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Christian Lamb believes everyone should have the chance to hear Handel’s Messiah

I can’t read or do anything else while I’m listening to it. I have to give it my full attention – 100-year-old Christian Lamb tells Christine Manby

Sunday 08 November 2020 16:02

This was nearly Christian Lamb’s second pandemic. Born at the tail end of the Spanish flu, Lamb recently marked her 100th birthday with a series of socially distanced celebrations. Her life so far has been a series of adventures. In 1939, at the age of 18, she was spending a year in France ahead of going to university when her father called her back to the UK. “I hadn’t read the papers so I had no idea what was going on,” she says lightly, as we sit and drink tea. But with her father an admiral in the royal navy, of course Lamb would do her bit for the war effort. Having quickly been taught to drive by her grandmother’s chauffeur, Lamb enrolled in the Women’s royal navy. As the title of one of her books puts it, “I only joined for the hat”.

Training in London during the Blitz did not dent Lamb’s youthful confidence. “I didn’t for one moment think I was going to be blown up.” Though she had a few close shaves. Catching the number 13 bus back to the “Wrennery” one evening, Lamb and her friends hopped off several stops early to see a film on Baker Street. The following morning, taking the same route in reverse, they found the cinema had completely disappeared. Later, a stick of bombs fell on the road where she and her fellow Wrens were living, devastating the houses opposite with many lives lost.

Lamb was subsequently appointed to the Coalhouse Fort in Tilbury, where she worked as degaussing recorder in charge. Degaussing is the process of decreasing an object’s magnetic field. In this case, the navy was degaussing ships so they wouldn’t attract magnetic mines. Later, she was appointed to be a plotting officer in Plymouth and then in Belfast, earning the rank of third officer WRNS and the right to wear the tricorn hat she jokes attracted her to the service. She met her future husband, Lieutenant Commander John Lamb DSC, when his ship was in Belfast for repairs. After a 10-day courtship, they became engaged and Lieutenant Commander Lamb went back to sea on HMS Oribi. Lamb was among the plotting officers who took down signals as Oribi escorted the ill-fated convoy ONS-5 to the US at the height of the Atlantic Battle.

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