John Horace Charles Lamb

This post is about my Grandfather, John Horace Charles Lamb.  I’ve used his personal accounts, official records – including his full military record, along with photographs, (all the photo’s below, unless otherwise stated, are his or taken by him), telegrams and letters and other public sources of information.  I have tried, wherever possible to write this post in chronological order, and added contextual information to put events into perspective.

 

John H. C. 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.

He 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.

fairburnkindergarten

He 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.  Great-grandfather 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.

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, especially if he was late, and had to take the bus down, meaning he had no choice but to walk back home.

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 also had a maid, and he grew up 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.

He 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, he is at the centre of the middle row wearing his XIV Blazer, and although it is undated, he doesn’t look very old.

xivschool

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

xivbigschool

He is the sixth from the left on the back row.  It has been dated at circa 1929, when he would have been 12 years old – he looks older in this second photo.

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

Bristol Grammar School (BGS)

He 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 my Granny showing me school records about him also doing well in 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 that he enjoyed and excelled at sports.

The full school photo from it’s 400th Anniversary in 1932, he 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.

bgsallschool

bgscloseup

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.  His later military record states that he was in the OTC from 1931 to 1934.

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_otc

bgs_camp1 bgscamp2 bgscamp3

In the above photo of the group of Cadets, he has annotated himself (J. H. C. L.) as the nearest cadet on the rear rank.

Work and Marriage

He met my Granny, Phyllis Mary Milton (called Mary) whilst she 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, he 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 him on 12th December 1933 (stamped by the photographer), he would have been 16 years old.

jhcl1932

We know that he 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 he passed his Chartered Surveyors’ Institution, Intermediate Examination Part’s I and II.

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-12-29-57

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

In 1938, he was working at Hereford Town Hall for the Town Council.  We have a photo of the staff at this time.  He was de-facto Deputy Engineer to the Town, supporting a population of 25,000 people.  On his later military record, he states that he is a ‘Civil Engineers Assistant‘.

It also included the following description of his pre-war ‘Professional or Artistic qualifications or degrees, or Memberships, etc. of Learned Society …’.

Probationer of the Chartered Surveyors Institution, having passed the examinations of the Institution with the exception of the subject of Valuations in Finals.  Student member of the Institution of Municipal & County Engineers.

So it is clear he was still working on his engineering examinations, and had not completed them before the war started and interrupted his studies and career.

hereford hereford1938

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

The following photo is of him playing Cricket in Hereford, but is undated.

herefordcricket1938

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‘.  Their address s confirmed by his joining up papers in 1940.

When Grandpa left Hereford for the war, Granny also left Hereford to return to he parents house in Keynsham.  They never returned to Hereford after the war, so he must have resigned from his post when he joined up.

 

World War 2 1939 – 1946

Royal Fusiliers, 1940

Grandpa joined up in Hereford (where he was living with Granny) to the Royal Fusiliers, on 21st May 1940, only 11 days after the Germans invaded the Netherlands and Belgium.  By this point it was already clear to the civilians, that the Battle of France was going badly.  One wonders if his joining up was a reaction to the bad news on the wireless and in the papers?  Granny was already pregnant with their first daughter Susan at this time, and he would have been only 23 years old.

It was recorded on his official record that he was an ‘Engineer’ by trade – this was a specialised role with its own Ministry job classification.  This must have later helped direct his career in the army, when he ultimately joined the Royal Engineers.

He put his address in Hereford, but also reported that his next of kin was his wife, who he reported at his in-laws address.  As Granny as pregnant, she left Hereford to go home to her parents at Landsdown View, Charlton Park, Keynsham when Grandpa joined up.  They had been married less than 2 years.

His ’embodiment’ was postponed until further notice – presumably the impending Dunkirk evacuations were demanding all resources and administrative effort.  He was officially placed on the ‘reserve’ list on 22nd May 1940, waiting to be ‘called up’.

On 18th July 1940, presumably, when the threat of invasion was high and there was a demand for more men to defend the country, he was ordered to report for duty to Hounslow Barracks (Hounslow, West London), the main depot of the Royal Fusiliers Regiment.  This would have been after the fall of France.

The picture below, shows him as a private, clearly wearing the cap badge of the Royal Fusiliers Regiment, so would have been of this period.

privatelamb

There are no other records of his short time with the Fusiliers, we don’t know where he was posted or what he was doing.

He must have been recommended for Officer training, presumably his previous OTC years at Bristol Grammar School stood him in good stead.  Men with ‘officer potential’ were put forward for selection, but there is no record of any pre-OCTU (his brother in law, my Great Uncle John, was sent on a pre-OCTU before completing his own training).

On 14th October 1940, he was approved for posting to an OCTU by ’17c RFUS’, which would be 17th Coy. Royal Fusiliers, which I believe was a depot (or holding) Company.  There is little supporting information.

His record shows he waited around for 2 months before a place at an OCTU became available.  We know that this period was one of massive growth in the Army as it expanded to meet war needs – the existing training structures were under severe strain as they were scaled up to meet new demands – a delay of 2 months is unsurprising.

Susan, his first daughter was born on 8th December 1940, and its likely that he would have had leave to go and see her, but there is no record of this.

He was transferred to 164 OTCU in Wales on the 20th December 1940.

 

Officer Cadet Training Unit (164 OCTU), 1940 – 1941

He formally joined 164 Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU) on 21st December 1940.

This OCTU was based in the town of Barmouth in Gwynedd, North Wales, at the south end of Snowdonia.  It took private soldiers who had shown potential, and turned them into officers; it included drilling, leadership, battle-school, tactics and involved regular hikes up the local mountain of ‘Cadair Idris’ (just under 3000ft high).

Records from 1942 (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)

The following photo, taken at the end of his course, shows him with his cadet platoon – he wears the cadet uniform of battle dress with white shoulder badges and cap band.  He is on the rear row, five from the right (not looking straight at the camera).

octu

His is described rather succinctly with a “Military Conduct – Very Good“, to summarise his time as a private and cadet.

He was discharged from 164 OCTU on the 14th March 1943, which matches other contemporary records of a duration of 3 months OCTU to gain a commission.

On successful 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 Bristol regiments, and ended up being posted to the Somerset Light Infantry.

 

Pioneer HQ Coy, 7th Bn. Somerset Light Infantry, 1941 – 1942

According to his military record, he was formally commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the Somerset Light Infantry on the 15th March 1941.  This was later recorded in 28th March 1941, London Gazette edition which detailed that:

“INFANTRY.

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)”

slicommission

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, and with Granny (and Labrador), at what looks like the same time.

2ndlieutlamb 

On the 15th March 1941, he was posted to the ‘Taunton station’, home of the Somerset Light Infantry (SLI) Regiment.  And on the 21st March he attended the SLI infantry Training Centre (ITC) also in Taunton.  This would have initiated him into the specifics of the Regiment, and from here he would be posted to one of the regimental battalions.

On the 27th March 1941, he was posted to the 7th Battalion, then based at Thame in Oxfordshire.  The 7th Bn. Somerset Light Infantry was a Territorial unit formed on 24th August 1939.  After he transferred away to the Royal Engineers, it joined 214th Brigade as part of the 43rd (Wessex) Division taking part in the Northern Europe Campaign’s of D Day and Operation Market Garden.

He was assigned to command of the Pioneer HQ Company – this was the specialist engineering unit within the Battalion, and would have been responsible for fieldworks (e.g. defences like trenches), as well as assault engineering for the rest of the Infantry companies in the battalion.  I assume he was directed to the Pioneer company because of his engineering background.

This platoon sized unit comprised 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.

slipioneers

We know from his official record that he completed a number of additional courses related to his commission and his command of the ‘Pioneer Company HQ’ of his Battalion.

