Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Frederick Lamb: A Wartime Incident

Frederick Lamb: A Wartime Incident

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 26, 2010

Frederick Lamb was born late in 1874 in Birmingham, England. He and his wife Annie Smith joined the Church in 1909; their family – eventually reaching 10 children – became members of the Sparkbrook Branch in the Birmingham Conference.

Fred was called into the service of king and country with the outbreak of World War I and worked through his late 30s and early 40s in support of the British Navy. It was a much rougher life, among much rougher men, than he had been used to, but he tried to live his religion. He liked the men he worked with, despite their roughness – he wrote to his wife, “How little they know that I pray for them daily! God bless them!”

His letters home were soon datelined “somewhere in France” and sounded homesick: “In this camp of several thousands of men, I, possibly, am the only Latter-day Saint. I am pretty lonesome sometimes, thinking how insignificant I must be.” “May our prayers be answered soon, and this terrible business be over. I miss the society of my wife and children, as I also miss meeting with the saints.”

Early in June, 1917, Fred was part of a force assigned to unload a ship. Something happened that he describes only as “some confusion” – perhaps an order was misunderstood or ignored; perhaps cargo shifted and someone was injured, there was certainly shouting and disrespect and cursing. “I was arrested,” Fred wrote, “and taken to the guardroom, and left there for nine hours, charged with insolence and using obscene language.”

During those nine hours of Fred’s imprisonment, something remarkable happened. Fred was one of 28 men assigned to a “hut” – all 27 of his barracks mates were, in Fred’s term, “up in arms” over his arrest. “Several” – he didn’t report how many – of the non-commissioned officers under whom Fred had served at one time or another protested his arrest, claiming that they didn’t believe Fred had been insolent in any way, and they were adamant that he had not used obscene language at any time.

Two of Fred’s barracks mates, whom he described as “two of the worst men in the hut,” sought out the minister at the Y.M.C.A. to protest Fred’s arrest. In the minister’s words, the men said, “Now, sir, if it had been us, it would have been different. But this chap we have never heard say anything out of place; in fact, he often checks us when we are carrying on.” The minister believed them; Fred and he had had “many a pleasant conversation” about religion and faith. The minister went immediately to see Fred’s commanding officer.

Their multiple testimonials to Fred’s character – that he didn’t drink, that he conducted himself as a gentleman, and above all, that he never used foul language – convinced his officer that a mistake had been made, and Fred was released.

The incident, “although very unpleasant for me,” Fred wrote to Annie, “turned out to be really encouraging, and goes to prove how little we know concerning ourselves and our Father’s ways.”

Fred returned home safely at the end of the war and resumed his activity in the Sparkbrook Branch. In 1939, he and Annie emigrated to the United States. One of their first activities was to go to the Salt Lake Temple to be sealed to each other, and to have several of their deceased children sealed to them.

Fred passed away in 1962.



  1. Another wonderful story. Thanks.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — April 26, 2010 @ 8:48 am

  2. Let’s see, Ardis:

    Bro. Lamb was born in late 1874, which would have made him 39 years old in August 1914 when Great Britain declared war on Germany. And, if he served until the Armistice in November 1918, he would have served until about his 44th birthday (depends on what “late” means). I guess that qualifies as “late 30s and early 40s.”

    I’m puzzled by your “in support of the British Navy”–was he a civilian employee of the Royal Navy? He would have been a bit long in the tooth to be called to active duty at the outbreak of the war–unless he had been an officer, but the story suggests that he wasn’t.

    That’s all minor nitpicking, though. Another great story of a faithful Latter-day Saint who deserves to be remembered. Thanks!

    Comment by Mark B. — April 26, 2010 @ 9:19 am

  3. Mark, I hedged that way because I do not know exactly what role he filled. He was serving in some capacity that took him to a war zone, kept him away from home against his druthers, made him subject to military discipline, put him under the direction of non-commissioned officers, and accomplished some sort of war work. But I don’t think he was regular Navy, because of his age, and I don’t have any knowledge of what other capacities might fit the criteria of what I know he did do. So I hedged, hoping someone with greater military experience or familiarity with British wartime conditions would speak up and say, “Oh, I wonder if he was a member of ….”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 26, 2010 @ 9:34 am

  4. As ever, I’m amazed at your ability to unearth the great and important stories of ordinary people’s lives, Ardis. Five gold stars!

    Comment by Alison — April 26, 2010 @ 9:37 am

  5. am at work, so briefly: my guess would be the Royal Naval Reserve.

    My Grandad (then aged 46) served in a similar role in WW2 with the RAF: spent his days building mock airfields for the Nazis to bomb. Then went home at weekends to tend his potato patch, but wore a uniform and was subject to all military rules and regulations.

    Will look out more later.

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — April 26, 2010 @ 9:50 am

  6. Great story. Thanks.

    So I hedged, hoping someone with greater military experience or familiarity with British wartime conditions would speak up and say, “Oh, I wonder if he was a member of ….”

    You aren’t the only one who has “hedged” on a subject hoping a reader would speak up with better information. Getting input from others is part of why I blog.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — April 26, 2010 @ 9:56 am

  7. I think it was Pres. Hinckley who said, “the most persuasive gospel tract is a Latter-day Saint life well lived.”

    I appreciate stories like this one to remind me that I am “daily sowing countless seeds of good and ill.”

    Comment by Clark — April 26, 2010 @ 12:08 pm

  8. Wow — what a fortunate reversal! A remarkable story. Thanks.

    Comment by Hunter — April 26, 2010 @ 12:21 pm

  9. As usual, I really enjoyed your post. It would have fit perfectly in our RS lesson yesterday. Several examples of people living their religion and being examples to others were talked about.

    Comment by Maurine — April 26, 2010 @ 4:17 pm

  10. I’ve been hunting for Fred in the National Archives online, amongst the naval records. Unfortunately, many service records were destroyed by enemy action in WW2, so are far from complete.

    The only possible match I found is a Frederick Cyril Lamb born in Birmingham, but the date given (and it is unclear from just the index what the date signifies) is 8 June 1901.

    Have checked the records of the Royal Naval Division and the
    Royal Naval Reserves.


    Comment by Anne (U.K) — April 27, 2010 @ 2:36 am

  11. Thank you, Anne. So many of our personnel records from World War I were destroyed in a warehouse fire in St. Louis in 1973. So disastrous much can happen to pieces of paper over the years …

    Thanks for looking for him, and for telling me that a Reserve did exist.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 27, 2010 @ 7:40 am

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.
TrackBack URI