John Horace Charles Lamb

John Horace Charles Lamb was born on 3rd March 1917, in Bristol to William Avon Lamb and his second wife Ethel Louisa Jane Maunder.  He was part of a large family with 10 brothers and sisters; ‘Jack’ or ‘Johnny’ as he was called was the youngest of these children.

John went to Fairburn Kindergarten, we have a report card from Easter 1924 (below), to document this.  There are some very amusing comments like “is inclined to shout!“, and “Has some sense of humour“, but the comments are generally pretty severe for a seven year old, as he was then, his work could be “poor“, and on French he “Must learn to do better“, which made me laugh out loud.  I get the general view that he wasn’t (unsurprisingly) very academic at the age of seven.


Grandpa grew up at 7 Oakland Road, a large house in Redland, William worked for Wills Tobacco company, and I grew up with a large portrait of William looking down on me at home.  He looked like a severe sort of man.  He was the Choir Master at St Thomas Church in Bristol, and we know that my Grandpa was in the choir, and had to attend regardless of illness.

A family story is that Grandpa would only be given enough money by his father to make one bus journey between Clifton and St Thomas, meaning he had to decide whether to walk down the hill to the church, or walk back up the steep hill to Clifton.  This apparently annoyed him.

His father William died in 1931 when Grandpa was only 13.  Because he was the youngest child, he grew up in a household of women, and I think its safe to say he was spoiled a lot.  They had a maid, and I think he grew used to people doing things for him, and this is something that didn’t really change throughout his life – he always relied on Granny to do pretty much everything for him.  He was definitely a product of his time.

Grandpa went to XIV Preparatory school in Bristol, he was there in 1928 and 1929 from photographic evidence – the whole point of a prep school was to get you through the exams to join a good School.  In the following photo, Grandpa is at the centre of the middle row wearing his XIV Blazer, and although it is undated, he doesn’t look very old.


We also have this group photo of the whole XIV school:


Grandpa is the sixth from the left on the back row.  It has been dated at circa 1929, when Grandpa would have been 12 years old.

He must have done enough academically to pass the entrance exams for Bristol Grammar school, an Independent day school in Tyndall’s Park, Bristol.


Bristol Grammar School (BGS)

Grandpa attended Bristol Grammar School (BGS), in Tyndalls Park between 14th January 1930 (when he was nearly 13 years old, and left on 22nd December 1933 when he would have been 16 years old.

We can see from photographs (some of which are annotated), that he was in 1st Rugby XV, and there are pictures of him with trophies.  In the photo below (left), he is the righthand young man sitting on the floor, and (right) dated 1932 – when he would have been 15 years old, he is second from the right at the back:

bgs_rugger bgs1932

I remember Granny showing me information about him also doing athletics – he won (or came second) in every race and event that he entered, but these documents seem to now be lost or are with other members of the family.  We know he enjoyed and excelled at sports.

The full school photo from it’s 400th Anniversary in 1932, Grandpa is about 3 or 4 rows down from the top and just to the right of an imaginary vertical line going up from the word ‘school’ at the bottom – the lower picture is a close up.



[This is a massive original photo over 3ft long, so the scan has been a challenge, and the results are not that great once its stitched together!]

There are also a number of photos of him in his Officer Training Cadet (OTC) unit at the school.  The first photo below shows the whole OTC at the school in Tyndalls Park on parade with full uniform on.  The other photos relate to an OTC camp in 1932, because they are wearing shorts, I’d assume this is summer 1932 (when he would have been 15 years old).  The photos show bell/tipi style tents with all the cadet’s kit laid out for inspection (including blankets etc.), the cadets lined up for parade in full kit (with shorts), and also an internal photo of the mess tent, with lines of tables and benches, complete with single large round loaf of bread per table (presumably to share), and large jugs of water waiting on the floor.


bgs_camp1 bgscamp2 bgscamp3

In the above photo of the group of Cadets, Grandpa has annotated himself as the nearest cadet on the rear rank.


Work and Marriage

Grandpa met Phyllis Mary Milton whilst Granny was attending the Domestic Science College of Bristol, when she was about 14 or 15, which would be around 1931 or 1932.  They both went to the open air Lido at Oakfield Place in Clifton, Grandpa with friends from Bristol Grammar School, and Granny with her friends from College and it is here that they met.  They were inseparable after that.

The following picture is of Grandpa on 12th December 1933 (stamped by the photographer), he would have been 16:


We know that Grandpa spent the years after school working very hard and completing correspondence courses in Engineering, gaining qualifications to allow him to work as an Engineer.  The Western Daily Press of Monday 24th May 1937 confirms this with the following article, showing that Grandpa passed his Chartered Surveyors’ Institution, Intermediate Examination Part’s I and II.


Granny and Grandpa married on 10th September 1938 at Keynsham Church.

In 1938, Grandpa was working at Hereford Town Hall for the Town Council.  We have a photo of the staff at this time.  He was officially the Deputy Engineer to the Town, supporting a population of 25,000 people.

hereford hereford1938

Grandpa is in the middle of the rear row (5 from the left) in the first picture and second from left in the next picture.

There are other pictures of Grandpa during this time in Hereford, we don’t know much about their time there, although we do know that Granny’s mum (and perhaps her dad) were staying with them during 1939 because we have postcards from Granny’s brother (my Great Uncle John) to an address ‘Burley, Aylestone Hill, Hereford‘.  I think its safe to assume that this was where Granny and Grandpa were living.

There are dated photos of Grandpa playing Cricket etc.



World War 2 1939-1946

We don’t know when (or where) Grandpa actually joined up, but Great Uncle John thinks it may have been soon after war was declared.


There are pictures of him as a private (as above), without Cadet flashes, so I can only assume he joined up first before being selected for Officer Training.  We don’t have any records of this time until Susan, his first daughter was born on 8th December 1940.

We can next find records when Grandpa went for Officer Cadet training, which took around 3 months.  It appears logical to assume that he went for Officer Training around 15th December 1940 after seeing his new daughter.


