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HomecommentMark's History: Jack Ramsden and the SS Rajputana tragedy

Mark’s History: Jack Ramsden and the SS Rajputana tragedy

In the third of a seven-part series by Mark Stevenson looking at some of the real-life incidents behind the names on West Leeds war memorials, as we lead into the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Today: Farnley War Memorial …

I wonder if Jack Ramsden knew the history of the SS Rajputana, the ship he was serving on?

It was built in 1925 on the River Clyde in Scotland. Much of its interior design was done by Elsie Mackay, a famous actress of the day who died whilst trying to fly across the Atlantic.                            

Lawrence of Arabia and Mahatma Gandhi had been passengers on the ship.

Farnley war memorial
Jack Ramsden’s name is one of many at Farnley War Memorial. Photo: Mark Stevenson

By December 1939 the Navy, which had requisitioned the ship, renamed her HMS Rajputana and fitted her out for convoy duty as an armed merchant cruiser in the North Atlantic.

Unfortunately for Jack, Klaus Scholtz (who went on to sink 25 ships during the war) was in the area in U-108. It was his second patrol and when he came across HMS Rajputana he was determined to not let her get away. 

This is the radio message he sent when he sighted HMS Rajputana.

“(Radiogram to BdU. Reached operational area on Thursday 10 April; Saturday 12 April armed merchant cruiser in sight. First attack one torpedo, failure firing. Second attack: double shot. Enemy zigzagging. Pursuit to the edge of the ice. Attack terminated by darkness. 13 April sighted and attacked armed merchant cruiser. Triple shot. Two hits, one torpedo failure. Armed merchant cruiser stopped. Coup de grace. Enemy sunk. At sinking position two destroyers and a Sunderland. Name of the armed merchant cruiser ‘Rajputana’.)”

The BdU answered a half hour later:

“Well done. Express acknowledgment to commander and crew. Return to base. Dönitz.”

Jack Ramsden, along with 41 other men, lost his life that day – 13 April 1941. 

Jack’s name is on the War Memorial on Lawns Lane in Farnley.

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