Between 20th June 1941 and 19th July 1941, he was at Barton Stacey near Winchester, attending No. 22 TRG Centre Royal Engineers (R. E.), this course focussed on fieldworks – including entrenching, military engineering etc.  He passed this course, which seems to have been related to his command of the Pioneer Coy.  The Royal Engineers met a “demand for special courses in bridging and for courses in field engineering for infantry personnel” (History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, VIII, Maj. Gen. Pakenham-Walsh) – this course appears to have been under the auspices of the School of Military Engineering (more of which, later), which used Barton Stacey camp for engineering focussed courses for infantry officers.  

The next records all revolve around Colchester in Essex.  This must have been related to the 7th battalion being assigned to 45th Infantry Division, based in Essex.   I presume the whole battalion had moved to Essex but there is no date in his record.

[Note: The 45th Division was the 2nd Wessex Division – the 1st being the 43rd Infantry Division – including battalions from Somerset, Dorset, Devon.].

Bizarrely (for those who knew him), he was sent to the 45th Division Cookery School at Colchester, Essex, between 3rd November 1941 and the 5th November 1941.  I laughed out loud when I read this – my Grandpa literally could not boil an egg – and never … ever … did anything for himself.  The thought of him doing a cookery course for 2 days is frankly ludicrous!

Soon after, he was sent to Course No. 4 at the 45th Division School at Frinton, on the coast near Colchester, between 16th November 1941 and 28th November 1941.  This appears to be a standard Infantry Officer training course with Tactical Exercises Without Troops (TEWT’s).  Unfortunately, he scored a ‘below average’ result for this course in terms of his tactics, planning and command.  It seems he was not really destined to be an Infantry officer.

He then undertook Course No. 2 with 11 Corps Mobile V.M. School at Colchester between 22nd December 1941 and 7th January 1942.  He ‘Did not complete course’, and a reason is perhaps available elsewhere in his official records.  Between 25th December 1941 and 1st January 1942, he was granted sick leave, although there are no explanations given as to why or where he was?  I don’t remember him ever being ill.  Clearly he was not well enough to complete the course, but he did do enough to earn the course certificate.

His next course was Course No. 10 at General Command Camouflage School in Norwich between the 16th February 1942 and the 21st February 1942.  He was assessed to be “Quite Good”, and was awarded the course certificate.

The photo below shows him with all other other Officers from the 7th Battalion, SLI at Hyderabad Barracks, Colchester dated 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.]

sliofficers

sliofficersnames

The above image is the annotated key to all the officers and their names, including J. H. C. Lamb.

He was granted leave on the 16th March 1942, and was given a travel warrant for free travel, presumably to return home to see his family.

He was granted ‘weekend leave’ on the 15th April 1942, but was not given a travel warrant for free travel.

 

No. 1 Railway Training Centre, Royal Engineers, 1942

According to my Great Uncle John (Grandpa’s brother in law), 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.  The Army was continually growing and needed officers and men to join new Engineer formations.  Grandpa was a qualified Engineer with pre-war experience and qualifications and had completed recent Royal Engineers courses, and was an ideal candidate.  He requested and was transferred to the Royal Engineers after 14 months with the SLI.

On the 20th April 1942, he was posted to No. 1 Railway Training Centre, Royal Engineers.  His official record says this was at Abberton/Allerton(?), however the ‘Royal Engineers Corps History’ shows that No 1. Railway Training Centre (R. E.) was at Longmoor Camp in Hampshire?  It is not entirely clear why he was posted here, but a ‘bridging school’ was formed here to provide bridge construction training, so it is possible this was a further engineering course?

More likely, given his impending transfer to the engineers, and given records shows that No. 1 Railway Training Centre was a depot where troops were posted to await onward posting to active units or training units.  I think it is logical to assume that his time here was related to his transfer to the Royal Engineers.  There were well defined paths for officers to transfer into the Royal Engineers from other British Army regiments, as well as qualified and skilled civilians who could join up and be directly commissioned, thereby avoiding formal OCTU.

As he was already an officer, I think its unlikely that he attended the standard 3 month long Royal Engineers OCTU – his records prove he didn’t.  It seems more likely this time was used to assess his suitability (engineering experience and qualifications) before posting him onto further specialised engineering training at the (Royal) School of Military Engineering (SME).

 

Royal Engineers, (Royal) School of Military Engineering ((R)SME), 1942

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

slitore

The ‘Royal Engineers Corps History (volume 9)’, details that officers who transferred to the Royal Engineers from other arms (as Grandpa had done), were put on a 3 month long course at the Officer Wing of 6 Training Battalion, R. E. in the “use of military engineering equipment”. (History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, VIII, Maj. Gen. Pakenham-Walsh).  

There is no record of this for Grandpa, but we can’t account for his movements between his transfer to the engineers on 18th May 1942 and a course (below) on 4th August 1942 – a period of some 11 weeks.  It seems likely that he was fast-tracked through training to crossover from the Infantry to the Royal Engineers – because of his pre-war experience and his passing prior Royal Engineers courses for Infantry Officers.

He was granted leave on 22nd July 1942, along with a travel warrant for free travel, presumably to return home to see his family.

He sent a postcard to Granny from Raby Castle, Staindrop on 30th July 1942.  Looking at records, there was a Royal Engineer camp at Raby – also called ‘30VR Raby Repair Depot’, he may have been temporarily posted here whilst waiting for further training?

We know that he attended the Royal School of Military Engineering ((R)SME) a number of times during the remainder of the war.  The SME was based in Ripon, having moved from Chatham in September 1940.  The SME ran additional specialist training and technical courses for Engineering officers, including construction, demolition, tunnelling, bridging and mine clearance.

His official record states that he was sent to the School of Military Engineering (SME), Ripon for further training between the 4th August 1942 and the 1st September 1942.  He qualified from this course Q1 – which is ‘Good’.  It’s unclear what this training was – the record is illegible, but it was ‘Field Coy.’ training, and could have been a ‘bridging’ course.

He sent a postcard to Granny (also of Raby Castle) on 15th August 1942 from Ripon, whilst he would have been on this course.

 

Royal Engineers, 720 Artizan Works Coy, 1942 – 1943

On the 18th August 1942, he was posted to ‘720 G.C. Coy, Royal Engineers’, based at Monk Fryston, in Yorkshire – I think its safe to assume this is 720 Artisan Works Company, Royal Engineers.  An Artisan Company or Art. Coy. was “made up largely of men of building trades” (History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, VIII, Maj. Gen. Pakenham-Walsh), these skilled workers could support any kind of engineering or construction work, .

Around sixty new formations of two types were formed in 1939 and 1940, to release existing Royal Engineer units to support the B.E.F. in France.  These new Companies were to focus on accommodation and base construction for all the new troops joining up, and secondly, aerodrome construction.  720 Artisan Works Coy. was one of the former units, supporting large scale construction to support the rapid growth of the Army.

The following picture is of his HQ at Monk Fryston, Yorkshire, but I think he has annotated it incorrectly as ‘early 1941’, since he was only posted there in the summer of 1942.

fryston

We know from the Army List that he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 15th September 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.

grandpawslieutenant

[NOTE: There is a curio from the Army Lists, if you read the actual original books, it appears that he remained a ‘War Substantive Rank’ throughout the war – this can confuse dates of promotions.  This means that he was officially a 2nd Lieutenant, Lieutenant and then Captain on the Army List, regardless of his actual rank of Lieutenant, and then Captain and then Major, which were ‘Acting’ and then ‘Temporary’ Commissions.  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 and highest rank, as detailed further below.]

He was granted leave between 3rd to 5th October 1942, and also 15th to 20th October 1942, both times with a travel warrant for free travel, presumably to return to Keynsham to see his family.