Officer Cadet Training Unit (164 OCTU)

Grandpa did his Officer Training at Barmouth Officer Cadet Training Unit, from records this would be 164 OCTU.  The town of Barmouth is in Gwynedd, North Wales at the south end of Snowdonia, and training including drilling, leadership, battle-school, tactics and including regular hikes up the local mountain of Cadair Idris (just under 3000ft).  In 1942 records (so after his time) show 335 cadets on site, and 31 officers and 249 other ranks on permanent staff, so it was obviously a large site.  And in 1942 120 cadets were being commissioned every 4 weeks.  Training looks to have taken 3 months.  27 cadets (including him) were in his course.

The following account gives an idea of what it was like:

I was sent to an OCTU (Officer Cadet Training Unit)in at Pwllheli in North Wales in January 1941 and spent a gruelling three months learning to be an Officer and Gentleman. It was a comparatively short course to change a young inexperienced soldier who really was a civilian at heart to such a high estate, but the Army must have been desperate for officers at that time. The work was extremely intensive, we were taught leadership, man management, how to ride a motor bike, put through extensive drills, map reading, and loads of TEWTs (Tactical Exercises Without Troops!), and many other things besides. Some time before the great day of passing out we were asked to list our choice of three Regiments in order of preference if we passed muster.. (John Cunningham – personal experience, BBC)

We have a photo of his time here, taken at the end of the course with his platoon of cadets – he wears the cadet uniform of battle dress with white shoulder badges and cap band.  On course completion he would have then had some choice of three preferred regiments that he wished to join, and he obviously chose at least one of his local regiments, and ended up in the Somerset Light Infantry.


Grandpa is on the rear row, five from the right (not looking straight at the camera).


7th Bn. Somerset Light Infantry

On 28th March 1941, the London Gazette detailed that


The undermentioned Cadets, from 162nd, 164th, 165th and 166th O.C.T.U’s., to be 2nd Lts., except as otherwise stated. I5th Mar. 1941: —

Somerset L.I.

John Horace Charles LAMB (177596)


So on 5th March 1941, he was commissioned into the Somerset Light Infantry (SLI) as a 2nd Lieutenant.  The Army List of 1941 confirms this account, stating that he was in the Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert’s) with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.  Here he is in the uniform of the SLI, wearing their distinctive cap badge.


We know that at some point in 1941 he was posted to Monk Fryston, Yorkshire, with the Somerset Light Infantry, since he has annotated a photograph to this effect (below) of where they were based.


We have a photo which according to him was from ‘early’ 1941, so I’d assume it was soon after his commission in Spring 1941, annotated by Grandpa, of him as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 7th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry.  At the time he was commander of the Pioneer HQ Company – the specialist engineering unit within the Battalion, of some 25 men including two sergeants.  The photo below shows him dressed as an Officer (with Sam Browne, tie etc.) in the middle row at the centre of his men.


I assume he was directed to the Pioneer unit because of his engineering background working as the Deputy Engineer in Hereford.

The photo below shows Grandpa with all other other Officers from the 7th Battalion, SLI at Hyderabad Barracks, Colchester in February 1942.  He is in the middle row, five in from the left.  [We have a larger official version of this photo with all the officers named with their ranks.]

So the Battalion must have moved from Yorkshire to Essex at some point.



The above image is the annotated key to all the officers and their names, including Grandpa.

[The 7th Bn. Somerset Light Infantry was a Territorial unit formed on 24th August 1939.  After Grandpa transferred away, it went on to join 214th Brigade as part of the 43rd (Wessex) Division taking part in the Northern Europe Campaign’s of D Day and Operation Market Garden.]

According to my Great Uncle John, the War Office sent out a request for men with a Surveying or Engineering background to transfer to the Royal Engineers to fill a shortage of specialists.  Grandpa was a qualified Engineer with experience, and made the request to transfer, and after 14 months in an Infantry Battalion, he moved to the Royal Engineers.


Royal Engineers

Grandpa transferred from the Somerset Light Infantry to the Royal Engineers on 18th May 1942, retaining his rank of 2nd Lieutenant and seniority.

The Supplement to the London Gazette  on 4th September 1942 details:

18th May 1942:—
2nd Lt. J. H. C. Lamb (177596), from Somerset

L.I., retaining his present seniority.


He then appears to have been posted to County Durham.  He sent two postcards to Granny from Raby Castle, Staindrop on 30/7/1942 and again on 15/8/1942.  So we know Grandpa was based here for at least a number of weeks after his transfer to the Royal Engineers.

Looking at records, there was a Royal Engineer camp at Raby – also called ‘30VR Raby Repair Depot’.  The 2nd postcard is marked from Ripon which ties into the Royal School of Military Engineering (RSME).  Is it possible he was doing courses at Ripon after his transfer to the R.E.?  It would make logical sense for a new Engineering officer to go there for special instruction or training.

The Royal School of Military Engineering (RSME) was based in Ripon, being moved from Chatham in September 1940.  The RSME ran additional OTC training for Engineering officers and specialist courses.

“The school at Ripon was expanded to keep pace with the growing demands of the war. In 1940 an Experimental Tunnelling Section was formed” (wikipedia)

We know from the Army List that Grandpa was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 15/9/1942 – this was a War Substantive Rank (W.S. Lieutenant on the copy below), so whilst he had the power/authority of a Lieutenant, the Army List records still indicate he was a 2nd Lieutenant at this time.


[NOTE: There is a curio from the Army Lists, if you read the actual original books, it appears that Grandpa remained a ‘War Substantive Rank’ throughout the war.  This means that he was officially still a 2nd Lieutenant, his rank of Lieutenant, and then Captain and then Major, were Temporary Commissions.  On the official records he maintained his 2/Lieut rank throughout the war – unless you actually make the effort to look at the original Army List books, as I have, to see the additional information available.  A Temporary Commission would have been handed back at the end of the war.  He was, at the end of the war, given an Honorary Rank of Major to reflect his service, as detailed further below.]

In January 1943, Grandpa was in command of No. 4 Section, 720 Artizan Works Company, Royal Engineers.  He dates the photo and also states that its at Malta Barracks in Aldershot, but we don’t know when he was posted to them.


We have a photo of this unit (above), taken in Aldershot, showing Grandpa as a Lieutenant with the 47 men of the section under him – he is sitting on the bottom row, sixth from the left.  He has two sergeants, and seven other junior NCO’s, the rest being made up of privates.  This was his direct command.  An Artisan Company or Art. Coy. was made up of skilled workers, so that it could support any kind of engineering or construction work – so its possible these men were plumbers, electricians etc.

