Private William Lamb

Regiment: 2nd Battalion Hampshire Regiment
Service No: 25022
Date & place of birth: 4th qtr. 1885 at Romsey, Hampshire
Date & place of death: 19 August 1918 (aged 32) near Hazebrouck, France

 Private William Lamb was born towards the end of 1885 the son of William Edward Lamb, a cattle drover and his wife Elizabeth being the third of nine children. In 1911 he was lodging with his wife’s parents in Addlestone, Surrey and working as a cattleman. He had three children at his death, the eldest born in 1912 and a fourth child was born posthumously. He enlisted at Winchester into the Hampshire Regiment. He was wounded in 1917 and spent some time in a hospital at Langemarck, north of Ypres before returning to his regiment. He was killed during the Allied advance in August 1918 after the German spring offensive had been halted and reversed.

Family background

William Lamb was born at the end of 1885 the son of William Edward Lamb and his wife Elizabeth née Jones who were then living in the Greatbridge/Timsbury area north of Romsey in Hampshire. He was baptised in Romsey on 7 April 1886.

His father is first listed as a shepherd in 1881 but by 1891 he had become a cattle drover and by 1901 a cattle dealer; his listing in 1911 is as a farmer and when he died in 1921 his estate and effects were worth over £4600 at probate valuation. The father and his first wife were married in 1881 and William Lamb was the third of nine children, five girls and four boys.  The family lived in the Timsbury area throughout William’s childhood; in the 1901 census William is still living at home with his parents (at Gate House Cottage on the Greatbridge estate) and is listed as working as a ‘Milker on Farm’ thus showing a probable connection to his father’s business in cattle.

In 1905, his mother died and in February 1907 his father re-married, to Kate Cole. William Lamb moved away from Romsey at some point in this decade and in the 1911 census is listed as working as a Cowman and lodging with Henry Booker and his wife Florence in Adlestone in Surrey. The Booker’s daughter Lucy became William Lamb’s wife although the date of their marriage has not been traced.

On 11 February 1912, their eldest son, William Kenneth Lamb was born in Farncombe, near Godalming, Surrey and William Lamb is named as a farm bailiff on the birth certificate. This was the first of four children who would be born to the couple, the others being:

Evelyn Lucy born at Greatham near Petersfield on 9 January 1914
Stanley Albert born at Romsey on 7 October 1915
Harold Henry Montague born at Rake near Petersfield on 18 December 1918, four months after his father’s death.

The Booker family lived in the Iping area for many years being listed in censuses in Trotton in 1891 and in Iping itself in 1901. Lucy Lamb’s brother, Albert Booker was also killed in France in the Great War on 29 March 1917, while serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery.

It should also be noted that Lucy Lamb’s mother’s maiden name was Glue and that Montague William Glue was also listed on memorials in Iping although no close relationship has been traced. Lucy Lamb’s posthumous son born in December 1918 was given a middle name of Montague which may be a reference to the connection to the Glue family.

Military service

William Lamb is recorded as having enlisted at Winchester and he served in the 2nd Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment, in about June 1916.

There was a tradition in the family that William had left farming as a career at his family’s behest only to find that there was then no exemption from conscription when it was introduced for married men in May 1916.

The 2nd Battalion was engaged on the Somme in 1916 and then in 1917 in the fighting north of Ypres. A photo survives of William Lamb in the field hospital at Langemark, north of Ypres and he is known to have spent time away from his unit at the end of 1917.

Death & commemoration

It is not known when William Lamb rejoined his regiment but his battalion was engaged in the various battles in the spring of 1918 trying to stem the major German offensive near the river Lys. In the summer the Allies were counter-attacking to regain ground lost earlier in the year. Having re-taken the village of Meteren in July a further attack was launched on 18 August to capture the Outersteene Ridge and thus extend the Allied line to the east. The second battalion of the Hampshires formed part of this attack.

Their war diary for the 18 August reads:

Zero hour 11am. All objectives gained by 12.30pm and prisoners came streaming back. The 86th Brigade on the right were however held up by some of the enemy near a few railway trains filled with ballast and the Battalion was ordered to form a defensive flank to the 87th Brigade by lining a portion of the HAZEBROUCK – BAILLEUL Railway and pushing south. Bn H Q moved to Botha Farm, south east of STRAZEELE.

Casualties: Other Ranks 9 sick to hospital.

19th August – The 86th Brigade advanced this morning and thus cut the Bn out. More prisoners taken the total for the Division now being over 500. In the evening the Bn withdrew to support positions

Casualties: Other ranks 2 killed 2 Wounded

William Lamb died on 19 August 1918.

The family still possesses a letter of condolence written to his widow by one of his comrades, written in pencil on a small, much folded and  now tattered piece of paper, the text of which is worth quoting in full since it must be typical of many:

24/9/18                                                                            

Pte F. Martin
27654 X Coy
No 1 Platoon
2nd Hants
B.E.F
France

Dear Mrs Lamb

It is with my deepest sympathy that I write these few lines to you to tell you how my poor chum came by his death

he was killed instantly by concussion from a german shell which pitched on the parapet of the new trench we were digging at the time so the poor man did not suffer as he was gone and am pleased to tell you he was buried decently at the little british cemetery at a place called Borre about three or four kilos or five english miles from Hazebrouck

i think Mr. Harrington that lives somewhere close to you helped to bury him so he told me. But it was a blow to me as well as we had been old friends together when he was out here in seventeen before he was wounded at Langemarck

we were working together the time before when we were in the line but i was not with him the night he was killed but we are very sorry to lose him in the platoon as he was liked by everyone as he could be trusted in the line as well as out and always took care of himself for safetys and the childrens sake as we had many a talk together being both on in years

i wish this business was over altogether for everyones sake and always think of the poor women and children left fatherless but i suppose it is Gods will that he should be taken although we could ill afford to spare so good a man?

frank Pennington told me he had written to you and sent his few belongings home to you. I am glad as you cannot always do what you promise one another as circumstances don’t always admit it.

Now Mrs Lamb i don’t think there is much more to tell you and that your poor husband was buried decently and a cross erected over him so don’t let that worry you about that

i have had a lot of trouble myself so know you feel about things and any time i am passing that way again shall have a look at the place where my poor chum lies trusting that God will comfort you and the poor children in these times of stress of one who is gone but not forgotten

I remain.   Your sincerely
F. Martin”

Unfortunately, we have not been able to identify Private F. Martin.

Private William Lamb was buried at Borre British Cemetery (25km east of Saint Omer). The death of Private William Lamb was recorded on the War Memorial in Iping and he is also believed to be the William Lamb named on the memorial at Romsey Abbey near where he was born.

Subsequent family history

William Lamb left two sons and a daughter at his death and another son was born shortly afterwards. His widow continued to live in the Iping and Milland area and she re-married in 1925, to Frank Sandham. She died in May 1965.

His daughter, Evelyn Lucy died in October 1915, aged 101, having lived in the Midhurst area for most of her life and her family are still represented in the district.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project