He was back in Ripon at the School of Military Engineering (SME) between the 3rd November 1942 and the 24th November 1942, on Course No. 7 ‘Mining and Demolition’, he apparently gained a ‘Distinguished’ Grade.  It does not surprise me that Grandpa was distinguished at Demolition!

This last course does not seem to fit with his current posting with an Artisan Works Company, who were primarily used for construction, not mining and demolition?

He was granted leave straight after the course on the 25th November 1942, but was not granted a travel warrant for free travel.

In January 1943, we know from photographic evidence that he was in command of No. 4 Section, 720 Artizan Works Company, Royal Engineers.  He dates the following photograph, and also states that it’s at Malta Barracks in Aldershot.  We don’t know when 720 Coy R.E. was posted to Aldershot, as it is not in his official record.

sect4re720

This photo shows him as a Lieutenant with the 47 men of the section under his command – 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.

A further photo of the whole 720 Artizan Works Company (also in Aldershot) shows 5 officers of which he 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 him), would almost certainly have been a Major.

720re

At some point, he must have requested a transfer, or been selected for transfer to Gibraltar.  We know that he previously distinguished himself in Mining and Demolition courses, and we know that the ongoing tunnelling and other engineering works on Gibraltar were huge engineering projects – it seems probable that those who excelled at this kind of engineering were selected for posting to Gibraltar.

 

Embarkation for Gibraltar, February 1943

On the 5th February 1943, he was granted ‘Embarkation Leave pending overseas draft’ (but subject to a recall), which states he was in Hothfield, Kent at the time.  I would assume he went to his in-laws home in Keynsham, to be with Granny and Susan, as he would have not known when he would get back to the UK to see them again.

On 17th February 1943, he was posted to Halifax, Yorkshire, to await travel arrangements to Gibraltar.

[Note: We have some dates of Grandpa’s embarking and arrival on trips to and from Gibraltar, from his service record, as well as personal telegrams.  We can use these to help research the actual convoy’s he would have used.  The website convoyweb.org.uk has been particularly useful, as has uboat.net and http://www.warsailors.com, which have provided further supporting evidence and detail.  These records are occasionally incomplete – ships jump from one port to another with no record of how they moved, so unfortunately, the picture is incomplete.]

We know from his own account that he regularly travelled on Destroyers and other escort ships, whenever the opportunity arose.  He always used to say that he preferred being on Destroyers especially when the weather was particularly bad and the sea rough – the rougher the better apparently.  But from records, it is probable that on his first journey to Gibraltar, Grandpa travelled to nearby Liverpool, to embark on a ship for the Clyde in Scotland.

We know that the 1589 ton passenger ship ‘Spero II’ (of the Wilson Line), left Liverpool on the 23rd of February 1943 for ‘independent’ travel (i.e. without convoy) to the Clyde.  We will never know for sure whether Grandpa was onboard the Spero, but it is the only ship that matches leaving Liverpool in the right timeframe to arrive in Gibraltar on the date that we know he disembarked there.  (http://www.convoyweb.org.uk/ports/index.html?search.php?vessel=SPERO(Br)~armain)

On the 26th February 1943, convoy KMS.10G departed from the Clyde, and from records, arrived in Gibraltar on 7th March 1943, where a number of ships detached from the convoy.  The convoy ended in its final destination of Bone (Algeria) on 11th March 1943.  This is the only convoy which matches the date of Grandpa’s arrival in Gibraltar.

A Convoy, grouping numbers of merchant and troop ships together with escort ships (specialist Corvette, Frigates and Destroyers), were used to to try to reduce the risk of air threats, surface raider and u-boat attacks, and to supplement the guns on the merchantmen.  Escorts could provide Anti-Aircraft (AA) defence, fight enemy surface ships like E-boats, and undertake anti-submarine warfare to defend the other ships.

KMS.10 was a massive convoy of over 60 merchant/passenger/troop ships with 19 escorts.  A number of the ships detached from the convoy when it reached Gibraltar.  The ships ‘Empire Flamingo’, ‘Fort Hudson’s Hope’, ‘Fort Paskoyac’, ‘Harbury’, ‘Spero’, ‘Thurland Castle’ and ‘Wellington Court’, are known to have left the convoy and disembarked in Gibraltar on the 7th March.  Grandpa could have been on any one of them, although as mentioned above, Spero II is the prime candidate.

The combined list of ships in convoy KMS.10G is directly below, and includes 19 escort ships (Corvette, Frigate and Destroyer ship types) to provide protection:

Vessel
Pdt.
Tons
Built
Cargo
Notes
 

ALCOA PILOT (US)
41
4,869
1919
 
 Departed – Clyde  26/2/1943
Arrived – Bougie 11/3/1943 
 

ATLANTIC COAST (Br)
32
890
1934
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943 
 

BATTLEFORD 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 28/02 – 08/03
 

BENEDICT (Br)
42
4,949
1930
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943 
 

BJORKHAUG (Nor)
 
2,094
1919
 
 Departed – Philippeville 11/3/1943 
Arrived -Bone 11/3/1943 
 

BURWELL 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 28/02 – 08/03
 

CALPE 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 06/03 – 08/03
 

CITY OF PERTH (Br)
62
6,415
1913
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Bone 12/3/1943
 

CLAN MACINNES (Br)
93
4,672
1920
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943 
 

CLAN MURRAY (Br)
81
5,953
1918
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943  
 

CONAKRIAN (Br)
51
4,876
1937
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943  
 

CONTRACTOR (Br)
82
6,004
1930
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943  
 

COXWOLD (Br)
24
1,124
1938
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943 
Arrived – Philippeville 11/3/1943 
 

DELANE (Br)
44
6,054
1938
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943 
Arrived – Bougie
11/3/1943 
 

DELRIO (US)
102
5,052
1919
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943 
Arrived – Oran
09/3/1943 
 

DIRECTOR (Br)
95
5,107
1926
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943  
 

DOMBY (Br)
46
5,582
1932
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Lisbon
Mar 07/3/1943
 

DUKE OF ATHENS (Br)
71
5,217
1940
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943 
 

EMPIRE BAIRN (Br)
 
813
1941
 
 Departed -Algiers
10/2/1943
Arrived – BoneMar
11/3/1943
 

EMPIRE FLAMINGO (Br)
65
4,994
1920
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Gibraltar
07/3/1943 
 

EMPIRE MAIDEN (Br)
25
813
1942
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
RETURNED 
Clyde 28/2/1943
 

EMPIRE MALLORY (Br)
75
6,327
1941
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943 
 

EMPIRE STANDARD (Br)
83
7,047
1942
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 14/3/1943

(ARR IN TOW DAMAGED, AIR RAID)

 

EMPIRE SUNBEAM (Br)
45
6,711
1941
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
RETURNED 
Clyde 28/2/1943
 

EMPIRE TORRENT (Br)
52
7,074
1942
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Bone
11/3/1943 
 

EXCHESTER (US)
111
4,999
1919
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943 
Arrived – Oran
09/3/1943 
 

FARNDALE 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 08/03 – 11/03
 

FLAMINIAN (Br)
56
2,711
1917
 
 Departed – Milford Haven
25/2/1943
Arrived – Lisbon
07/3/1943
 

FORT A LA CORNE (Br)
54
7,133
1942
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943 
 

FORT BATTLE RIVER (Br)
55
7,133
1942
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
SUNK 6/3/1943
BY U 410
 

FORT DOUGLAS (Br)
112
7,129
1942
 
Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943 
 

FORT HUDSON’S HOPE (Br)
14
7,129
1942
 
Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Gibraltar
07/3/1943
 

FORT NORMAN (Br)
84
7,133
1942
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943 

ARR IN TOW AFTER DAMAGE BY U-boat

 

