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Lamb, William James

William James Lamb
Victory Medal
Victory Medal
British War Medal
British War Medal
Private William James Lamb (5078)
Died of Wounds on Friday 19th May 1916, aged 18
Son of George & Helen Lamb
Father's occupation: Cowman
Born 10th April 1898 at Hartley Row, Hants
2 sisters, 3 brothers, position in family: 6
Relatives: Brother of Isaac Lamb
Infant School:Waltham St. Lawrence
Senior School:Hurst Boys
Admitted:Tuesday 1st October 1907
Age on admission:9
Local address: Hatchgate Cottage, Hurst
Enlisted:Reading, Mid 1915
Regiment:Royal Berkshire
Battalion:1st/4th Bn.
Previous unit:2/4 Bn Berkshires
Went overseas:After 1 Jan 1916
Died:Friday 19th May 1916
Cause:Died of Wounds
Battalion at:Hebuterne
Commemorated:Grave at Gezaincourt Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme

William Lamb was born in Hartley Row, Hampshire in 1898 to George and Helen Lamb, and was the youngest of six children. By the age of two he was living with his three brothers and two sisters in Park Farm Cottages, Waltham St. Lawrence where his father was a cowman and agricultural labourer. William attended Infants School in Waltham St Lawrence and became a pupil in Hurst Boys School when the family moved to Hatchgate Cottages, Hurst in October 1907.

In 1915 William enlisted into the army in Reading despite being only seventeen years of age. He joined the Territorial Army and was assigned to the 1st/4th (Territorial) Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment. In doing so he followed in the footsteps of older brother Isaac Lamb, who was a regular soldier with the Regiment.

After undergoing training, William went to France at some time in early 1916 and joined his Battalion, probably at Hebuterne. The 1st/4th Battalion spent ten months at Hebuterne and endured life in the interminable mud of the miserably wet winter of 1915-1916, only occasionally distracted by night patrols and trench raids. In some places No Man's Land was up to 900 yards wide and in April the Battalion helped in a plan to straighten the British line by digging a new trench in front of the existing one. This risky escapade in No Man's Land was accomplished with stealth during one night, but to no avail as the German guns virtually obliterated the new trench within a few days.

On 8th May 1916 the Battalion took over an unfamiliar section of the line which had been the scene of heavy fighting the previous year. The ground was pitted with shell holes and littered with bones. The line was close to the enemy, difficult to defend and the communications trenches were few and very long. By the end of the week the Battalion was looking forward to being relieved next day and glad to have come through without any casualties. However on 15th May the German shelling seemed to become more precise with the suggestion that the guns were registering on key targets.

Then all fell quiet until midnight when a heavy bombardment opened up on the left. This proved to be a feint to divert the British guns because at 12.30 a.m. the German bombardment was directed onto the positions held by 1st/4th Battalion and continued unabated until 2.45a.m. As the bombardment swept over the British lines, the German infantry made their advance and heavy fighting took place. Some defensive positions were overrun and the front line was penetrated, but the Battalion put up stout resistance and held off the Germans until dawn when the attack ceased. The Battalion War Diary described the events as follows:

Monday 15th May 1916
Working parties as before.
Their guns were active most of the day - 77mm, 10.5cm and 15cm, especially the latter. No registration was done.
It was a very quiet night up to 12.30a.m., when a very heavy bombardment, followed by a raid, was made. A detailed report of this is attached.
Weather:- a fine day with rain at intervals.
Casualties - 18 Killed, 51 Wounded, 29 Missing.
Tuesday 16th May 1916
The Acting GOC, the Brigadier, and GSO 1 came up about 9.0a.m.
All the morning was spent in repairing the damage where possible.
We were relieved by the 8th WORCESTERS, the relief beginning about 3.30p.m. Parties of C and D Companies were left behind to search the ground and carry out the dead and wounded who could not be moved by day.
The Battalion moved to bivouacs at COUIN.
Capt Aldworth remained behind to attend the funeral of 12 who were buried at night.
Weather:- a fine day.

Losses were heavy with B Company reduced to half its strength. William Lamb was one of the wounded. It was difficult to evacuate the wounded as the enemy was firing rifle grenades at the gaps in the damaged communications trenches. All of the casualties were evacuated by 10a.m. but it then took up to four hours for a stretcher to reach the dressing station in Hebuterne village. From here William would have been transported to 29th Casualty Clearing Station for treatment. This was located in Gezaincourt near Doullens, 15 miles behind the lines.

On 19th May 1916 William Lamb died from his wounds and was buried in Gezaincourt Communal Cemetery Extension where he lies in a Commonwealth war grave. He was eighteen years old. His brother Isaac had already been killed in action near Ypres in November 1914. He was twenty-three years old.


William Lamb at Gezaincourt Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme
Gezaincourt Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in morning
We will remember them.
Lawrence Binyon