A further photo of the whole 720 Artizan Works Company shows 5 officers of which Grandpa is one, one warrant officer, NCO’s and privates to a total of 201 men including Grandpa – the senior officer with his ‘Swagger’ stick (to the direct left of Grandpa), would almost certainly have been a Major.




At some point Grandpa transferred to Gibraltar to supervise the extension of the network of tunnels that formed the defences of the natural fortress of ‘The Rock’, and in engineering and developing the large water storage tanks that supplied the military personnel and civilians with fresh water.

We have a Telegram to Granny dated 10/3/43 from Gibraltar stating ‘arrived safely airmail 5d to officers mess south barracks Gibraltar‘, so this is a good clue as to when he arrived and where he was living.  From photographic evidence, he joined the 1st Fortress Company, Royal Engineers at Gibraltar – this was a fixed R.E. unit on Gibraltar – whilst other units would be moved in and out of the base, the Fortress units were permanently stationed there.

This is confirmed by a copy of an Order we have for ‘Fortress Engineers, Gibraltar’, he appears to be in Section ‘A’ of this unit.  He would have commanded a platoon, and then ultimately the whole company during his time in Gibraltar.  The following photo is his platoon of the Company with rifles and ‘bren gun’ crossed on the ground, Grandpa is in the middle at the front.


From records we know that R.E. units in Gibraltar between 1942-43 were 1st Fortress Company, Royal Engineers (this was Grandpa’s unit), 32nd Fortress Company, Royal Engineers, 170th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers, 172nd Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers, 178th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers, 179th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers, 180th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers, 1st Tunnelling Company, Royal Canadian Engineers, 23rd Tunnelling Company, Royal Canadian Engineers, 711th Artisan Works Company, Royal Engineers, 575th Army Troops Company, Royal Engineers, 1st General Construction Company, Royal Engineers.

In June 1943 he annotated photos of the officers of the 2nd Gibraltar Brigade (Gib. Bde.) R.E. outside South Barracks.  From the photos Grandpa appears to be a Lieutenant at the time, which would match the records that we have and the date.  He is the second row standing, two in from the left.


The following photo is also of 2nd Brigade Officers (Grandpa is standing sixth from the right).


Interestingly, we know that the combat battalions from the 2nd Gibraltar Brigade were transferred away from Gibraltar in December 1943, re-designated 28th Infantry brigade, to the Middle East theatre and then the Italian Campaign.  There were shortages of men at this time for Italy, with the build up to the D-day invasions starting in England, and the threat to Gibraltar from ground assault had receded by this time as Franco’s attitude to Nazi Germany hardened.  The Engineers focussed on Gibraltar works (particularly the Fortress Company) would not have been included in this order, and would have remained..

We have a further Telegram to Granny dated 1/7/43 from Gibraltar stating ‘arrived safely very fit‘, so he obviously had leave for a period.  We don’t know if this was back to the UK or North Africa.

At the end of 1943 and early 1944, Grandpa was a Senior Officer on Gibraltar, – this probably coincides with 2nd Gibraltar Brigade moving to Italy on 1st December 1943, and other senior military officers going with the Brigade.  During this time German Abwehr native Spanish agents who had been captured earlier in 1943 for sabotage in Gibraltar – a Spaniard, Jose Martin Munoz, responsible for an explosion and fire at a large fuel tank, was captured trying to plant a bomb in a weapons magazine inside Ragged Rock Cave.  He was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of Gibraltar, along with another Abwehr agent, Luis Lopez Cordon-Cuenca.

Grandpa was involved in requesting that the British executioner Albert Pierrpoint be sent to Gibraltar, and meeting him at the airport when he arrived ‘undercover’ to fulfil the sentence.  The two Spaniards were hanged on 11th January 1944.

[The Defence Security Office in Gibraltar waged a secret war against Spanish and German intelligence services who were seeking to damage British installations and shipping at Gibraltar.  The Abwehr (German Intelligence Service) had offices in Tangier, Morocco and Algeciras over the bay from Gibraltar, coordinated from a central base in Madrid]

DSO staff identified many hostile agents and either arrested them or turned them into double cross agents. No successful act of land-based sabotage occurred after July 1943, once the “screen” erected by the DSO’s double agent network was in place. A total of 43 sabotage attacks on the naval base were forestalled through the use of double cross agents. Sea-borne attacks remained a problem; a number, including several carried out by Italian frogmen, were successful. (

On 6/6/1944 (D Day) Grandpa was given a Temporary Commission as a Captain, this is confirmed from the Army Lists.


Here is a picture of him as a R.E. Captain, in his warm-weather uniform, prevalent in the North Africa / Italian theatres.


We know that Grandpa took additional examinations – we don’t know what these were, but in Telegrams on 23/11/44 he mentions there are “no examination results yet” (and checked with Granny whether “sent parcels had arrived“), and on 5/12/44 he says that both examinations were passed and that he was “very pleased“.  Because of the dates of his commissions being some way from the end of 1944 when he was given these results, these exams cannot relate to gaining promotion, so I assume they are Engineering examinations.


We know from Telegrams to Granny that he returned to the UK several times, including a Telegram on 24/12/44 “Due Ripon on 20th”, which I assume to be 20th of January 1945.  As already mentioned, Ripon, was the home of the Royal School of Military Engineering (RSME), so his visit there would have almost certainly have been for further Engineering courses.  I think its plausible to tie this fact in with the examinations he passed in early December 1944, and that the two events are related – I think he was going to Ripon for further instruction.  This is confirmed somewhat strangely, by an annotated Popular Orchestral Concert programme (below)!


On 21st of February 1945, he notes that “Mary and I were here when I came home for OC Course. Returned to Gib on the 1st con RE“.  They attended a “Popular Orchestral Concert by the Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers will be held at 8 p.m. in the Camp Hall on Wednesday, 21st February, 1945“, including pieces by Mendelssohn, Tschaikowsky and Sibelius.

So we can deduce that he arranged to meet up with Granny and they attended a concert together – probably in Ripon – because he discussed this with Granny in the Telegram, although we can’t confirm this, we know he was there for a course.  He wasn’t promoted to Temporary Major until September, and had already been confirmed as a Temporary Captain, it seems logical to surmise this was technical training.