FORT PASKOYAC (Br)
13
7,134
1942
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Gibraltar
07/3/1943
ARR GIB DAMAGED IN TOW ESCORT SALVON
 

FORT STIKINE (Br)
101
7,142
1942
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Oran
09/3/1943 
 

FORT YORK 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 28/02 – 08/03
 

FRANCIS PARKMAN (US)
63
7,176
1942
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943  
 

HARBURY (Br)
94
5,081
1933
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Gibraltar
07/3/1943 
 

HAVILDAR (Br)
74
5,401
1940
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943  
 

HINDUSTAN (Br)
66
5,245
1940
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943 
 

HOLCOMBE 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 06/03 – 08/03
 

HOUSTON CITY II (Br)
12
7,262
1942
 
 Departed – Clyde
26/2/1943
Arrived – Bone
12/3/1943
 

JADE (Br)
64
930
1938
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943 
Arrived – Philippeville 11/3/1943 
 

JOHN DAVENPORT (US)
104
7,176
1942
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943 
 

KENOGAMI 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 28/02 – 08/03
 

LAGOSIAN (Br)
72
5,412
1930
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943 
 

LIBERIAN (Br)
34
5,129
1936
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943 
 

MACHARDA (Br)
61
7,998
1938
 
 Departed – Clyde
26/2/1943
Arrived – Bone
12/3/1943
 

MASIRAH (Br)
73
6,578
1919
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943 
 

MELAMPUS (Du)
35
5,962
1924
 
 Departed – Clyde
26/2/1943
Arrived – Bougie
11/3/1943 
 

MIDDLESEX TRADER (Br)
53
7,241
1942
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943 
 

MOANDA (Bel)
85
4,621
1937
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943 
 

NAPANEE 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 28/02 – 08/03
 

OAKLEY 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 08/03 – 11/03
 

OCEAN COURIER (Br)
113
7,178
1942
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943
 

OCEAN GALLANT (Br)
114
7,178
1942
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943 
 

OCEAN TRAVELLER (Br)
23
7,178
1942
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943 
 

ORKLA (Br)
 
2,177
1922
 
 Departed – Gibraltar
07/3/1943
Arrived – Oran
09/3/1943
 

PENSTEMON 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 08/03 – 11/03
 

PORT SAINT JOHN (Br)
43
5,668
1938
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943 
Arrived – Philippeville 11/3/1943
 

PUCKERIDGE 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 08/03 – 11/03
 

QUALICUM 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 28/02 – 08/03
 

SAINT BERNARD (Br)
91
5,183
1939
 
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943
 

SHEDIAC 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 28/02 – 08/03
 

SIDI IFNI (Span)
 
732
1892
 
 Departed – Gibraltar
07/3/1943
Arrived – Oran
09/3/1943
 

SPERO (Br)
21
1,589
1922
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Gibraltar
07/3/1943 
 

ST CROIX 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 28/02 – 08/03
 

STAR (Nor)
 
1,531
1922
 
 Departed -Philippeville
11/2/1943
Arrived – Bougie
11/3/1943 
 

SUNCREST (Br)
15
5,117
1940
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Gibraltar
07/3/1943 
 

THURLAND CASTLE (Br)
92
6,372
1929
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Gibraltar
07/3/1943 
 

TIBA (Du)
22
5,239
1938
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Algiers 10/3/1943  
 

TOPDALSFJORD (Nor)
23
4,271
1921
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943 
Arrived – Philippeville 11/3/1943  
 

TRISTRAM DALTON (US)
103
7,191
1942
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943 
Arrived – Oran
09/3/1943 
 

TYNEDALE 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 04/03 – 08/03
 

VANOC 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 08/03 – 11/03
 

VERITY 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 08/03 – 11/03
 

VETCH 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 08/03 – 11/03
 

WEARPOOL (Br)
31
4,982
1936
 
Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Bone
11/3/1943 
 

WEDGEPORT 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 28/02 – 08/03
 

WELLINGTON COURT (Br)
11
4,979
1930
 
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943
Arrived – Gibraltar
07/3/1943
 

WILLIAM BRADFORD (US)
 
7,176
1942
 Departed – Clyde 26/2/1943 
Arrived – Oran
09/3/1943 

KMS.10 was an eventful convoy, its diary is summarised from  (http://www.warsailors.com/convoys/kms10.html), which I have combined with the other sources, including https://uboat.net/ops/convoys/convoys.php?convoy=KMS-10.

On the 2nd March 1943, the escort ship HMS Burwell narrowly avoid a parachute-mine which had been dropped into the path of the convoy.

On the 4th March at 10.40am, German Focke-Wulf aircraft sighted the convoy and then at 11.30am carried out a high-level bombing raid on the convoy from 5000ft.  Anti-aircraft fire was apparently successful in keeping the German attack to less accurate high-altitude bombing.  The convoy was bombed again by waves of three Focke-Wulf aircraft at 11.40am, 11.50am and 12.05am.  The convoy was again bombed at 17.09pm from altitude by more Focke-Wulf.  The AA fire appears to have a saved the convoy, by keeping the Germans at a safer distance, only the ship ‘Empire Torrent’ reported slight bomb damage.

The convoy record also reports that on the 4th March 1943, two Canadian escorts, the corvette HMCS St Croix, and the destroyer HMCS Shediac, sank the German U-Boat, U-87, with depth charges – all 49 crew on the submarine were lost.  U-87 sank a confirmed 5 ships of a total of 38,014 GRT during its commission, from 19th Aug 1941 to the date of its sinking.

Just west of Gibraltar on March 6th at 2.25pm, U-Boat(s) started further attacks on the convoy.  The ship ‘Spero’ (was Grandpa onboard?) narrowly avoided a torpedo, and the ship ‘Fort Paskoyac’ was hit by a torpedo and needed to be towed to Gibraltar.  More seriously, the ship ‘Fort Battle River’, carrying 3000 tones of’ government stores’ was hit by a torpedo and sunk, luckily all 65 crew were rescued.  These attacks were carried out by the German U-Boat U-410.  A further ship in the convoy was sunk by the German U-Boat U-596 on the 9th March 1943 after leaving Gibraltar.

Grandpa never talked about the risks of travelling by Convoy.  There were, of course, inherent risks of moving around by ship during the war, even in the relative protection of a convoy.  The campaign in Tunisia was still unresolved when he first went to Gibraltar, the Germans would not surrender until the 9th May 1943, so the western Mediterranean was still an active combat area.  But it is quite something to see in the records that a convoy that he almost certainly travelled on, was repeatedly under air attack, and that at least three U-boats were attacking it, and that one ship and one U-boat were actually sunk and lives were lost.

KMS.10 arrived in Gibraltar on the 7th March 1943, with some ships (mentioned above) detaching from the convoy and disembarking their passengers and cargo the next day.

 

Gibraltar, 1st (Fortress) Coy, Royal Engineers, 1943-1946

Gibraltar was a key strategic British base at the western end of the Mediterranean sea, vital (along with Malta) for Britain’s communications with India (via Egypt and the Suez Canal).  It’s strategic importance had increased with the fall of France, and the loss of the French fleet and bases in North Africa in 1940.  It offered the Royal Naval another important base in the Atlantic Convoy system, as well as a base for operations in the Mediterranean,  and communication to the Eastern British Empire and Dominions.

Gibraltar was itself under threat of invasion in the early part of the war, with doubts about whether Spain would remain neutral.  In the event, the Spanish Dictator, General Franco, managed to retain neutrality, in spite of severe diplomatic pressure from both Italy and Germany to join the Axis side.  In July 1940, the Germans planned ‘Operation Felix’ where two German Army Corps would move through Spain to take Gibraltar, even in the event of Spanish resistance.  These plans were revised again in March 1941, and Gibraltar only really became safe once the tide had turned on the Axis forces, later in 1942.

