Papa Mike - Mike: Failed to Return
On the evening of 16 June 1944 a force of 323 aircraft formed up to launch a strike against the German Synthetic Oil plant in Sterkrade in the Ruhr Valley, Northern Germany. Fourteen Mosquito pathfinders lead a heavy bomber force consisting of 162 Halifax bombers and 147 Lancaster bombers. One of the Lancaster bombers from 103 Squadron was Papa Mike–Mike. This Lancaster bomber carried a crew of seven.
Type 1 Lancaster same type of aircraft as PM-P
Air Gunner Sgt. Roland Fitchett RAFVR[i]
Air Gunner Sgt. Frederick Ralph Hardy RAF
Wireless Operator Sgt. John McMinn RAFVR
Air Bombardier Sgt. George James Ware RAFVR
Navigator Sgt. Douglas John Lawler RAF
Flight Engineer Sgt. David Lumgail Whamond RAF
Pilot Officer Maurice Lambert RNZAF
Maurice Lambert was born in Wellington on the 4th of November 1915. He was of Italian descent, his grandfather Apostle Lambert had immigrated to New Zealand in the late 1870’s and married his first wife in 1881[ii]. Apostle was listed as a fisherman at Paremata and he and Annie (nee Alpin) had three children. Apostle remarried in 1891[iii] to Jane Emma Barry and they had six children, their eldest, Apostle[iv] was born in 1892. In December 1902, Apostle died suddenly, while painting his fishing boat[v], leaving Jane Emma to look after the six children, the youngest of which was only 10 days old. As the family had been left nothing, the community organised a dance to support the family in January 1903.[vi] The Lamberts coped and remained in Paremata. Jane became the Post Mistress[vii] at Paremata and owner of the Paremata Railway Grocery Store.[viii] Charles Lambert the second son, purchased the store from his mother in 1930. The eldest son Apostle moved into Wellington and in 1911[ix] married Annie Ramessen, they had Joyce Irene (1913[x]) and Maurice (1915[xi]) and possibly others.
Maurice was raised in Khandallah, attending Khandallah Primary School and then the Wellington Technical College. On leaving school Maurice was employed as a warehouseman for Bing Harris and Company of Wellington before he entered the bakery trade. On the 12th of September 1936 Maurice married Veronica Rose Edna May Cecilia McGlarry[xii] and they later moved to Plimmerton where they were living when Maurice enlisted in the Royal New Zealand Air force. While a baker by trade, his enlistment papers describe Maurice as a married man with no children, working as a salesman for the Maple Furnishing Company.
Maurice began his service at Whenuapai, Auckland on the 30th May 1942 and was employed there as NZ425579 Airman Lambert on ground duties until he was posted to aircrew at the Initial Training Wing in Rotorua on 15th October 1942. Maurice proceeded to No3 Elementary Flying Training School at Harewood, Christchurch on 25th November. On 6 February 1943 Maurice was transferred to No1 Service Flying Training School at Wigram Christchurch where on 12 April 1943 he was awarded the flying badge, then on 5th June 1943 promoted to Sergeant.
On 20th June 1943 he embarked for the United Kingdom. Sergeant Lambert arrived at the No 12 Royal New Zealand Air force Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre, Brighton on 1st August 1943 and on the 24th of August 1943 was posted to No2 (Pilots) Advanced Flying Unit, Perton, Shropshire. At the end of September 1943 Maurice attended a beam approach training course at No1520 Beam Approach Training Flight, Holme on Spalding Moor, Yorkshire, then to N021 (Pilots) Advanced Flying Unit, Morton in Marsh, Gloucestershire.
On 5th December 1943 Sergeant Lambert was promoted to Flight Sergeant and was posted to No 30 Operational Training Unit, Hixon, Staffordshire on 21 December where he converted to Wellington bomber aircraft. At Hixon he completed his training before proceeding on 31st March 1944, to No 1667 Conversion Unit, Sandtoft Yorkshire for conversion to Halifax bomber aircraft. On 3rd of May 1944 was commissioned in the rank of Pilot Officer. It was during May that Pilot Officer Lambert was posted to No 1 Lancaster Finishing School, Hemswell, Lincolnshire, for conversion to Lancaster bombers.
On 27th May 1944 Maurice was posted to No 103 Squadron, Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire, for his operational flying. With his crew, Pilot Officer Lambert’s first operational mission was a daylight raid on the 14th of June 1944, on the German Naval facilities at Le Harve, France. The raid resulted in the sinking of five German E-boats and seriously hindered the German ability to launch attacks against the Normandy beach head.
The crew’s second mission was the Sterkrade Raid on 16/17th June 1944. An extract from 550 Squadron which supplied 19 bombers for the raiding force reports;[xiii]’
“Over the target conditions of 10/10th cloud, tops over 10000ft and from two to three thousand feet thick prevailed. However the glow from the PFF markers could be clearly seen through the cloud and the concentrations was not as good as had been the case recently. Crews opinions were mixed and it is possible that bombing was somewhat scattered. Flak at the target was reported moderate to intense, it being heavier than on previous sorties to the Ruhr, and night fighters were actives.”
Of the 321 bombers that went to Sterkrade on the night 16/17th June 1944, 31 were shot down, nearly all by night fighters.
One of bombers was Pilot Officer Lambert’s Papa Mike-Mike of 103 Squadron.
The squadron tally board would have simply been marked PM-P / FTR.
NZ 425570 Pilot Officer Lambert
Pilot Officer Lambert and his crew would have initially been posted as missing but as no news of the crew was received they were posted as ‘missing believed killed’ and finally Pilot Officer Lambert was reported in November 1945[xiv] that he was ‘presumed killed.’ The crew of Papa Mike – Mike have never been recovered and are remembered on the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey.
Veronica Lambert remarried in 1946.
Maurice’s mother Annie received ‘her boys’ Memorial Cross issued to servicemen and women killed in WW2.
Notes: Apostles brothers Charles and Peter, sisters Emma and Jane attended Plimmerton School.[xv]
Thanks to Andrew MacDonald, Australia who provided information identifying Maurice Lambert and sourcing the photo of Pilot Officer Maurice Lambert.
Allan Dodson – June 2014
Lancaster Mark 1 – Wikipedia
NZ 425579 Pilot Officer Lambert RNZAF – Andrew MacDonald
NZ Memorial Cross – British War Medal Guide
[i] RAFVR – Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
[ii] Marriage - Aplin/Lambert - BDM 1881/1395
[iii] Marriage- Barry/Lambert – BDM 1891/1492
[iv] Birth - Apostle Lambert – BDM 1892/2126
[v] A Paremata Fisherman – Evening Post 17 November 1902
[vi] Benefit Mrs A Lambert of Paremata – Evening Post 10 January 1903
[vii] Boy Accidentally Shot – Paremata Post Mistress – Evening Post 5 January 1905
[viii] Fire at Store – Evening Post
[ix] Marriage – Rasmussen/Lambert – BDM 1911/7061
[x] Birth – Joyce Irene Lambert – BDM 1913/3606
[xi] Birth – Maurice Lambert – BDM 1915/