Given my mum, Lorna, was born in January 1946, Granny and Grandpa must have been together up to around April time, so perhaps he stayed in the UK for some months during early 1945?  He was back in Gibraltar by May 1945, as we have a Telegram from him on 5/5/45 from Gibraltar saying “3 letters arrived at last but not by air, still 5d postage“.

An another Telegram on 20/5/45 – to Granny from Gibraltar, states he was “embarking 11.15 today expect me around Friday 24th“, which would have been Friday 24th May.  He seemed to have been back and forth with some regularity – its impossible to explain why now.

On 3/9/1945 Grandpa was given a Temporary Commission as a Major, this is confirmed by the Army Lists.


He sent a Telegram to Granny on the 27th August saying she can “celebrate the promotion” which clearly had still to be made official on the Army List.

The following picture from 1945 shows Grandpa with the 1st Fortress Company, Royal Engineers, which he would have commanded by this time.


We lose track of Grandpa after this commission but he must have been back to Gibraltar, because he was there over Christmas/New Year of 1946 when my mum was born on 2nd January 1946.  We have the Telegram from Grandpa to Granny (below) from Gibraltar dated 12/1/1946 when he heard the news.


Grandpa also retained a copy of a ‘Part II Orders (Officers)’ copied below, stating;



DATE 12 JAN ’46


T/Maj. J.H.C. Lamb 177596 R.E.

A daughter – LORNA MARY – born at KEYNSHAM, SOMERSET on 2 Jan ’46. AF A.22A to Officer i/c Army Pay Office herewith.

It appears that these orders were put out on a roughly weekly basis (order 42 was the last in December), and they were starting again in terms of serial number for the new year, so this was #1.

This same order group also contains as Order 4., the following note about Grandpa receiving a medal along with 3 other officers:

4. T/Maj. J.H.C. Lamb 177596 R.E.

Awarded the Defence Medal. Authy: ACI S29/45. AFs B.2068 to War Office (A.G.7) herewith.


The Defence Medal is described by the following:

“The Defence Medal is a campaign medal which was instituted by the United Kingdom in May 1945, to be awarded to subjects of the British Commonwealth for both non-operational military and certain types of civilian service during the Second World War.”(wikipedia)

It covered the duration of the war in Europe, and was awarded to Grandpa because he “served from or outside their home countries in a non-operational area or in an area subject to threat, such as attacks from the air.“.  It “included military personnel working in headquarters, on training bases and airfields for the duration of the War in Europe”.

So this confirms that Grandpa was, whilst in the military, in a ‘non-operational’ and non-combat role, but also in a overseas base in an area of “threat“.  We know that Gibraltar was a target, during Grandpa’s time there, not only were the Abwehr trying to sabotage the base with bombs (as mentioned above), but also direct military action.  Italian frogmen/manned torpedoes attacked on 8th May 1943, sinking the American ship ‘Pat Harrison’ and the British freighter’s ‘Mahsud’ and ‘Camerata’.  And again on the 3rd August 1943 the same Italian unit sank the Norweigen ‘Thorshovdi’, the American ‘Harrison Grey Otis’ and the British ‘Stanridge’ ships in Gibraltar harbour itself.

You also have to assume that Grandpa was at considerable threat from U-Boats, air attack or surface raiders on his journey’s to and from Gibraltar.  It seems to have taken up to 8 days to do the journey, and we know the Bay of Biscay and British Channel approaches were actively under threat of German attack.


On 24th July 1946, Grandpa was discharged from the army with the honorary rank of Major.

24th July 1946 Army Council, War Office letter (177596) of release from military service with the relinquishment of commission, and grant of the rank of Major.”


As well as a note of leave, to confirm his release from service.

“26th July 1946 Release Certificate – Emergency Commissioned Officers – Regular Army T/Major H. C. lamb (177596), Royal Engineers. Granting 94 days leave from 26th May 46, and being released from the army on 28th August 46.”


Getting to and from Gibraltar

There were two options for getting to and from the UK and Gibraltar, one was by air – there was a long airfield at Gibraltar extending into the sea (built on ‘spoil’ from the tunnelling) that could take long range aircraft, and ships.  Grandpa would almost certainly have used ships – he talks about embarking in Telegrams – it was the most effective way of moving large numbers of men and goods, although there was obviously a risk of attack from German U-Boats out in the convoy routes and surface vessels like E-boats in the approaches to the UK ports, as well as aircraft.

The way the British tried to mitigate this was to use convoy systems, grouping numbers of merchant and troop ships together with escort ships (specialist Corvette, Frigates and Destroyers) who could take air threats or combat surface vessels or undertake anti-submarine warfare.

We have some dates of his embarking and arrival from Grandpa’s Telegrams to help us do some research on the actual convoy’s he would have used:

We know he first arrived in Gibraltar around 10/3/43, from his first Telegram to Granny, and yet the records show no direct Convoy from the UK to Gibraltar at this time.  I think he must have stopped over first in North Africa.  Convoy CG.16 left Casablanca on March 8th 1943 and arrived Gibraltar on March 9th 1943, so he might have gone to Casablanca first?  We we will never know for sure.  There were however regular convoys between Gibraltar and Casablanca – the journey took a day, and I guess it was then possible to catch a homebound convoy from West Africa or further afield travelling up the cost to the UK – this might have given more options for travel?

Another Telegram from Gibraltar  on 1/7/43 talks of arriving safely.  Convoy TE.26 was in Gibraltar at this time, but again the records are incomplete.

We know from another Telegram that Grandpa was due in Ripon by 20th January, we can search for this in the records.  He could have caught either Convoy MKS.75G departing Gibraltar on 5th January 1945 and arriving Liverpool 14th January 1945, with 16 merchant ships and 12 escorts.  But I suspect he actually embarked on Convoy MKS.76G departing Gibraltar on 10th January and arriving in Liverpool on 21st January 1945, with 24 merchant ships and 9 escorts.  This later convoy more closely matches the date of 20th as an arrival.