Interestingly, even though Spain was neutral, ‘throughout the war years some six thousand Spanish workers passed daily from La Linea to work on the very fortifications that were denying the passage of the Straits to surface vessels of the Axis powers’ (Gibraltar – History of a Fortress, E. Bradford).

Because of the level of threat, all civilian Gibraltarians were evacuated, and only started returning in 1944.

The importance of Gibraltar, and its relative vulnerability (from the Spanish mainland), meant significant investment was made in its defences and infrastructure.  In 1942 ‘well over a million tons of rock were hurled into the sea by military engineers, thus creating a long runway’ (Gibraltar – History of a Fortress, E. Bradford).  The runway was officially completed in July 1943, allowing larger aircraft to use Gibraltar, creating an ‘Island Aircraft Carrier’ to support the allied landings in North Africa.  In addition to the runway, a vast tunnel network was dug to support improved port facilities and increased garrison – literally turning the whole of Gibraltar into a large fortress.

From records we know that Royal Engineer units in Gibraltar between 1942 and 1943, were the 1st Fortress Company, Royal Engineers, 32nd Fortress Company Royal Engineers (these were fixed units), as well as 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.  Non ‘fortress’ units were moved to and from Gibraltar as needed.

 

Grandpa photographed the first view he would have had of Gibraltar from sea, annotated by him as ‘View from the sea“.  He disembarked in Gibraltar for the first time on the 8th March 1943

gibfromthesea

Grandpa was posted to 1st Fortress Company, Royal Engineers (1st (F)COY. R.E.).  This was formed from the Gibraltar “Fortress Engineer Regiment with headquarters and two fortress squadrons bearing the numbers 1 and 32. Thus the entity of the original 1st (Fortress) Company was maintained at its place of birth, and the unit bearing the number 32 still remained at its pre-war location.” (History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, VIII, Maj. Gen. Pakenham-Walsh)

His unit was tasked with working on two major engineering projects during his time on in Gibraltar.  Firstly, supervising the completion of the network of 34 miles of tunnels (and their associated internal constructions) that formed the defences of the natural fortress of ‘The Rock’.  And secondly, in improving Gibraltar’s sometimes precarious fresh water supply, by engineering improved storage tanks to supply water to the military personnel and civilian population.

Before his arrival, two Canadian Engineers company’s had been responsible for most of the actual tunnelling work, since they were equipped with diamond-tipped drills that the British Engineers did not have.  A further five British Engineering companies supported the tunnelling works.  This work is detailed fully in Chapter XII of the ‘History of the Corps of Royal Engineers’, volume VIII, by Maj. Gen. Pakenham-Walsh and was largely complete by the time Grandpa arrived.

He would have focussed on construction of the facilities within the tunnels – often separate buildings (Nissen huts) were erected inside the tunnels because of issues with humidity.  A small town was built within the Rock of Gibraltar, capable of supporting 16,000 troops for 16 months of isolation.  It had its own power station, water storage and water distillation plant, hospital, telephone exchange, bakery and so on.  It had accommodation barracks, and large stores of food, equipment and ammunition, as well as workshops for vehicle maintenance. (Gibraltar – A History, M. Harvey).

A new base was build on the South-East side of Gibraltar, away from the potential threat of the Spanish mainland, and tunnels were built to connect this to the existing base on the West side of the Rock.  And a pair of main tunnels, called ‘The Great North Road’ and “The Fosse Way’ were excavated along almost the full interior of the Rock to connect all the tunnels together.

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

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).  And “7500 tons of rock were quarried from the north face and transported daily as the runway relentlessly penetrated into the bay towards Algeciras.  The spoil from the tunnelling operations which was going on at the same time was also put to good use” (Gibraltar – A History, M. Harvey).

Grandpa took a picture of one of the large crusher plants (below) which was 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 the Isthmus – this is now marked as Reclamation Areas/new land on maps.

recrusher

 

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 actually arrived in Gibraltar and where he was living.

The following pictures are of him in Gibraltar, out of uniform (in ‘mufti’), outside what he called his ‘Billet’, which would have been in the officers quarters of South Barracks, and also wearing the same outfit up on the Rock overlooking the Bay.

billet gibgrandpa

The following photographs are of South Barracks and the Gateway to the town from South Barracks, and his official car outside the barracks.

southbarrackscar gibgateway

barracks

The 1st Fortress Company, Royal Engineers at Gibraltar was one of two fixed R.E. companies on Gibraltar – whilst other units would be moved in and out of the base – as specialist company’s were needed – the Fortress Coy’s were permanently stationed there.  Grandpa would have commanded a platoon, and then ultimately the whole 1st (F) Company (R. E.) during his time in Gibraltar.

The 1st Fortress Company, Royal Engineers, supported construction of facilities within the recently completed tunnels of Gibraltar, as well as improving water storage and supply.  When I was a child, I remember him showing me plans and technical drawings of the water storage works and other engineering works on Gibraltar that he had kept, unfortunately I don’t know what happened to these plans and draughts, as they would have been fascinating to look at now.

“An extensive water supply system was installed in the tunnels. Ring mains, sited inside the Rock, connected up all sources of supply-Naval, Army, and Civil tanks, and both the Navy and Army condenser plants. By utilizing external sources-wells on the North Front and water imported by barge from Algeciras-to the fullest extent for the current requirements of the population and garrison, stocks of water in the rock tanks were kept always at a figure which would tide the garrison, the fleet and the Civil population over till the next rains. Chlorinators were installed for use if required at all points where water was drawn from the tanks. Expense tanks for both fresh and washing water were provided in each section of the tunnels, to be filled from the mains. These were tunnelled chambers lined with concrete rendered with a waterproof skin, and were of the order of IOO,OOO gallons each.” (History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, VIII, Maj. Gen. Pakenham-Walsh)

The ‘History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, Vol. X’, states Fresh water was a scarce and valuable commodity in Gibraltar; it was rationed to seven gallons per head per day and salt water used for sanitation, baths and, by force of circumstance for many kitchen needs. Over seven acres of catchment on the Rock fed rain water direct to underground reservoirs and as far as possible the roofs of buildings fed into storage tanks. Even so, in years of poor rainfall the storage supplied only about one-fifth of the Army’s fresh water needs”.

A plan of the tunnel network, including reservoirs, is below (Geology and military tunnels, Rosenbaum & Rose).

The two fortress companies (1st and 32nd) are specifically mentioned in the Corps History; “Though the primary duty of the two fortress companies was the operation of searchlights they also assisted in these other activities and at the peak period it was not unusual for one R.E. company to be employed on seventy such tasks at the same time.” (History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, volume VIII, Maj. Gen. Pakenham-Walsh).

We know that Grandpa’s primary responsibilities were related to engineering, so it is probable that the focus of the Fortress Coy’s changed once the threat to Gibraltar was removed.  It is clear that they were busy on engineering projects – 70 concurrent tasks!

The following pictures from the Imperial War Museum (Source – © IWM (GM 1852), and © IWM (CH 14746)  show the searchlights that Grandpa’s unit would have been responsible for:

 

The following photo is his platoon of the 1st (Fortress) Company R. E. with rifles and ‘Bren Gun’ crossed on the ground, he is in the middle at the front.  We know that the Royal Engineers also had defence duties along with their engineering skills – operating search lights in the Gibraltar straits and towards Spain, and providing security patrols.

1stfortresscoysection

In June 1943 he annotated photos of the officers of the 2nd Gibraltar Brigade (Gib. Bde.) Royal Engineers, outside South Barracks.  From the photos he 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.

