I wanted to know more about Ken’s war experiences, but sadly he passed away within weeks of his 70th birthday. Fortunately Ken’s memorabilia and his files of 35mm negatives have revealed a partial picture of his WW-2 service. This, combined with the timeline of his official Army Service Record, provided enough for me to piece together the story below. Any text in  italics is my personal interpretation of events.

29 Aug 1939:   All British male adults, aged 18 and over, are required to register for military service. Kenneth Neill Gambrill (Ken), a student at an agricultural college, registers in his home town and is enlisted into the Army at the rank of Private.

Private Gambrill is assigned to the Royal Army Medical Corps. His assignment to a medical unit possibly reflects a shortage of trained medical staff, but Ken’s  Agricultural College curriculum included ‘animal husbandry’. Possibly the army logic was - if he can handle sick cattle, then he can handle injured soldiers better than most civilians.

22 May 1940:  Secret Order issued by Britain High Command to evacuate all medical patients from Camiers Hospital and transport them back to England. Ken returns to England as part of the team moving and caring for the wounded.

26 May - 3 June 1940:  “Operation Dynamo” is undertaken, where 221,455 British and 121,445 French and Belgium troops are evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk under heavy enemy air attack. My mother’s brother, Roland (Jim) Taylor, was one of those killed by enemy fire while evacuating troops from the beaches.

By the end of June 1940 Germany controlled the coastland of mainland Europe from the France/Spain border to Denmark. The next target for Germany was bombing cities and key installations in Britain, in preparation for an invasion of Britain.

1940/41: Ken and Dorothy met in Hastings, and enjoyed time together whenever Ken was granted leave.

Ken was based in the London area during the Blitz (a period of non-stop night time bombing of London). I suspect Ken was associated with rescue operations following the nightly bombing on the civilian population in London.

Aug 1941: Corporal K.N.Gambrill receives Orders to proceed to A/A (Anti-Aircraft) Training Regiment at Deepcut in Hampshire. (Ken served with Anti-Aircraft Regiments for the next four years: 1941/42 in Essex defending military air fields against German air raids;  and then overseas.

Nov 1941: Ken reports to the 133rd Officer Cadet Training Group in Berkshire. On the train journey to Shrivenham Ken strikes up a conversation with another officer cadet, Christopher Milne, heading for the same training program. Ken soon realizes that he is traveling with the real-life “Christopher Robin”, the son of A.A. Milne, author of the Winnie the Pooh books.

I have discovered from a recent biography of Christopher Milne that he and  Ken spent their war years together in the Middle East deserts and then in Italy. On completion of his officer training, Ken is promoted to officer rank of 2nd Lieutenant, and returns to

Essex, to continue anti-aircraft duties, defending Royal Air Force bases in Essex against nightly German air attacks.


                                                                                                                                                         Margaret Reed (Groom’s cousin)

                                                                                                                                                         Donald Gambrill (Groom’s brother)

                                                                                                                                                            Kenneth Gambrill  (Groom)

                                                                                                                                                      Dorothy Taylor  (Bride)

                                                                                                                                                                Joan Taylor (Bride’s sister)


Camiers Hospital (pre 1939 image)

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