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Air Vice-Marshal ‘Larry’ Lamb

Air Vice-Marshal ‘Larry’ Lamb, who has died aged 99, led two very distinguished lives, first as an RAF pilot and senior officer, and also that of an international rugby referee and sports administrator.

George Colin Lamb, always known as ‘Larry’ was born on July 23 1923 at Hornby in Lancashire and was educated at Lancaster Royal Grammar School.  He joined the RAF in 1943 and trained as a pilot in Canada.

On return to England, he became a flying instructor at the RAF College Cranwell where he instructed on twin-engine aircraft before moving to a flying training school near Grantham.  He returned to Cranwell as the deputy chief flying instructor in 1947.  He had attended the first instrument flying course at the Empire Flying School and became one of the RAF’s first examiners.  In 1947 he was awarded the AFC for his work on instrument flying instructional techniques on a variety of aircraft.

Lamb flew Hastings on the Berlin Air Lift carrying coal from Schleswigland airfield to Tegel airfield in Berlin. After a tour as a member of the Transport Command Examining Unit, he had a change of role and took command of 87 Squadron (Javelins) at Bruggen.

After a further tour in MoD, this time as Director of Administrative Plans, Lamb was appointed the Assistant Commandant at the RAF College Cranwell. 

In March 1965 Lamb took up the post of Deputy Air Commander Borneo at the height of the Confrontation with Indonesia.  Lamb recognised that air transport, in all its forms, was his main priority but he also had responsibility for tasking air defence, coastal patrol and reconnaissance assets.  To better understand the topography, flying conditions and to liaise with ground force commanders, Lamb travelled extensively into the interior.  During his time, he flew in no less than 16 different types of aircraft. For his work in Borneo, Lamb was appointed CBE.

In April 1968, he was appointed as the first Air Commodore (Operations) at the new HQ Strike Command responsible for the operational effectiveness of the bomber force, including the nuclear deterrent, the air defence of the UK and for operational training. 

In February 1970 Lamb assumed command of RAF Lyneham then, after completing the Royal College of Defence Studies course, he was appointed Director of Control (Operations) in the National Air Traffic Services – responsible for both the Civil Aviation Authority and the Ministry of Defence (Air).

In May 1974 he was appointed Commander Southern Maritime Air Region where he had responsibility for Nimrod patrol aircraft and search and rescue helicopter operations.  This appointment was followed by him becoming chief of staff at HQ 18 (Maritime) Group.  He took early retirement in April 1978 having recently been appointed CB.

Throughout his RAF career, Lamb was heavily involved in rugby.  He served as the secretary of the RAF Rugby Union and was a well-respected referee.  In 1964 he was appointed as one of the Rugby Football Union’s three representatives on the International Referee’s Panel.  Over the next ten years he was recognised as one of, if not the leading referee in the rugby-playing world.

In October 1978, Lamb was offered the appointment as the first chief executive of the Badminton Association of England.  He staged the world’s first Open Badminton tournament, and eventually assisted in getting the sport accepted into the 1992 Olympic Games.

In 1983 he was appointed by the Minister of Sport to be a full member of the Sports Council.  He sat on the Policy and Planning Group, the Research and Information Policy Group and the Drug Abuse Advisory Group.  He retired from the Council in 1989.  In 1985 he had been invited by the Prince of Wales to be a member of the sports committee of the Princes Trust.  He retired from the Badminton Association on August 31 1989 to become the full-time general secretary of the London Sports Medicine Institute.

When Lamb finally retired “to tend his roses” he filled in his spare time by becoming chairman of the St George’s Day Club, raising in the process over £1million for charities.  He was also chairman of the British Berlin Airlift Association and RAF Vice-President of the Combined Cadet Forces’ Association.  He also found time to be the president of his old school association, the Old Lancastrians Club.

Larry Lamb died on September 22.  He married Nancy Godsmark in 1945 and the marriage was later dissolved.  He married his second wife Maureen in April 1981 and she died in 2015.  He is survived by two sons from his first marriage and his step daughter.

Graham Pitchfork’s more comprehensive obituary is available to subscribers in the Daily Telegraph.

RIP ‘Larry’ Lamb: Text
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