2gibbrigadesbarracks

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

2gibbrigade

There were two distinct 2nd Gibraltar Brigades – one was a Royal Engineers Brigade, and there was also a 2nd Gibraltar Infantry Brigade.  The 2nd Gibraltar Infantry Brigade were transferred away from Gibraltar in December 1943, re-designated 28th Infantry brigade, and sent to the Middle East theatre and then the Italian Campaign.  There were shortages of men on the front in Italy, with the build up to the D-day invasions starting in England.  The threat to Gibraltar from ground assault had receded by this time as Spain maintained its neutrality and Franco’s attitude to the Axis hardened.  The Engineers focussed on Gibraltar works (particularly the Fortress Company) would have remained to complete the engineering works, and were then responsible for additional defence duties.

In May 1943 and August 1943, Italian frogmen undertook raids on shipping in the harbour, leading to one merchant ship being sunk and a number damaged.

Grandpa seems to have had a relatively easy war, Gibraltar was, on the face of it, a relatively good posting – the climate was good, there was a more varied diet available, and leave to neutral countries (Spain, Morocco) was in the case of Spain, only a short walk away.  He went to Spain whenever he had the opportunity of leave.  He also made the short sea crossing over the straits to North Africa more than once.  [Though before I started researching him, I didn’t fully appreciate the risks of getting to/from Gibraltar, sabotage attack, air and frogmen raids, as well as water rationing and shortages].

Two telegrams, dated 1st July 1943 and April 1944, state respectively “Arrived safely. Very fit” and  “Back here. Very fit. Had a good time”, although there are no records of his leave from Gibraltar, these date don’t coincide with any known returns to the UK.  It is safe to assume that these telegrams detail some leave to Spain or North Africa.

The first picture below 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?”

gibfromspaingibviewspain

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

gibfromseagibtown

The following picture is of him and officer friends on one of the few beaches on Gibraltar, obviously enjoying the sun, sea and sand.

gibbeach

On an undated postcard of the Hotel Cristina in Algeciras, he states that it was “A place for a meal in Spain across the bay. Wine was much cheaper than coffee”, proving that he regularly enjoyed time off in Spain.  Interestingly, you can still go and stay (or just drink wine as Grandpa did) in the Hotel Cristina in Algeciras!

cristinahotel

An undated photo (below) of the Rock Hotel, a central point for the Officers to socialise, 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.”

gibrockhotel

Grandpa was in Gibraltar on 4th July 1943, when General Sikorski (the leader of the Polish government in exile), was killed when his plane crashed just after takeoff.  Sikorski was returning to the UK after talks with Stalin in Tehran, and stopped at Gibraltar for a day to rest/refuel, and meet officials and the small company of Polish troops based there (Youtube clips of his visit are online).  There is still controversy about whether this was sabotage.

In January 1944, Grandpa was involved in the cases of two German Abwehr (German Secret Service) agents, who had been captured and convicted in 1943.  A Spaniard, Jose Martin Munoz was responsible for an explosion and fire at a large fuel tank, and 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 met him at the airport when he arrived to fulfil the sentence.  The two Spaniards were hanged on 11th January 1944.

[Note: The Defence Security Office in Gibraltar waged a secret war against Spanish and German intelligence services who were seeking to spy on and damage British installations and shipping at Gibraltar.  The Abwehr (German Intelligence Service) had offices in Tangier, Morocco and in 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”. (https://www.mi5.gov.uk/the-battle-for-gibraltar)]

 

Grandpa had issues contacting home, he sent telegrams several times in the months after January 1944, worried about Granny being in Bristol during the so called ‘Baby-Blitz’, when Bristol was again targeted by the Luftwaffe.  Communications were occasionally difficult, and he talks in Telegrams of mail not arriving, and asks whether packages had arrived.  He sends regular telegrams, even if only to say he is ok, or to wish Granny a happy birthday or happy anniversary.  Or to ask after parcels that he had sent back to the UK.  Being in Gibraltar, he probably had access to goods that were unavailable in at home.  It’s been interesting to read these again.

 

Granny told me that boredom was a problem in Gibraltar, and the officers organised a number of activities to motivate the troops, including sports such as Athletics.  Grandpa had previously excelled at Athletics at Bristol Grammar School, and he clearly took the opportunity to do more on Gibraltar.  The following picture shows him as part of the Engineers team in the ‘Gibraltar Garrison Athletics Champions 1944 Fortress Engineers’, on the first seated row, second from the right.

fortressengineersathletics

The following photo shows him leading the ‘R.E. Athletics team’ (rather than being a member), his beret seems rather haphazardly backwards on his head!  This is undated, but would appear to be after the above photo – although its his rank is not visible.

reathletics

The following undated picture is annotated by him “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.  There is a large crowd cheering them on.

gibtow

I remember being told by him 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.

 

On 6th March 1944, his army record states that he was made an ‘Acting Captain’.  This would have meant that he had the authority relevant to a Captain rank, including pay and allowances, but that this rank could be taken away at some point.

Around this point (spring time) in 1944, most Royal Engineer company’s were transferred away from Gibraltar to other theatres – the war was moving on, and demands had changed – Gibraltar was no longer considered at risk of invasion and most of the tunnelling work and runway was completed.  The remaining Royal Engineer units were “1st and 32nd Fortress Companies, 218th Army Troops Company, 711th Artisan Works Company, and 172nd Tunnelling Company. Those which had left were partly replaced by two companies of Italian Pioneer Corps.”  (History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, VIII, Maj. Gen. Pakenham-Walsh).

On 5th June 1944, suffered its last air raid, “12 Italian torpedo bombers attacked from the south of France: the only weapon to make any impression was a stray torpedo which hit the detached mole and several of the raiding aircraft were lost” (Gibraltar – A History, M. Harvey).  This threat new was removed by the invasion of southern France in August 1944, and Gibraltar supported this invasion as it had supported the invasion of North Africa.

On 6th June 1944 (D-Day) his acting Captain rank was formalised and he was given a Temporary Commission as a Captain, this is confirmed from the Army Lists.

grandpatcap

He is pictured below as a R.E. Captain, in his warm-weather uniform, prevalent in the North Africa / Italian theatres.

captlamb

In Telegrams on 23rd November 1944 he mentions there are “no examination results yet” (and checked with Granny whether “sent parcels had arrived“), and on 5th December 1944 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.  It seems probable that they are Engineering examinations – perhaps to complete the qualifications he started before the war?

telegramexaminations

We know from his telegrams that he returned to the UK at least twice, including a Telegram to Granny on 24th December 1944, stating “Due Ripon on 20th (indecipherable) Happy Xmas to you both. Longing to see you”, which I assume to be 20th of January 1945.

He was granted ‘Disembarkation’ leave on 10th January 1945 for 2 weeks, which I’m assuming means that he was due to land in the UK on the 10th, and then from his telegram, due to arrive in Ripon on the 20th (10 days?) for his course?  We know it didn’t actually start until the 24th February?

The only convoy to match this date was MKS 74G, departing from Gibraltar on the 31st December 1944, and arriving in Liverpool on the 10th January 1945.  It included 16 merchant ships and 12/13 Escort ships.  The list below shows the ships and if relevant, their cargo.

