It’s not hard to see why local residents are proud of decorated First World War veteran Francis Russell Reid Lambier.
Better known as Frank or “Tack,” Lambier’s record indicates he turned down promotions, risked his own life to save a wounded comrade and was decorated twice for bravery.
In Palmerston, both the Royal Canadian Legion branch and, as of Oct. 23, a street in the local industrial park bear his name.
According to a biography prepared by local historian Chad Martin, Lambier left his job as a printer and traveled to London, Ontario to begin training for the Great War on Sept. 21, 1915. Martin notes that numerous others from Palmerston did the same that year, with 23 enlisting. Only 12 would return home.
Martin writes that Lambier excelled in training and was promoted to Lance Corporal on March 10, 1916 while stationed in Guelph. In early April he sailed from Halifax to Liverpool, England on the HMT Olympic (sister ship of Titanic) where upon arrival he was assigned to further training in a reserve battalion.
Lambier was attached to the 73rd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, part of the famous Royal Highlanders of Montreal.
While training, Lambier returned to his preferred rank of private in what appears to be the result of a disagreement with another non-commissioned officer.
In August, 1916 Lambier headed to the front lines in France with the 73rd. Their first taste of action came Aug. 17, when they were shelled while scouting near Ypres. Within two days of starting out for the front, the 73rd Battalion had already lost three officers and eight men, while 20 were wounded. The unit moved on to the Somme in October before being deployed on Dec. 23rd to occupy the lines at Arras.
Fighting was steady into the New Year of 1917. On Feb. 1 Lambier was among 100 men of ‘A’ and ‘D’ Companies moved back from the lines to begin practice as raiding parties.
“He excelled at this raiding action and it proved to be one of his shining successes,” states Martin.
A dispatch dated March 26, 1917 recognized Lambier’s “conspicuous gallantry and determination during a successful daylight raid near Souchez, Feb. 4, 1917,” which resulted in his being awarded the Military Medal for individual acts of bravery and devotion under fire.
“This man was the first bayonet man of a bombing squad,” the dispatch states. “He displayed much coolness and bravery and although a bomb exploded just in front of his face, nearly blinding him, he carried on until the objective was reached. He insisted on remaining on duty after returning to our lines.”
While recovering, Lambier went to a non-commissioned officer training course and was again promoted to Lance Corporal on April 7, 1917 and rejoined the 73rd. On April 9, Lambier took part in the attack on Hill 145, the highest point and most heavily fortified position along Vimy Ridge.
“Today the Vimy Memorial stands on the very spot Lambier and the 73rd struggled to such a victory,” writes Martin.
The 73rd was disbanded and dispersed amongst the remaining Royal Highlanders Battalions, with Lambier transferred to the 42nd Battalion.
At his own request, in August of 1917, he was demoted back to private.
At Arras the 42nd was tasked with attacking and capturing a maze of trenches at Monchy-le-Preux. A dispatch on this battle recommended Lambier “be awarded for conspicuous bravery at the front – that of rescuing a wounded comrade under the deadly fire of the enemy’s batteries.
“In the stress of battle, with the enemy’s batteries booming and death lurking everywhere, Pte. Lambier rose to the true greatness of his heroic resolve to bring relief and assistance to a wounded soldier in the peril of his own life. His magnificent display of tenacity and courage at a critical moment has written the word ‘Hero’ in letter of fire.”
For his acts on that day, Lambier was awarded a bar to his Military Medal, a recognition only ever afforded to 848 other Canadians.
Martin notes Lambier “showed how a small-town boy raised with a hard work ethic could have the determination to get the job done, and help his fellow man no matter what the odds.
“There truly is no possible argument against why he was honoured with having the Royal Canadian Legion in Palmerston named the Frank Lambier Legion.
Martin continued, “Francis ‘Tack’ Lambier holds every right to be considered a Canadian hero, and we hold every right to consider him a great part of our community; not because he fought in a Great War, but because of what he did within that Great War.”
At the dedication of Frank Lambier Court on Oct. 23, Town of Minto Mayor George Bridge called Lambier’s performance during the Great War “an amazing example of heroic action by a Canadian solider.”