On 20/5/45 we have our best clue, which it is actually possible to directly trace to a convoy record – “embarking 11.15 today expect me around Friday 24th”


From the records, this can only have been Convoy MKS.102G, departing Gibraltar on 20th May 1945 and arriving in Liverpool on 28th May 1945.  It contained 29 merchant ships with 9 escorts (21 ships).  The proportion of fighting ships to merchants at this time of the war (3:1) is slightly surprising given the German surrender earlier in the month.  The full listing is:


















ESCORT 20/05 – 23/05






ESCORT 25/05 – 26/05












ESCORT 25/05 – 27/05






ESCORT 25/05 – 27/05






ESCORT 25/05 – 26/05








































































ESCORT 20/05 – 27/05






ESCORT 20/05 – 27/05






ESCORT 25/05 – 27/05































P.L.M.13 (Br)

















ESCORT 25/05 – 27/05























































Ships like the ‘Empire Paragon’ – a British Government owned Empire Ship – were cargo-liners, and carried passengers as well as cargo, the other ships were all Royal Navy escorts or Cargo ships.

Interestingly, the Convoy also had a submarine in it, HMS Tantalus, which was returning home from Australia for refit after a tour in the Pacific fighting the Japanese.  Its journey’s, and presumably the whole convoy it was joined to, can be tracked by its position data, which has been recorded here (

Engineering works on Gibraltar

Grandpa was involved with two specific projects on Gibraltar, the tunnelling and the construction of water storage tanks for the population – Gibraltar had little in the way of drinking water reserves.

The Times on Wednesday, Dec 20, 1944, described the Gibraltar ‘Isthmus’ widening to build a larger, longer runway to allow larger bombers and long range transports to operate.  The runway was lengthened from 1000 yards to 1800 yards, using spoil from the tunnelling work on the ‘Rock’ which was taken and dumped into the sea to build man-made land.  Over 1,560,000 tons of rock and soil were used to extend the runway, at a cost of £2,000,000 (1944 value).  To quote the Times,

“This tonnage of soil was, however, only a fraction of the total excavated during the building of the maze of underground tunnels and roadways with which the Rock is now honeycombed.’ (‘Isthmus Widened’, Times, 20/12/1944)

The tunnelling that produced this spoil was, as wikipedia describes it:

“This “town” inside the Rock contained its own power station, water supply, and hospital. Some soldiers posted here would not see the light of day for months on end. Two Canadian engineer companies, the only soldiers with diamond-tipped drills and 5 British engineer companies, added some 30 miles (48 km) of such tunnels, a feat thought impossible at the time. That was enough to hold all 30,000 troops on the rock. Today, the rock has more underground tunnels than roads.” (Wikipedia)

Grandpa was involved in two aspects mentioned above, the tunnelling and the water supply.  His unit, the 1st Fortress Company, Royal Engineers, supported increasing the length of the tunnels from 7 miles (11 km) to 25 miles (40 km)!  Grandpa took a picture of one of the crusher plants (below) used to break up the rock from the tunnels, which was then transported and disposed of in the Bay, to increase the land-mass of Gibraltar – this is now marked as ‘Reclamation Areas’ as new land.


[Grandpa would later go on to use the experience and skills he learn’t tunnelling the Rock of Gibraltar, in civilian life, in major sewage treatment tunnelling projects back in the UK]

During the war, Gibraltar was a key strategic territory, vital in the Mediterranean theatre for controlling access to the Mediterranean itself through the straits of Gibraltar, as well as supporting naval activities in the North Atlantic as a dockyard.  The civilian population had been evacuated, and the garrison was increased to defend Gibraltar from a potentially hostile fascist Spain under Franco (the Germans did have plans to invade Gibraltar with the collusion of Franco).

“Numerous new tunnels were excavated to create accommodation for the expanded garrison and to store huge quantities of food, equipment and ammunition.”

“A new Main Base Area was established in the south-eastern part of Gibraltar on the peninsula’s Mediterranean coast, shielded from the potentially hostile Spanish mainland, and new connecting tunnels were created to link this with the established military bases on the west side. A pair of tunnels, the Great North Road and the Fosse Way, were excavated running nearly the full length of the Rock to interconnect the bulk of the wartime tunnels.” (Wikipedia)

The tunnels themselves provided an underground city for the 16,000 strong garrison, with full supplies for 16 months isolation.

“Within the tunnels there were also an underground telephone exchange, a power generating station, a water distillation plant, a hospital, a bakery, ammunition magazines and a vehicle maintenance workshop.” (Wikipedia)

There was even a ‘Stay Behind Cave’ for six men to secretly stay behind in the event of a German invasion – the plan was for them to report of enemy activities and shipping in the straits of Gibraltar.


Life in Gibraltar 1943-1946

Grandpa’s photographic record of his time in Gibraltar:

The first view he would have had of Gibraltar (from the sea), annotated as ‘View from the sea“.


The first picture has been annotated as “View of Gib from the frontier with Spain”, the second is annotated “View of Spain. Showing La Linea. Can you see the Bull ring?”


The next picture is annotated “By Airfield Runway”, on the newly reclaimed land, and the next picture is annotated “Taken from above the Town”.



I think Grandpa had a relatively easy war – compared to his Brother-In-Law, my Great Uncle John who saw extensive combat in Italy.  Gibraltar was, on the face of it, a relatively good posting – the climate was good, leave, to neutral countries (Spain, Morocco) was in the case of Spain, a short walk away.  The following picture is of Grandpa and Officer friends on one of the few beaches on Gibraltar, obviously enjoying the sea and sand.


An undated postcard of the Hotel Cristina in Algeciras, from Grandpa, whilst at Gibraltar, states that it was “A place for a meal in Spain across the bay. Wine was much cheaper than coffee”:


Interestingly, you can still go and stay (or just drink wine as Grandpa did) in the Hotel Cristina in Algeciras!

We know from his stories that the troops crossed over to Spain through the border (which is within a stone’s throw of the runway) when on leave for sight-seeing and entertainment.

He is also supposed to have cross over the straits to Africa from time to time.  One of the order notes that are in his records contains details of T/Capt Strange had leave in Tangier for 5 days – he was also granted a “ration allowance at the higher rate for that period”!  It was only a short boat trip over to the coast of North Africa, and Granny said he made the journey more than once.