Vessel
Pdt.
Tons
Built
Cargo
Notes
 

AMBERLEY CASTLE 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 06/01 – 10/01
 

BANGKOK II (Br)
 
8,056
1919
ORANGES, ONIONS
 
 

CITY OF LANCASTER (Br)
 
3,041
1924
GENERAL
 
 

CUSTODIAN (Br)
 
5,881
1928
ORANGES, POTASH
 
 

DUNDEE (Br)
 
1,541
1934
 
RESCUE SHIP
 

EMPIRE GALAHAD (Br)
 
7,046
1942
FRIG
 
 

EMPIRE SWALE (Br)
 
5,452
1937
W AF PROD
 
 

ESKBANK (Br)
 
5,137
1937
ORANGES
 
 

FORT CUMBERLAND (Br)
 
7,134
1943
MANGANESE ORE
FITTED AND
 

FOWEY 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 31/12 – 10/01
 

GENTIAN 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 08/01 – 10/01
 

GLENFINLAS (Br)
 
7,479
1917
W AF PROD
 
 

GUARDSMAN 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 31/12 – 10/01
 

HMS NEGRO (Br)
 
402
1932
 
 
 

IRISBANK (Br)
 
5,627
1930
DATES
 
 

LA NANTAISE 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 08/01 – 10/01
 

LADY MADELEINE 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 31/12 – 10/01
 

NARCISSUS 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 07/01 – 10/01
 

NEW BROOKLYN (Br)
 
6,546
1920
W AF PROD
 
 

NORTHERN PRIDE 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 31/12 – 10/01
 

PIMPERNEL 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 06/01 – 10/01
 

PORT COLBORNE 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 07/01 – 10/01
 

SKOMER 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 07/01 – 10/01
 

ST JOHN 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 07/01 – 10/01
 

STAL (Br)
 
2,242
1921
ORANGES
 
 

STAL (Br)
 
2,242
1921
 
 
 

VAN RUISDAEL (Du)
 
7,862
1938
COPPER, COTTON
 
 

WEST POINT (Br)
 
4,999
1920
ORANGES
 

 

He would then have been on leave from the 10th January 1945 until the 24th January, before travelling to Ripon for his course.  I assume he went back to Keynsham to be with Granny and Susan.

Grandpa’s official record shows that he attended a “Company Commanders Course No. 9” between the 13th February 1945 and the 20th February 1945 at the SME in Ripon.  He seems to have got a “Qualified – Good” result.  This would have related to his future promotion to command the 1st Fortress Company.

This is all confirmed somewhat strangely, by an annotated (by him) Popular Orchestral Concert programme (below)!

reorchestra

For the 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.

Granny must have travelled up to Ripon to be with him, he completed his course on the 20th February, and they met up in Ripon on the 21st.

He was granted additional ‘Embarkation’ leave between the 21st March 1945 and the 3rd April 1945.  After this leave, and after nearly 3 months back in the UK, he travelled back to Gibraltar.

KMS 93 left the Uk on the 4th April 1945, and arrived in Gibraltar at 10.30am on the 6th April 1945.  It comprised 15 merchant ships and 2 escorts.  Clearly, with the imminent defeat of Germany, the need to a large number of escorts had reduced.  The faster journey time was due a direct passage – the removal of the need to take a zig-zag course (to put off following u-boats), since their threat had ended.

Vessel
Pdt.
Tons
Built
Cargo
Notes
 

BASIL (Br)
 
4,913
1928
 
 
 

BELGIAN TRADER (Bel)
 
2,890
1942
 
 
 

BELNOR (Nor)
 
2,871
1926
 
 
 

CITY OF DUNDEE (Br)
 
5,273
1921
 
 
 

EMPIRE STOUR (Br)
 
4,696
1930
 
 
 

FORT LOUISBOURG (Br)
 
7,130
1941
 
 
 

HMS MOORSMAN 
 
 
 
 
ADDL FOR PASSAGE
 

HYDERABAD 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 04/04 – 06/04
 

IERE (Br)
 
835
1929
 
 
 

NORTH DEVON (Br)
 
3,658
1924
 
 
 

PENHALE (Br)
 
4,071
1924
 
 
 

SILVERGUAVA (Br)
 
5,305
1927
 
 
 

SPIRAEA 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 04/04 – 06/04
 

ST ROSARIO (Br)
 
4,312
1937
 
 
 

VAN OSTADE (Du)
 
2,890
1942
 
 
 

WILLIAM BEVAN (US)
 
7,176
1945
 
 
 

WILLOWHERB 
 
 
 
 
ESCORT 04/04 – 06/04


Germany formally surrendered on the 7th May 1945.  All further threat to Gibraltar was removed.  Grandpa photographed the ‘Victory in Europe Day’ (V. E. Day) celebrations in Gibraltar on 8th May 1945, to celebrate the end of the war in Europe and the surrender of Germany.
He was back in Gibraltar by May 1945, as we have a Telegram from him on 5th May 1945 from Gibraltar saying “3 letters arrived at last but not by air, still 5d postage“.

The first picture is of Government House / The Residency (where Chuchill and other VIPs stayed), where the administration of Gibraltar was based, with bunting ready for the Victory Parade.

gibgovernmenthouseve

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 and around the men’s Nissan Huts.

gibparade3 gibparade4

 

Another Telegram on 20th May 1945 – to Granny from Gibraltar, states he was “embarking 11.15 today expect me around Friday 24th“, which would have been Friday 24th May.  This leave is not recorded on his record.

telegramembarking

From the records, he can only have joined 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 – I suspect that this was a convenient way of getting Navy ships to return home now that hostilities were ended.  The full listing is:

Vessel

Pdt.

Tons

Built

Cargo

Notes

AFGHANISTAN (Br)

21

6,992

1940

GENERAL

 

AMBERLEY CASTLE 

 

 

 

 

ESCORT 20/05 – 23/05

ANTIGUA 

 

 

 

 

ESCORT 25/05 – 26/05

BESTIK (Nor)

33

2,684

1920

IRON ORE

 

BRIDPORT 

 

 

 

 

ESCORT 25/05 – 27/05

CAMROSE 

 

 

 

 

ESCORT 25/05 – 27/05

COTTON 

 

 

 

 

ESCORT 25/05 – 26/05

DUNKERQUE (Fr)

 

2,477

1925

GENERAL

 

EMPIRE PARAGON (Br)

41

9,892

1944

GENERAL

 

FLIMSTON (Br)

73

4,674

1925

STORES

 

FORT ASTORIA (Br)

12

7,189

1943

COTTON, GENERAL

FITTED AND

FORT NORMAN (Br)

51

7,133

1942

IRON ORE

 

FORT SLAVE (Br)

72

7,134

1942

GENERAL

FITTED AND

FORT SPOKANE (Br)

52

7,128

1943

 

 

GRODNO (Br)

42

2,458

1919

WINE. GENERAL

JD AT SEA FROM LISBON

HMS LAPAGERIA (Br)

44

174

1916

IN TOW HMS RESTIVE

 

HMS RESTIVE (Br)

44

700

1940

TOWING LA PAGERIA

FELL OUT 23.5, ARRIVED FALMOUTH 27.5

HMS TANTALUS 

 

 

 

 

 

KNARESBOROUGH CASTLE 

 

 

 

 

ESCORT 20/05 – 27/05

LEEDS CASTLE 

 

 

 

 

ESCORT 20/05 – 27/05

LUNENBURG 

 

 

 

 

ESCORT 25/05 – 27/05

MALAYAN PRINCE (Br)

61

8,953

1926

GENERAL

 

MARIA L (Gk)

 

4,707

1912

IRON ORE

 

MELROSE ABBEY (Br)

 

1,924

1929

 

RESCUE SHIP, JD FROM OS 130

MIMOSA (Gk)

13

3,071

1905

PHOSPHATES

JD AT SEA FROM CASABLANCA

OTTINGE (Br)

23

2,870

1940

PYRITES

 

P.L.M.13 (Br)

22

3,754

1921

IRON ORE

 

RAGNHILD (Nor)

53

2,866

1941

PYRITES

 

RUSHEN CASTLE 

 

 

 

 

ESCORT 25/05 – 27/05

SAMDERWENT (Br)

11

7,219

1944

MAIZE, OILCAKE

 

SAMSHEE (Br)

31

7,210

1944

GENERAL

 

SAMSPEED (Br)

63

7,210

1944

AMMO CASES

 

SAMTAY (Br)

62

7,219

1943

AMMO CASES

 

SOMERSET COAST (Br)

 

1,097

1920

GENERAL

 

TAI YIN (Nor)

71

7,077

1929

GENERAL

 

TINTERN ABBEY (Br)

 

2,471

1939

IRON ORE

 

VILLE D’AMIENS (Br)

43

6,975

1924

GENERAL

JD AT SEA FROM LISBON

YEARBY (Br)

32

5,666

1929

 

[http://convoyweb.org.uk/mks/index.html?mks.php?convoy=102G!~mksmain]

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.  But we will never know which ship he actually travelled on.

