Fireman Harry Lambert of East Cowes Fire Brigade died as a result of injuries sustained in an accident on the night of 5 December 1940, aged 51.

 

Harry was born in 1889. His father George Henry, died the same year and possibly before Harry's birth. The 1891 Census shows that Harry's mother Arabella is working at a laundry to keep Harry and his three youngest siblings fed and clothed. Fortunately two elder children, Elizabeth (17) and William (14) are also working to keep the family afloat. 

By the time of the next Census, when Harry was just 12 years old, only he and elder brother William (14) remain at home in Castle Street with their mother, William was already working as a labourer at one of the ship yards.

At some stage in his young adulthood Harry married Harriet Frances (nee Culling) and by 1908, when Harry was just 19, they had their first son Harry Arthur. Before the war he was joined by brothers George Henry Albert and John William.

It is known that Harry served during the war, although his service records and his unit have not been unearthed. He was discharged in 1917 due to deafness. 

He returned from the war to work for Saunders-Roe and at some stage joined East Cowes Fire Brigade. His only mentions in the Press were for representing his brigade at the funeral of Shanklin's Fireman A.G. Carpenter in 1933 and for marching in an IWFBF parade in Cowes on 28 July 1935.

By the time of the 1939 Register Harry and Harriet were living at 36 Yarborough Road, and it was to this home he was headed when he left Saunders-Roe just before 8pm on the evening of 5 December 1940.

The blackout was in force and with good reason it seemed. At the Newport headquarters of the County ARP the Watch Officer annotated the log book of that evening with several references to an unexploded bomb arriving at Leopards Farm in Havenstreet, while five HE bombs hit Ryde's Riboleau Street followed by five more in George Street, one at St John's railway yard, one in the High Street and one at the junction of Newport Street and John Street. The diary of Ryde Fireman Colin Weeks makes reference to these explosions.

Whilst no evidence exists to suggest similar occurrences in East Cowes, no doubt the blasts from Ryde could be heard and it was amid this turbulent and darkened atmosphere that Harry made his way along Clarence Road towards the junction of Osborne Road and Yarborough Road. An eye witness who was about to cross Clarence Road near Groves and Guttridge halted his progress as a sound alerted him to something. In the centre of the road out of the blackness came a cyclist, travelling at too great a speed for the dark conditions according to the witness who saw the cycle veer to the right as if turning into Osborne Road.

A few seconds later he heard a crash that he stated was consistent with the cyclist hitting something. He proceeded to the spot and found the cyclist, his bicycle and another person laid in the road; the person struck was Harry. The witness and cyclist carried Harry to the adjacent ARP post on the junction and from there he was conveyed to the Frank James Hospital where he died shortly after.

At the inquest the cyclist, another Saunders-Roe employee who knew Harry, claimed he applied no brakes and struck him at 8-10mph as he had no idea there was anyone in the road. 

Harry's death in this manner wasn't the first such fatality. Earlier in the year the County Press reported that road deaths in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight had increased by 40% since the blackout. However the death of one of the Island's firefighting community brought the service out in strength for his funeral on 10 December.

50 members of the local brigade and AFS contingent attended under Captain Bertie Knapp alongside Third Officer Dennis of Cowes, Second Officer Holbrook of Sandown, Second Officer Gough of Ryde, Captain Spencer of Ventnor and Third Officer Hurry of Newport. 

Firemen Jolliffe, Thorne, Oatley and Roberts of East Cowes Fire Brigade borne the Union Jack draped coffin to Harry's last resting place at Kingston Cemetery after being transported to the gates by a tender brought from Newport Fire Brigade. 

 

Rest in peace Fireman Lambert.

 

Fireman Lambert's colleagues with his coffin at the gates of Kingston Cemetery.