Grandpa told me himself that he had a batman, a soldier-servant, who looked after him.  He remained in contact with this man, but I’ve forgotten his name.  The following picture is of Grandpa in Gibraltar, out of uniform, outside what he called his ‘Billet’, which would have been in the officers quarters of South Barracks – also wearing the same outfit, up on the Rock overlooking the Bay.

billet gibgrandpa

southbarrackscar gibgateway


The above photos are of South Barracks and the Gateway to the town from South Barracks.

An annotated photo (below) of the Rock Hotel has the following description:

Rock Hotel. American Hospital ship officers gave us a great farewell here after they had been in dry dock following an incident were by mishap they were really searching the bay – and not by the enemy.


The Hotel was a central point for the Officers to socialise, and they obviously invited (or were invited by) visiting Ship’s Officers.


There were clearly issues with contacting home, and being away from Granny and Susan must have been very hard – he worried about Granny being in Bristol in January 1944, wanting her to return to the relative safety of Keynsham as soon as possible.  Communications were variable – on posting airmail, Grandpa mentions in a number of telegrams that “restart posting airmail’ perhaps it had been stopped?

It wasn’t all easy – there were real dangers from enemy action on the journey to and from Gibraltar, from ships, submarines and aircraft.  As well as the danger of sabotage on the Rock itself, and danger to shipping in the harbour from Italian frogmen.  Overriding all this, at least when he first arrived there, would have been the risk of Spain giving up its neutrality and allowing German troops to pass through Spain to attack Gibraltar.  The risk was very real, and only decreased through 1944.



His military life was probably challenging, he was responsible for important engineering works, specifically providing a water store and supply to the garrison (also extending to the tunnels).  But its clear there must have been lots of issues with motivating the men – Granny told me that they did a lot of sports – specifically Athletics, which Grandpa had excelled at when at School (BGS) before the war to give themselves things to do as a break from the engineering works.

The following picture shows Grandpa in the ‘Gibraltar Garrison Athletics Champions 1944 Fortress Engineers’ – he is on the first seated row, second from the right.  And he was obviously part of the team.


The following photo shows Grandpa leading the R.E. Athletics team (rather than being a member), his beret seems rather haphazardly on his head!


The following picture is annotated by Grandpa “Tug of war – finishing 2nd winning pull against RAOC/REME to win’.  This would be the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers against the Royal Engineer’s team.  It’s clear that there was a healthy dose of competition between the respective units on Gibraltar, and I assume, events like this were a good way to channel this and motivate the men.


I remember being told by Grandpa that space was at such a premium, that the ‘field’ they are competing on, was, aside from the actual runway, the largest open ground on Gibraltar – space continues to be a problem to this day.


Victory in Europe Day (V.E. Day):

The first picture is of Government House / The Residency, where the administration of Gibraltar was based, with bunting ready for the Victory Parade. [This is where Churchill stayed].


The parade itself, with the leading troop, followed by “The Band”.

gibparade1 gibparade2

And then “The Marines”, followed by a a general celebration in “The Rock Gardens“, with Darts and Hoopla stall’s in in and around the men’s Nissan Huts.

gibparade3 gibparade4


After the war

Grandpa returned to civilian life in 1946, getting a job as Council Engineer with Long Ashton Rural District Council (LARDC), living in the Nissan Huts of the ex-US Hospital buildings on Tyntesfield Estate at Flax Bourton.  The Hospital was converted to housing during June/July 1945, and a year later 150 families were living there.  My Uncle Tim was born there on 15th January 1948.

We know that Grandpa continued his examinations after the war.  In October 1947, he became a Professional Associate of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

The Western Daily Press of Friday 19th December, 1947, stated that he had passed his ‘Testamur Certificate’ or Parts I and II, Post Graduate Diploma Final Examination of the Institution of Municipal Engineers – I have seen a copy of the certificate for this, dated December 1947.  This obviously allowed him to further his career as a Senior Engineer, it covered Engineering and Surveying theory and practice of “Roads and Road construction, Sewerage and Sewage Disposal, Local Government Law, Bye-Laws and Administration, Building Construction and Quantities and Estimating, Public Cleansing and Water Supply”!


In February 1948, he became an Associate Member of the Institute of Municipal Engineers.

By 1948 or early 1949, Grandpa had a job in Yorkshire, and the family moved to Baildon, North of Bradford.  He was the Local Authority Engineer.  The family were unsettled there and only stayed a year.

In 1950, the family moved to Horley in Surrey, and Grandpa became Borough Engineer for Dorking Rural District Council.  My Uncle Andrew was born here on 30th December 1953, but only lived until April.


Around 1957, Grandpa bought into the business partnership ‘Maynard, Froud & Stevens’ based in Baldwin St., Bristol, as a partner and their Consulting Civil Engineer.  They were surveyors and chartered architects, during that period they seemed to be mainly concerned building houses and bungalows in Yatton, Portishead and the Bristol area.  He joined with Mr Stevens, or “Stevie” as Grandpa called him, who was an architect.  Grandpa’s expertise as a chartered surveyor and consulting engineer was invaluable in extending the business.

Interestingly, in all his subsequent professional work, Grandpa never included the name “Lamb” in any companies he was involved with, even when he was a senior partner/owner.

The family stayed in Kenn with relatives before moving into Linden House in Yatton.  My Uncle Julian was born here on 25th April 1959.


One of the largest projects that Grandpa worked on at the time was the Northern Stormwater Interceptor (NSI), a large storm water tunnel, and part of the flood prevention system for Bristol, which had been started in 1951 as a measure to counter the Bristol floods of 1947.  It was a large tunnel running 5 miles from the River Frome at Eastville Park to the Avon Gorge.  It was completed in 1962.

“It is some 4–5 metres in diameter and runs from the River Frome at Eastville to the Black Rocks Quarry in the Avon Gorge.”

“The Tunnel was designed by such Bristol City Engineers as Peter Steele and Bernard Smission from 1947. The tunnel was blasted through Limestone, Dolimitic Conglomerate and Keuper Marl and lined with a 375mm thick concrete lining. At its deepest the tunnel is 90 metres deep.”

“Smission invented the Energy Dissipating Vortex Drop Pipe System of which two were constructed along the tunnel. The technology has since been used in Chicago, New York and closer to home in Plymouth.” (Wikipedia)

Grandpa was involved in the last section of the tunnel.  At one point on a site visit, my mum, and Uncle Tim, were lowered in a bucket down into the tunnel.  At 4-5m in diameter, it was large enough to walk around in, and even drive a car through!  I’ve seen pictures of this tunnel, but unfortunately no longer have them.