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 daily position data, which has been recorded here (http://uboat.net/allies/warships/ship/3517.html).

 

On 3rd June 1945, his army record shows that Grandpa was made an “Acting Major’, as before, this seems to have preceded a formal promotion (with an acting rank).

He was back in Gibraltar when 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.

On 3rd September 1945, he was formally given a commission as a Temporary Major, this is confirmed by the Army Lists.

grandpatmaj

The following picture from 1945 shows him front an centre (doing a little man-spreading!) with his command, the 1st Fortress Company, Royal Engineers.  He was now the Commanding Officer or CO.

1stfortresscoy

From the ‘History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, Vol. X’, we know that by the Autumn of 1945, “a CE, Colonel R L C Colvill commanded a works organisation of two DCsRE and 1, 32 and 72 (formerly 172) Companies collectively known as the Fortress Engineers and commanded by Lieut Colonel H Grattan.“.  This is confirmed by an order (copy below), for ‘Fortress Engineers’.  1st Fortress Coy. must have been Section A of this new Engineers unit on Gibraltar.

Grandpa was in Gibraltar over Christmas and New Year of 1946 when my mum was born on 2nd January 1946.  We have the Telegram from him to Granny (below) from Gibraltar dated 12th January 1946 when he heard the news.

telegrammum

This birth was announced in the Friday 4th January 1946 edition of the Western Daily Press (Bristol Post), with “LAMB. —On Jan. 2, at Clovelly Nursing Home, Keynsham, to Mary (nee Milton), wife of Major J. H. C. Lamb, R.E., Gibraltar.”.

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

“SECTION ‘A’

FORTRESS ENGINEERS, GIBRALTAR 

DATE 12 JAN ’46

3. BIRTHS

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 his receiving the ‘Defence 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.”

armyorder

The Defence Medal is was a special campaign medal awarded to British subjects for non-operational military service (or special civilian service) during the second world war.  It covered the duration of the war in Europe, and was awarded to him because he served abroad in a non-operational area or in an area subject to threat.  It included military personnel like him, who served in headquarters, bases or airfields (like Gibraltar).

We know that Gibraltar was a target during his time there, not only were the Abwehr trying to sabotage the base with bombs (as mentioned above), but it was also at threat from 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.  Air raids were also carried out on Gibraltar whilst he was there.  And he was at considerable threat from U-Boats, air attack or surface raiders on his journey’s to and from Gibraltar, as we know from his journey on convoy KMS.10.

 

He embarked at Gibraltar and sailed to England for the last time, on 20th May 1946 (it is not possible to trace this final journey, since the need for convoys had been removed), having been on ‘Overseas Service’ since 19th February 1943.  Some 3 years and 3 months.

On 25th May 1946, he was given his ‘notification of release’, at Aldershot, England.  And on the 24th July 1946, Grandpa was formally 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.”

scan-9

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.”

 

Post War, Professional and Personal Life, 1946 – 1988

Grandpa returned to civilian life in 1946, and would go on to use the experience and skills he had learn’t in the Royal Engineers, in major sewage treatment and water management tunnelling projects in the UK

His first civilian job was 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, Somerset.  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 he 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 an Engineer, it covered the 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”!

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-12-40-05

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

By 1948 or early 1949, he 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 he became Borough Engineer for Dorking Rural District Council.  My Uncle Andrew was born here on 30th December 1953, but sadly only lived until April 1954.

 

Around 1957, he 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 with 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.  His expertise as a chartered surveyor and consulting engineer was invaluable in growing the business.

Interestingly, in all his subsequent professional work, he 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 ,Somerset.  My Uncle Julian was born here on 25th April 1959.

 

One of the largest projects that Grandpa worked on, 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 concrete-lined tunnel running 5 miles from the River Frome at Eastville Park to the Avon Gorge, at depths of up to 90m below ground level.  It was completed in 1962.

The tunnel was initially designed by Peter Steele and Bernard Smission, who had invented the ‘Energy Dissipating Vortex Drop Pipe System’ (catchy name!), and two of these devices, later called ‘Hyrdo Brakes’, were constructed in the tunnel.  [Hydro Brakes were later used in Chicago, New York and Plymouth.]

He 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 large bucket down into the tunnel.  And at 4-5m in diameter, the tunnel was large enough to walk around in, and even drive a car through!  I’ve seen pictures of this tunnel with Tim and Grandpa in it, but unfortunately no longer have them.

My uncle Tim and Bob Smisson (son of Bernard Smisson) both joined Grandpa’s company in 1963.

In April 1966, he 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 and made a Chartered Engineer.

Curiously, on 16th October 1970, he was in his office talking to someone on the telephone and looking out of his office window at Clevedon sea front, when Clevedon Pier collapsed into the sea under stress testing.  He was quite shocked.

Between the late-60’s and early-70’s, he, 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 him 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 him.  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, he was consulting 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.  He is mentioned in the following:

screen-shot-2017-03-02-at-13-27-29

On 12th November 1976, he was registered by the ‘European Federation of National Engineering Associations’ (FEANI), into the ‘European Register of Higher Technical Professions, National Office, British National Committee for FEANI’.  This logs his educational history e.g. that his ‘Member of the Inst Mun Eng (1947)’ and ‘CEng (1967)’, and that it took a duration of 7 years study.

By late 1978 his other partners had now retired, which left him in the large offices on Elton Road with just a handful of engineers including Uncle Tim and Bob Smisson.  Bon and Tim had been working with Bob’s father, 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 – I remember visiting them there.  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.

He 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 he 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, Granny and Grandpa moved to Cedar Lodge in Tickenham, Somerset, a large house in large grounds on Tickenham hill – which is where I have many happy memories of exploring and playing in the woods.  When Cedar Lodge became too large for Granny and Grandpa, they moved to a small bungalow in Kenn, Somerset.

Grandpa died in on 11th March 1988, aged 71 years old.

 

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.  Even from a young age, I was aware of his many little eccentricities.

These manifested themselves in many ways, from his treating his many 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 an 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, ignoring the fact it had taken us nearly an hour in petrol!

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 inside 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 but I took no offence.

On one day trip with them to the Cotswolds, Castle Combe, 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, and watching the West Indies terrorising the English.  I also remember watching rugby’s Calcutta Cup against Scotland, and the Boat Race.  His passion for these events helped 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 his children or 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 knowingly 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 and deep an ‘inspection’ hole had been dug.

On their moving to Kenn, I used  to cycle over to see them, and help cut the grass.  I would always have a good chat with him about something.  Generally he would like overseeing what I was doing, and adding helpful comments as to how I should be doing things.

I remember visiting them one day with my 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 window frame 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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4 Replies to “John Horace Charles Lamb”

  1. Just one point. There were two different 2nd Gibraltar Brigades. One was the 2nd Gibraltar Infantry Brigade, the other the 2nd Gibraltar Brigade Royal Engineers. When the Infantry Brigade moved on to Italy the Engineers all remained.

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    1. Thank you for the information – there is a surprising lack of reliable sources on the Military history of the period in Gibraltar, so this is useful. I’m awaiting my Grandfathers full military record (from the MOD) which will hopefully fill in some gaps, and I will revisit this section as well.

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