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Douglas Lambert



Douglas Lambert, more commonly known as ‘Daniel’ or ‘Danny’ to his friends and family was born in Cranbrook on October 14th 1883. Educated at St Edwards, Oxford and more latterly at Eastbourne College the young Lambert started his sporting career as an inside right in association football until his school changed it’s allegiance to Rugby Union in 1900. Lambert, although given little choice, followed suit playing in most positions on the pitch at one time or another as well as showing a precocious talent for place kicking.

Leaving school Lambert joined Harlequins, where he initially played in the ‘A’ team as a forward. His elevation to the first fifteen came in 1905 when during a trial match he outpaced Adrian Stoop, bundling him into touch as he was about to score. Stoop saw the potential that Lambert offered. A big man he was both strong in defense as well as fleet of foot. He also continued to be an accurate kicker of goals. It all added up to a package that Stoop could use as he moved him from the pack in the ‘A’s to wing three-quarter in the firsts.

Others were also soon to appreciate Lambert’s strengths. He was selected for the Barbarian’s traditional Easter tour to Wales in 1906, although a poor run of Barbarian form saw him on the losing side the three times that he played against Penarth, Cardiff and Plymouth . Lambert’s debut cap came the following year in 1907 against the first French fifteen to travel to England . Played at Richmond on January 5th Lambert was a late inclusion in the side as the originally selected wing was forced to drop out. Seizing the opportunity, as the Times put it “D. Lambert did the actual scoring with almost unerring accuracy.” His tally of five tries during a match where the French were totally outclassed by forty one points to thirteen equaled the world record set by George Lindsay for Scotland against Wales in 1887 and would not be bettered until the 1995 World Cup when All Black Marc Ellis scored six tries against Japan . Despite this achievement Lambert was dropped by the England selector’s for both the next match and the remainder of the international season.

Although this must have been a biter pill to swallow after such a dazzling debut, Lambert continued to play for his club Harlequins. He also joined the Barbarian’s Easter tour to Wales for a second consecutive year and again playing three matches. This time he had better fortune playing on the winning side against Penarth and Devonport whilst losing to Cardiff . The 1908 season saw Lambert back in favor with the mercurial England selector’s playing three matches. He scored a further try against France in the away win at Colombes on January 1st followed by a home defeat against Wales on January 18th held at Ashton Gate, Bristol . His final match for England that season was a further defeat away from home against Scotland at Inverleith on March 21st where he scored two conversions. The end of the season again found Lambert back in the international wilderness, but there was plenty of rugby to keep him occupied. He played the touring Australians for the London division losing by a try to nil at Richmond on October 24th 1908. He also took part in the landmark first match played the following year at the new Twickenham Stadium on October 2nd 1909, as ever taking the field for is beloved Harlequins against their neighboring Richmond . Lambert was in fine form for this encounter, and as noted in the Sportsman “…. The Harlequins soon added another try, the ball coming down the line to Lambert who sprinted away from everyone.” Lambert also added a conversion to this try during the Harlequins fourteen points to ten victory. The following Easter Lambert again made the trip to Wales with the Barbarians, playing a further three matches bringing his tally to nine Barbarian appearances with in a draw with Penarth, a win against Cardiff whilst losing to Swansea.

1911 again saw Lambert in favor with the national selectors gaining a further three caps that brought his total to seven. His international season opened on January 21st with an away loss to Wales at Swansea . Lambert scored a conversion during the match and as the Times put it “…. Did not have many real chances, but did everything that he possibly could.” This was followed by the only international that Lambert was to play for his country at its new home in Twickenham.  Played on January 28th against France, for whom Lambert was becoming something of a nemesis, England recorded a thirty seven points to nil victory. During the encounter Lambert scored two tries, five conversions and two penalties, a grand total of twenty two points. This was to remain an English record for points scored in one match until 1990 when Simon Hodgkinson scored twenty three in a fifty one point to nil victory over Argentina . Despite his unprecedented success in this match it was not all plain sailing. The Times recorded “But on one occasion D. Lambert was guilty of an inexcusable display of bad temper, which was not unnoticed by the spectator’s.” Lambert’s final international was a three points to nil away defeat to Ireland at Dublin . Lambert had a poor match and overall the result was deemed fair.

On the domestic front 1911 saw Lambert appointed as treasurer at his own club Harlequins. Whatever his other attributes accountancy does not appear to have been one of them, at one point sending a cheque for fourteen pounds and eight shillings to his fellow Harlequin HBT Wakelam the second time that he had applied for expenses of fourteen shillings and eight pence! Needless to say the following season he was rapidly replaced by Holly Ward who no doubt had an uphill struggle correcting the club’s finances. With the weight of the clubs accounts now off his shoulders Lambert was able to turn his attention to the 1912 touring South African’s. Although his international career was over Lambert was selected for a London Division side that eventually lost by twelve points to eight, despite coming back from an eight points to nil deficit a half time.

With the outbreak of war Lambert followed the call to arms joining the Sixth Battalion of the Royal East Kent Regiment (the Buffs) as a Lieutenant. After marrying his childhood sweetheart Joyce at West Brompton on December 17th 1914 he eventually travelled to France with his unit. The 6th Buffs were destined to take part in the Battle of Loos, a major offensive commencing on September 25th 1915. The battle was notable as the first time that the British forces had used gas as an offensive weapon in the field, albeit with varying results. Despite some early success including the capture of Loos itself it was impossible for the British to capitalize upon this due essentially to communication and supply problems as well as a pronounced lack of artillery ammunition. This led inevitably to an ineffective barrage prior to the push that was tactically essential in this kind of attack. The troops found the German wire still intact as they crossed open land into the fire of German machine guns. The casualties were appalling, with sixty one thousand being killed or wounded by the end of the battle. By September 28th the British had been forced to retreat to their starting positions with the Germans counter attacking and facing an equally high casualty rate. On the final day of the battle, October 13th, the day before Lambert’s birthday, the British forces attempted a final offensive. The 6th Battalion of the Buffs went over the top only to be met by devastating fire from a previously unseen and therefore unshelled German trench. The battalion lost four hundred men in just a few minutes, advancing just one hundred yards before being forced to halt. Lieutenant Douglas Lambert was killed in action leading his men. He has no known grave. His son was born just two months after his death.

Sources

"Harlequin Story", HBT Wakelam, Phoenix House Ltd 1954

"Immortal Harlequin", Ian Cooper, Tempus, 2004

"England the Official RFU History", Virgin, 1999

"The Complete Who's Who of England Rugby Union Internationals", R Maule,  Breedon 1992

The Times Online Digital Archive

© D A Hunter, 2008
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