order that I might discover wherein its argument was false and so solve my previous doubts but on finishing it was compelled to confess that there was nothing which I could refute. Since that time I have been unable to dismiss this matter from my mind: I have studied books setting forth the national (and normal) Christian attitude and have discussed the subject with men whose sincerity I could not doubt, but all I have read and thought has only strengthened the conviction that as a Christian I cannot take any part in this war.
'I have now come to the parting of the ways: thinking as I do I cannot go on leave with the fourteenth reinforcements and therefore, Sir, I must declare openly that my oath to serve my King and my duty to God are in conflict.
'Technically at least this is treason and therefore I desire to submit myself to the judgment of the military authorities.
'These things I would say in conclusion. I come from worthy stock, of Scotland and of Devon. I have been brought up to consider patriotism the very breath of life. I have drunk of the spirit of Kingsley and of Burns, of Tennyson and of Scott. I have loved England well, and love her still. In the present struggle I know surely that if national causes be compared that of England is right and that of Germany damnably wrong.
'But I know now that for me there is the call of a higher cause which cannot be linked with that of the nation. England's cause may be just, but her hands are not clean. She is in no true sense a Christian nation; her real reliance at this moment is not in God but in material forces - in armaments and in men.
'In camp the veneer of life is off and men show their true selves; almost no men here really profess to be followers of Jesus Christ. How then can these men fight in His spirit or purge themselves of the spirit of hate? How can they uphold a name which is heard fifty times in oath and just once with simple reverence? How can they serve Him who could not receive the Rich Young Ruler, who forbade one who would follow Him from going to the graveside of his own father?
'For years I have been convinced that Christianity cannot advance by the constraint either of actual physical force or of social reform legislation but by the constraint of love alone - that it must put all on the hazard as Christ Himself did and triumph by spiritual forces as did two simple fishermen who ignored the commands of the Jewish Sanhedrin, or the Christians of the Roman catacomb.
'The decision which I now make I cannot revoke. I can but say that I leave the nation's service that I may the better serve mankind. Oftentimes I have been a weakling and a fool and one power alone has availed to save me from moral shipwreck. To that power I give myself now to use as it will.'
Minute, Deputy Assistant Adjutant General, 8 July 1916, referring to Ramsay's decision to resign his commission on religious grounds and join the Ambulance Corps as a private soldier, and the ruling regarding the amount of allowances (uniform, upkeep etc) to be refunded: 'Lieut. Ramsay now asks that he be given credit for his Officers outfit, which he will return; he had handed in 10 Pounds in cash and an order on his teacher's superannuation contributions amounting to 35 Pounds, and as he has no further assets, offers to pay [the] balance by an allotment of 3/- per diem from his pay as a private. The return of this Officer's outfit was not considered when the amount of Pounds 90/10/- was being computed. It is suggested for consideration: (a) That the sum of 10 Pounds paid by Lieut. Ramsay is, in view of his present poor financial circumstances, a large sum for him to part with; (b) The Government has had value from him as an Officer and that he should be given some credit therefor; (c) That a man who has the courage of his convictions as in this case, and who has done good work as an Officer, should merit consideration; and finally (d) That the sum of 10 Pounds already paid in, plus the return of his Officer's outfit be accepted as an equitable refund under the circumstances.'
Assistant Military Secretary, Headquarters, NZ Military Forces, Wellington, 11 September 1916, sought advice from Auckland: 'As this officer is a conscientious objector and does not wish to serve with the N.Z. Expeditionary Force do you recommend that his resignation be given effect to.' OC Auckland Military District recommended its acceptance, 19 September 1916.
War service: Western Front
Embarked Wellington on board HMNZT 'Tofua', 11 October 1916; disembarked Devonport, England, 29 December 1916, and marched in to Sling Camp and reverted to Private at own request.
Proceeded overseas to France, 13 January 1917.
Attached to Base Depot, Etaples, 16 January 1917.
Admitted to 22nd General Hospital, Camiers, 3 February 1917 (conjunctivitis); discharged to Base Depot, 12 February 1917.
Joined No 1 Field Ambulance, in the field, 8 March 1917.
Admitted to No 1 Field Ambulance, 26 May 1917 (sub-acute rheumatic fever); transferred to 10th Stationary Hospital, St Omer, 26 May 1917; to England, 3 June 1917, and admitted to No 2 NZ General Hospital, Walton on Thames; discharged on leave, 6 October 1917, to report to NZ Medical Corps Depot, Aldershot, 23 October 1917.
Proceeded overseas to France, 9 November 1917; joined No 1 NZ Field Ambulance, in the field, 23 November 1917.
Killed in action, 2 April 1918.
Parents: John and Mary Ramsay, Auckland AWMM