British Universities Film & Video Council

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J. L. Ramsden ("Jack")


Cameraman; Production manager
Newsreels / Cinemagazines
British Movietone News
Search for all stories where J. L. Ramsden is credited
There is a photograph of Ramsden in war correspondent’s uniform in Cine-Technician, September-October 1944, p.89. He appears in the documentary film ‘Cameramen at War’ (1943).
Photo credit
BUFVC/John Turner Collection


Norman Fisher [qv], who joined Movietone in 1936, recalled that Jack Ramsden was originally a ‘stringer for Movietone in [the] North, based on Blackpool and covering hand camera material in that area and into Scotland.' Ramsden may have been the cameraman on a number of Blackpool stories which Movietone credited as ‘Local,' starting with ‘BLACKPOOL IS AT BEST DURING WAKES WEEK’ in British Movietone News No.428A of August 1937. It seems that in February 1938 Ramsden moved to London to work for Movietone full-time, the ‘Cine-Technician’ noting that he had been made production manager, having spent some years as ‘Movietone cameraman in the North of the same time covering the principal news events in Ireland.' Ramsden replaced Jack Cotter [qv] as Movietone’s production manager, and it was noted that ‘his promotion is a fitting recompense for his ‘go getting’ in the provinces, where up to now his only reward has been the footage from his camera used in the reel, much of which has been obtained without the glamour of London assignments.'

Ramsden’s first credit was a gag shot in ‘BOXING - AT HARRINGAY POLICE BOXING CONTEST,' in British Movietone News No.453 of February 1938. In the same month he also did a humorous commentary for ‘UP IN T’NORTH WI JACK RAMSDEN’ for No.456, and appeared in another gag shot in ‘VETERANS OF VELOCITY’ in No.494A of November 1938. In the following month he directed Movietone’s ‘CHRISTMAS NUMBER,' No.499, featuring Gracie Fields. In September 1939 Ramsden appeared in a wartime gag shot in ‘CAR SIGNS THE LATEST’ for No.538A, and was shown sending Jack Cotter [qv] off to the front for ‘MOVIETONE’S WAR CORRESPONDENT’ in No.540A of October 1939. In August 1940 Ramsden filmed in Northern Ireland for ‘ULSTER IS READY IF WAR COMES,' in No.583A, and in the following month filmed the Blitz for ‘THE BATTLE OF LONDON’ in No.588A. In May 1941 he filmed at sea for ‘MOVIETONE GOES TO GIB. BY CONVOY’ in No.621A, also appearing on film and sending back a number of stories from Gibraltar. In December 1941 Ramsden went on the commando raid to Vaagso, filming for Movietone with a Sinclair camera - which he complained ‘was too heavy for a one-man job.' His footage appeared in ‘VAAGSO RAID’ in British Movietone News No.657 of January 1942, in which he is also shown landing from a boat. He then filmed general home front stories, and appears incidentally in ‘UNIFORMS TAKE A HOLIDAY: CRICKET’ in British Movietone News No.687A of August 1942.

Ramsden specialised in air force stories, and in April 1943 was shown with his camera in ‘BIG BLOWS BY ‘FORTS’ IN ROUND THE CLOCK OFFENSIVE,' in British Movietone News No.722, after filming on a daylight raid over Rouen. In November 1943 Ramsden accompanied Churchill to the Cairo Conference, and was shown incidentally in ‘DOWNFALL OF JAPAN CONFERENCE’ in No.757 of December 1943. He also filmed Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin at the Tehran Conference for ''FIGHTING FRIENDSHIP’,' in No.757A in the same month. By January 1944 he was back filming home front stories, and worked with sound engineer Pat Wyand [qv] to film ‘FIRST OF THE HALF-A-MILLION’ for British Movietone News No.779 of May 1944. In June 1944 Ramsden was one of the six newsreel cameramen assigned to cover D-Day, along with Alec Tozer [qv] of Movietone, Jock Gemmell [qv] of Pathe, John Turner [qv] of Gaumont, R. Colwyn Wood [qv] of Universal, and Jimmy Gemmell [qv] of Paramount. Ramsden was assigned to the destroyer HMS Scorpion, which was charged with the destruction of shore batteries and with providing covering fire for landing craft. Ramsden later recalled that ‘every ship in the British navy seemed to be firing’: ‘The noise was incredible...only the footage indicator on my camera told me it was still running. It was quite impossible to hear it.' His footage was used in ‘LIBERATING ARMIES INVADE NORMANDY’ in British Movietone News No.784. Ramsden noted that his pictures of the Airborne Division passing over in the late evening were ‘some of the finest I have ever had the fortune to take,' but he found it ‘heartbreaking to have so much material censored, particularly some of my later stuff taken in Cherbourg.' The material which passed censorship went into ‘CHERBOURG DRIVE’ in No.786 of June 1944. Ramsden did not land with the troops, and returned to home front filming.

In August 1945 he filmed outside Buckingham Palace for ‘VJ Day’ in No.846, and in September 1945 he and soundman Pat Wyand [qv] filmed the launch of ‘HMS ‘HERCULES’' for British Movietone News No.852 of October 1945. In February 1946 Ramsden filmed a number of stories in occupied Germany, beginning with ‘INSIDE GERMANY’ in No.871A, and in June he was shown filming from a camera car in ‘VICTORY DAY’ in No.888. In July 1946 he filmed in Paris for ‘PEACE CONFERENCE OPENS,' which was released in No.895A in the following month. Later that year he went to India, where he filmed ‘GANDHI VISITS RIOT-STRICKEN CALCUTTA’ for No.910 in November 1946. Ramsden was still filming for Movietone in April 1948, but soon afterwards he replaced Jack Cotter [qv] as the company’s production manager - he certainly held this post by the end of the year. In September 1953 Ramsden flew with Paul Wyand [qv] to Movietone’s head office in Los Angeles, to arrange for the Cinemascope filming of the Royal Tour of the Commonwealth. Ramsden produced this film, which was released as ‘The Flight of the White Heron.' In April 1954 he appeared on camera in No.1296, interviewing Rab Butler for ‘THE BUDGET,' and he was also shown with Movietone camera staff in ‘PRELUDE TO ‘GRAND NATIONAL’,' in No.1344 in March 1955. Ramsden was listed in the Movietone staff list for January 1964, and was still working for the company in 1967. According to Terry Gallacher [qv], ‘Jack Ramsden was the editor of Movietone when it was based at Denham until his retirement in the sixties.'


Cine-Technician,' March-April 1938, p.220, ‘Newsreel’: BUFVC, British Paramount News files, Issue Number 1068, No.1376 (Ramsden and Wyand rota dopesheet, 3/5/1944), Number 1386 (Ramsden’s rota dopesheet, June 1944), Number 1522 (Ramsden’s rota dopesheet, 22/9/1945): H. Watt ‘Notes on Vaagso,' Documentary News Letter, February 1942, p.23: Cine-Technician, September-October 1944, p.89, ‘D-Day as the Newsreel Boys Saw It’: ‘Year Book of the Association of Cinematograph and Allied Technicians 1948/49,' p.54: P. Noble (ed) ‘British Film Yearbook 1949-50’ (London, 1949), p.275: J. Ballantyne (ed) ‘Researcher’s Guide to British Newsreels: Vol.III’ (1993), p.75: BUFVC, T. M. Gallacher, ‘Additional Notes,' October 1998.

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