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Memory Lane: Old Somerby’s Walter and Minnie have 450 descendants

Descendants of Walter and Minnie Lambley gather at Belton Woods Hotel, including their only surviving child Tom, centre.
Descendants of Walter and Minnie Lambley gather at Belton Woods Hotel, including their only surviving child Tom, centre.

A much-loved Old Somerby couple were honoured at a family gathering this year, where there were plenty of people to remember them given that they have an incredible 450 descendants.

On August 8, 52 of those descended from Walter and Minnie Lambley came together at Belton Woods Hotel for a family meal full of reminiscing. It was hosted by their grandson, Paul LeSueur, and his wife, Liz, who came over from their home in Long Island, New York.

Walter and Minnie Lambley.
Walter and Minnie Lambley.

Granddaughter of the couple, Judy Hadley, said: “The gathering, which represented almost all branches of the Lambley family descending from Walter and Minnie, was a reminder of the love which Walter and Minnie imparted throughout their lives.”

Comprising members of the family from the USA and across the UK, the group also included Judy’s father, Tom Lambley, in his 91st year, who is the youngest and only surviving child of Walter and Minnie.

“From child to grandchild, great-grandchild and great-great-grandchild, all appreciated Tom’s short speech which referred to past decades of memories and associations with Old Somerby village, church and its school,” added Elaine Margiotta, another granddaughter of the couple. “The family tree, produced by a family member and seen in its entirety for the first time, was most inspiring, in that it shows approximately 450 descendants from this humble, loving country couple, Walter and Minnie.”

The couple lived the whole of their married lives in a two-bedroom cottage on Main Street, Old Somerby, which had also been the home of their parents and grandparents. They had 10 children, one of whom was adopted. Walter was the church warden and also maintained all of the hedges in the village. Minnie would tend to the local mothers during childbirth, becoming a skilled midwife despite having no training.

“They were a loving couple and we’ve all been seriously influenced by them and their devotion to the family,” said Elaine. “On a Sunday afternoon there would be about 30 people in this tiny cottage. We’d gather every weekend because we were such a close family and us 35 first cousins all initially lived locally in and around Grantham.”

Her grandchildren are also in awe of how Minnie kept the house and family “pristine” given that their cottage had no running water or electricity. “It was amazing, and her attitude was faultless,” they recall.

Their last surviving child, Tom Lambley, was delighted to see so many members of the family together again. As well as his eight siblings, Tom was very close to his adopted brother Ralph, who joined the family after a fire wrecked his home. He remembers: “When I left King’s School I got a position as a clerk at the GPO (General Post Office). One of my duties was the early morning sorting out of the village mail. One morning I came across an envelope with my half-brother’s name and I wrote on the back ‘hard luck Ralph’ as I knew it was a calling up paper. As I sorted the mail, lo and behold, I came across another which said Tom Lambley. When I got home at lunchtime my mother greeted me with ‘Ralph’s got his calling up papers’. And I said ‘yes mother, so have I’. So we both went off on the same day.”

Tom started off in the Army, but he says: “While I was on parade the officer commanding came along to our platoon and said ‘gentlemen, from here to here, tomorrow you will be the Navy’. That saved my life quite frankly as had I stayed as a radio operator I would have gone to the north African landings and would have got wiped out.

“I was transferred because they knew they wanted to land at Normandy eventually and that they would need radio operators in the small ships. But I developed mumps and had to go to Winchester hospital. When I got back all my friends had been drafted on to ships, and on June 6 I saw from my billets the aircraft going over to Europe.” Instead Tom found himself sent east on a Destroyer, where he saw action in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, including seeing action off the south coast of Japan.


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