James was born in Chelsea, the younger son of the Hon. Sir Patrick William Maule Ramsay, younger son of the 13th Earl of Dalhousie, and his wife, Dorothy Cynthia Surtees.

His father was in the diplomatic service. James’s earliest years were spent in Brazil from where the family returned to England on 27 June 1927.

He was educated at Stowe and Matriculated in 1942.

He joined the 3rd Battalion of the Scots Guards and was serving as a Lieutenant when he was killed on 26 October 1944 by shell fire near the St. Joseph School at the Bosstraatje adjoining the house of Piet van Rooij in Moergestel, a village in the Dutch province of North Brabant.

He is buried in the Bergen-op-Zoom War Cemetery Plot 9. B. 17.