Woman who mapped D-Day landings receives France’s highest award

Eighty years after helping Christian Lamb Saving France from Nazi tyrannyFrench President Emmanuel Macron kissed her on the cheeks and pinned the country’s highest award on her lapel.

Lamb spent the months leading up to D-Day alone in a small room in central London drawing detailed maps that directed the landing craft to… Normandy beaches When Allied forces began their invasion of occupied France on June 6, 1944, the action was so secret that she did not tell her husband.

Lamb, now 103 and confined to a wheelchair, took center stage on Thursday when Macron presented her with the Legion of Honor during British celebrations marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

“You were, in your own way, one of those figures in the shadow of D-Day,” Macron told her. “You weren’t there personally but you guided every step they took.”

He added, “You have given us an example that we will not forget.”

Christian Lamb, center, after receiving the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur from French President Emmanuel Macron.

Ludovic Marin/AFP

By the time of the Normandy landings, Lamb had been doing her part to defeat the Nazis for nearly five years as a member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, known as Wrens.

While the history of D-Day is often told through the stories of the men who fought and died on the beaches, hundreds of thousands of military women have served behind the scenes in critical non-combat roles such as Blade cuttersShip plotters, radar operators and cartographers.

The contributions of women like Lamb, radio operator Mary Scott, and Pat Outram, whose work had previously helped fracture Nazi codes are unbreakable, became more apparent as the number of living D-Day veterans dwindled. The three were awarded the Legion of Honor as the French government offers its gratitude to those who helped liberate the country during World War II.

As D-Day approached, Lamb was given the task of creating blueprints for the crews of the landing craft that would deliver the troops to the beaches of Normandy.

Pointing to the huge maps of the French coast hanging on the wall of her small office, the young Royal Naval Service officer created maps highlighting each landmark to help crews get their bearings.

The maps “showed railways, roads, churches, castles, all possible landmarks that could be visible to incoming invaders from every angle,” Lamb told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “It was intense and exciting work, and obviously the details were vital. It was very important that the maps were 100% accurate.”

A new book captures first-hand accounts of how D-Day came together

Lamb remembered the tension everyone around her was bracing for Operation Overlord, the long-awaited invasion of Europe that finally ended the Nazis’ grip on the continent. As she passed Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the stairs on her way to work, she became concerned about the pressure he was facing.

When she remembered those days, her eyes lit up as she talked about the way Churchill had inspired the nation.

“He gave these speeches that everyone listened to,” she said. “And I could hear him now saying, ‘We will fight on the beaches, we will fight in the hills. We will never surrender.'” We’ve all felt that way.”

Lamb’s career at the Wrens began shortly after the outbreak of war in the summer of 1939.

One of her assignments was as a conspiracy officer at Portsmouth, the headquarters of the Royal Navy. Lamb was part of a Wrens team that used information from radar and Coast Guard stations to chart ship movements across the English Channel on a large flat table.

She later assumed a similar role in Belfast, planning the movements of convoys carrying supplies from North America. This included staffing her as it was reported that a convoy escorting her future husband’s ship, the destroyer HMS Oribi, had been attacked by a U-boat wolf pack.

Twelve of the convoy’s 43 ships were lost, but HMS Oribi reached Newfoundland safely. The couple married six months later in December 1943.

Lamb said she was particularly determined to help expel the Nazis from France, especially centers of art and culture such as Caen and Bayeux, where she studied before the war.

“I really wanted (to do) anything that would help me give France back to the French,” she said. “We wanted them to belong to each other again.”

In a 2007 book about her wartime experiences, Lamb joked that she only joined the Wrens because of their tricorn hats, which she thought were “cool.”

It lost its people a long time ago.

But now it has a nice decoration with a bright red ribbon to replace it.

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