My uncle Tim and Bob Smisson (son of Bernard Smisson – who developed the Hydro Brake concept used on the NSI project) both joined Grandpa’s company in 1963.



In April 1966, Grandpa was working as Consulting Engineer on a sewerage scheme in Hawksbury/Upton in Gloucestershire and also in Chipping Sodbury and Yate.


On 8th September 1966, Grandpa and Granny were invited as guests to the opening of the Severn Bridge, the new road bridge over the Severn estuary, by H.M. the Queen.  This was a massive engineering project in the Bristol area, and he was invited by the main contractor of the bridge construction.


When Mr Stevens retired around 1966/7, the company (Maynard, Froud and Stevens) moved into large offices upstairs at 5 Elton Road, Clevedon.  The company dropped the Stevens name and for a short while were just called Maynard Froud.  The company worked on small engineering projects, and acted as an authority on Sewerage Disposal Schemes.

In December 1967, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.  And in March 1968, he was nominated by the Council of Engineering Institutions as a Chartered Engineer.

Curiously, my Grandpa was on the telephone, looking out of his office window on 16th October 1970 at the sea view, when the Pier he was staring at collapsed under stress testing.  He was quite shocked.

Between the late-60’s and early-70’s, Grandpa, wishing to grow the business, took on three additional Partners; Gerald Snook (whose particular interest was in submarine pipelines), Ackerman, and finally a welsh man named Parry.  Each of the three partners brought their own areas of expertise and also brought clients with them.  Depending what job was being done, the company traded under various names, such as Gerald Snook & Partners, but the really big jobs negotiated by Grandpa were under the name of Parry, Froud, Snook & Ackerman.

The Yeo Valley Scheme, completed in 1973, a large sewerage scheme running from the borders of Bristol, with pumping stations at Nailsea and Clevedon (amongst others), and treating sewage from Long Ashton, Nailsea, Backwell, Clevedon, Weston, Portishead, Nailsea and Tickenham.  Fifty miles of pipeline were laid, culminating in a sewage works at Kingston Seymour and submarine sewerage pipelines running out in the Bristol Channel, was a large project for Grandpa.  It took years of design and construction before it was completed.

[My Dad did surveying work on this project.]

The Treatment Works at Kingston Seymour is now closed as it was too expensive to run.  Originally, it was designed kill off bacteria in the solids and sell it commercially as fertiliser, the treated liquid would then be sent out by pipeline into the Channel

In about 1973/4, Parry Froud Snook & Ackerman embarked an a new huge sewerage scheme in Dyffed.  My Mum and Dad went more than once and stayed in Tenby, looking over particular aspects of the design and how it might be affected by topography and the huge growth of caravan sites in the area.  My brother and I went on those trips to Tenby (I was only a baby).  We have family photo’s of these ‘holidays’.  My Dad would go off to work and Mum would take us to the beach.

Between 14th April 1974 and July 1974, Grandpa was doing work for Flax Bourton Parish Council and Long Ashton District Council in connection with Messrs Parry Froud Snook and Akerman on a project to fix a defective sewer in the ‘Burial’ grounds – the Parish Council records are online.  Grandpa is mentioned in the following:



By late 1978, most of the partners, who had been thinking of retirement, had left and Grandpa was left in the large offices on Elton Road with a handful of engineers like Uncle Tim and Bob Smisson.  They had been working with Bob’s father, a brilliant engineer who invented the principle of the Hydro Brake (a means of storing and reducing the flow of liquids along a pipeline without any moving parts).   Tim and Bob started their new business (Hydro UK) in 1980/81, moving into Offices in Berkley Square, Bristol.  After less than a year they moved to the old Lloyds Bank building in Hill Road, Clevedon. 

Grandpa decided to slowly wind up his business and stopped taking on new business during 1981/82.  He didn’t renew the lease at Elton Road when it was up, and moved in with Tim and Bob, as a semi-retired advisor to the new business.  Apparently Hydro took over the furniture from Maynard, Froud & Snook from the Elton Road offices to help them start up.

Grandpa also continued to work a few days a week on his own small surveying jobs and projects.  Maynard, Froud & Snook closed officially during 1982/3  and Grandpa retired during 1983/4.  Although as a child I remember him going off to the ‘Office’ for a few hours during the day.  He still had his own office in Tim’s company.

After leaving Linden House in Yatton, they moved to Cedar Lodge in Tickenham, a large house in large grounds – which is where I have many happy memories, before moving to Kenn.

Grandpa died in 1988.


Some personal recollections of my Grandpa

As I was growing up, my Grandfather was a larger than life character to me, I remember being distinctly in awe of him, and even at a young age, I was aware of his many little eccentricities.

These manifested themselves in many ways, from his treating the dogs like humans – they had a cup of tea in the morning, because he liked a cup of tea in the morning!  If there were food leftovers for the dogs, then they would be split out into their constituent ‘main’ and ‘pudding’ elements – because you couldn’t mix them!  He loved and totally spoilt his many dogs.

He was legendary for his quirks, taps would be taped up to stop them being used (and therefore dripping), radiators would be turned off.  His toilet ‘paper’ of choice can only be described as like grease-proof or tracing paper!  He would come into a room full of people who were watching telly, turn the channel over and then walk out of the room, much to the bemusement of the family.

I remember his endless battles with the numerous moles on Tickenham hill – this became a fixation with him.  His approach would be to try to drown them out – literally running hosepipes all over the large garden, stick them down the holes and try to drown them in a fruitless exercise – the land was on limestone so all the water would drain away!  All that happened was that one of his dogs (Meggy – a rather neurotic and very fat Staffordshire Bull Terrier) would take against the hoses, and puncture them with her teeth.  Grandpa would tape up the holes, although little jets of water would sprinkle out the length of any repaired hose.  [Meggy was bitten by a poisonous Adder on the nose when she was a puppy, so took against long snake like things – like hoses!]

