b. 16/02/1908 India. d. 29/06/1986 at sea near Guernsey.
Robert Edward Dudley Ryder (1908-1986) was born on the 16th February 1908 in Dehra Dun, India, the youngest child of six born to Colonel Charles Henry Dudley Ryder, CB, CIE, DSO, Surveyor General of India, and Ida Josephine Grigg. He was a great-grandson of the Right Reverend Henry Ryder, youngest son of Nathaniel Ryder, 1st Baron Harrowby. He had three elder sisters: Margaret, Enid and Violet, and two elder brothers called Lisle and Ernle. By 1911, the family had returned to England and settled in Eastbourne, Sussex. Tragically, both of Robert’s brothers would die in World War II, Lisle Charles Dudley Ryder died in the Le Paradis massacre of 1940 in France and Ernle Terrick Dudley Ryder died in captivity after the defence of Singapore.
Robert was educated at Hazelhurst School and Cheltenham College before he entered the Royal Navy in 1926. Ryder served on several ships throughout his career. He served as a midshipman on the battleship HMS Ramillies from 1927 to 1929. As a Lieutenant he served in the submarine HMS Olympus as part of the 4th Flotilla in China from 1930 to 1933. Ryder also commanded several expeditions. This included captaining the ketch Tai-Mo-Shan on a 16,217 mile voyage from Hong Kong to Dartmouth, England during 1933–1934. From 1934 to 1937 he captained the schooner Penola during the British Graham Land Expedition in Antarctica.
When the Second World War started, Ryder was serving as a lieutenant commander on HMS Warspite. In 1940, he was promoted to commander of the Q-ship HMS Edgehill which was sunk by a torpedo in the Atlantic, 200 miles west of Ireland, Ryder was adrift for four days before rescue. Appointed commander of the sloop HMS Fleetwood. In early 1941, he went on to captain the Prince Philippe a cross channel steamer converted to a Commando ship, which sank after a collision in the Firth of Clyde. Ryder, now a commander, led the St Nazaire Raid, codenamed Operation Chariot on 28th March 1942. This was a successful operation to destroy the “Normandie Dock” in the German naval base in the town. The stated aim of the operation was to deny large German ships, particularly the German battleship Tirpitz, a base on the Atlantic coast.
He commanded a force of small unprotected ships in an attack on a heavily defended port and led H.M.S. Campbeltown in under intense fire from short range weapons at point blank range. Though the main object of the expedition had been accomplished in the beaching of Campbeltown, he remained on the spot conducting operations, evacuating men from Campbeltown and dealing with strong points and close range weapons while exposed to heavy fire for one hour and sixteen minutes, and did not withdraw till it was certain that his ship could be of no use in rescuing any of the Commando Troops who were still ashore. That his Motor Gun Boat, now full of dead and wounded, should have survived and should have been able to withdraw through an intense barrage of close range fire was almost a miracle.
Ryder took part in the Allied attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe, Seine-Inférieure on the Northern coast of France on 19th August 1942. The Dieppe Raid was largely a failure but it helped influence planning for Operation Overlord, the landings at D-Day. Ryder achieved a final rank of captain in 1948. He commanded the research vessel Penola on the Rymill Expedition to the Antarctic and later served as naval attaché at Oslo.
Following his naval career, he stood for election to the Houses of Commons as the Conservative Party candidate for Merton and Morden at the 1950 general election. He was elected and served as the Member of Parliament for five years. He had married Constance Hilare Myfanwy Green-Wilkinson on 26th April 1941 in Windsor, Berkshire, and they went on to have two children. In later life, they retired to Oxford, where Constance passed away in 1982.
Robert died suddenly on 29th June 1986, whilst on the yacht “Watchdog” near to the island of Guernsey on a sailing trip to France. He was cremated at the Headington Crematorium in Oxford. His medal group including VC, 1939-45 Star, Atlantic Star with clasp, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, Polar Medal 1904 with clasp for Antarctic 1935-1937, Queen Elizabeth Coronation Medal 1953, Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977, Knight of the Legion d’Honneur and French Croix de Guerre were placed on loan with the Imperial War Museum, where they are displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: OXFORD CREMATORIUM, OXFORD.
ASHES SCATTERED IN PLOT J.
Thomas Stewart – Image of RED Ryder VC’s name on the Cheltenham College VC Honours Board.