I remember being with him one day when he asked if I’d like to go with him to get some milk, we drove off to what I assumed would be the local shop.  After about 20 minutes of driving I asked him where we were going?  He told me we were going to get milk.  In the end we arrived at the shop in Brockley, he got his milk and I summoned up the courage to ask him why we’d come all this way to get milk.  His answer was that it was 1p a pint cheaper!

He could be accident prone, on one occasion he trod on a rake which cartoon-like sprung up and the handle hit him in the eye.  On another occasion, he overbalanced and sat back into a greenhouse.  Pieces of glass went into him, and then over the next 6 months or so, came out of completely different parts of his body, having travelled around him.

If he ever went on holiday, we all generally went on family holidays to Cornwall or Dorset to stay in Cottages – because he could take his dogs – this was a great time for his Grandchildren, and we all have many memories of beach holidays together.  He did once take Granny to America on the Queen Mary, returning on Concorde which was quite and extravagance for him.  They also took Julian to North Africa.

Before one such holiday, he buried the silverware in the garden at Cedar Lodge to keep it safe [as you do!?!].  Of course, when he got home, he couldn’t remember where he had put it!  On hunting around for this buried treasure, and much to everyones amusement, he managed to pierce some of the silver with a garden fork.

At home he would make random short visits – you would be aware of this face pressed closely against the window to see if you were in.  He would come in and sit at the dining table (he would always sit at the dining table wherever he was), he would refuse a drink.  He’d sit there for a few minutes, say a few things to mum, and much to her annoyance, rattle his large key selection on the table, scratching the surface, then he would be gone.  We think he just wanted a drive.

He seemed to delight in playfully annoying people, after a visit to Wales and on hearing the name, he started calling Susan, his oldest daughter, Blodwyn.  He would call her Blodwyn or Blods from then on – much to her annoyance.  He would embarrass her by bellowing Blodwyn at her.  She would do her best to ignore him.  He called me Charlie, which I never really understood why or took badly.

On one day trip with them to the Cotswolds, Castle Combe if I remember, I remember him seeing the photo of Mum there after it had been developed.  His comment was “Who is that you’re standing with Lorna?”, to which mum replied in surprise “That’s your wife!  Mum!”.

My love for Rugby and Cricket came from him; I remember watching Botham’s Ashes in 1981 with him.  I also remember watching rugby’s Calcutta Cup against Scotland, and the Boat Race.  His passion for these events formed my own passion.

He liked to bet on the horse racing – I was never really aware of this as a child, but he was a regular gambler.

He was never outwardly loving to us Grandchildren, but you knew that he would do anything for you.  He was never happier than when he had us all around for Sunday lunch (every week), poor Granny had to set to and do a roast come what may.  He loved having his large family (and all his Grandchildren) around him.

In the hot summers (and the summers back then always seemed long and hot), we would have picnics in the large garden at Cedar Lodge with all the cousins running around and exploring the woods and building dens or climbing on the rocks in the old quarry.  Those were very happy times for me.

On one of these occasions, and after building a new pond, he – and his two engineer sons, my Uncle’s Tim and Julian decided to try to float something on the pond.  Their combined engineering knowledge came up with a plastic dustbin as the best object at hand.  They then decided they needed a captain of this ‘vessel’, and as the youngest (and smallest) Grandson, I was selected – I could clearly see the ‘vessel’ would not float with me in it.  I ran for it, but was grabbed, put in the bin and launched off to the predictable result that the ‘vessel’ overturned with me in it and I got soaked.  My Grandpa tried to mollify me – he was terrified I’d go and tell Mum and Granny.  He bribed me with 50p (quite a large amount for me then) to keep quiet.  That is the first time I’d ever been cunning – I made a conscious decision to take the money and go straight and tell Mum.  The result was that the menfolk were all told off, I received some ice cream, kept my 50p and felt quite pleased with myself.  Grandpa didn’t hold a grudge, he seemed to think I’d done quite well out of it.

When they decided to move from Tickenham, he looked at a cottage in Kingston Seymour where we lived.  Unsure of the extent of the foundations – he was worried about things like that – he got permission from the house owner to dig an inspection hole to find out.  My dad went down to dig it under his direction.  We went down to see them to find my dad down in a deep hole.  I think the home owners were somewhat unimpressed when they got back to find how big an ‘inspection’ hole had been dug.

On finally moving to Kenn, I remember arriving one day with Mum to find him ‘touching up’ the windows with a pot of old white paint.  We got out of the car and started talking to him whilst he was absent-mindedly dabbing at the windows with big blobs.  And then whilst mum and I looked on in surprise, he turned around still talking to us, walked over to his white Triumph Acclaim car, and then started dabbing paint on it to cover a few scratches.  The result looked terrible but he didn’t seem to mind or care.  Without missing a beat, he went back to painting the windows, still talking to us.

On a family holiday to Brittany one summer, when my Mum and Dad and Uncle Julian wanted to take Granny and him away on a Gite holiday to France, he refused to come right up to the last minute because he didn’t want to leave his beloved dogs.  When it became clear that Granny was actually prepared to leave him – he didn’t think she’d do it, he begrudgingly agreed to come and Uncle Julian took them in their car.

Whilst in France, he was utterly miserable because he missed his dogs – he was never that fond of the French anyway, and it came through in everything he did.  He drove everyone mad because he wanted the Telegraph newspaper to get the Cricket scores or to listen to the Cricket, and he wanted Cheddar Cheese!  He would get Julian to drive him to local villages in a fruitless search for these things and return empty handed.  On one such foray, they returned to find my Dad had managed to tune his car radio into Radio 4 LW for the Cricket – his face was a picture.  He would also be driven to the nearest public telephone every day to call Susan to find out how his dogs were.  I remember he didn’t come on excursions, preferring to mope around in the Gite and be miserable.  He only cheered up on the journey home.

He had a fanatical thing about his hair being short – he had a full head of hair throughout his life.  He would run his hand up the back of his hair, and if he could feel that it was more than a short stubble he would head off to get it cut again.

I never knew him to be cross or angry.  He could get animated watching sport, and he had a good sense of humour.  His laugh was like the cartoon character, Mutley’s laugh – he would go red or bright purple and laugh so much he couldn’t speak.

My abiding memory of him, will be of him with his newspaper sat at the dining table, with a large glass of whiskey and perhaps a cigar, but turned sideways slightly so that he could observe his family and join in with conversations.


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