A 70-year love story which began in the depths of war in Burma

She was a 21-year-old nurse working in a Burmese hospital, he was a young soldier fighting the Japanese, when they met, thousands of miles from home, in 1944.

Tuesday, 3rd April 2018, 10:01 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 3:11 am
Basil and Madge Lambert, who are celebrating 70 years of marriage, and the publication of the book she wrote. Kate Shemilt. ks180091-2
Basil and Madge Lambert, who are celebrating 70 years of marriage, and the publication of the book she wrote. Kate Shemilt. ks180091-2

Now Madge and Basil Lambert’s love story has been bound in to a paperback in the same year they celebrate 70 happy years together.

Some Sunny Day tells of junior nurse Madge leaving England to join the Burma Campaign, treating wounded soldiers close to the frontline during World War Two.

Both Madge and Basil, now 94 and 95, travelled the 9,000 miles by passenger ship from Scotland to Mumbai (formerly Bombay), almost exactly 12 months apart in 1944 and 1943, in a voyage that took Madge a month and Basil nearly three.

Madge and Basil on their wedding day on October 16, 1948

“It took us that long because we had to zig-zag down the Atlantic to avoid the German U-boats, whilst Madge went through the Mediterranean,” Basil said.

It was in Chittagong where they met, Basil a captain in the (Middlesex) 10th Baluch Regiment. “It was jungle warfare,” Basil recalls. “In the jungle the enemy could be a few feet from you without you ever being aware of this.”

They met when Madge went to the officers mess looking for stamps and Basil’s roommate said he could help.

Madge said: “Mac invited me to his quarters and I wasn’t introduced to Basil, he didn’t even get up.

The couple on Strictly Come Dancing in 2016

“I asked Mac ‘who does he think he is’ but he told me to take no notice.”

Madge had made a better impression on Basil, however, and a few days later she received a dinner invitation.

With Basil being involved in moving troops and machinery supplies to battle points and Madge working day and night, their meetings were sparse over a six-month period before Basil was posted to Rangoon.

They would have to wait until after the end of the war to meet again in England.

With Anton Du Beke from Strictly

Basil said: “You had to live by the day because you never knew what was going to happen.”

The book, ghost-written by journalist Bob Blair and out now, charts Madge’s time treating both Allied and Japanese troops.

She recalls Japanese soldiers spitting at the nurses as they delivered medicine, working in the a straw and bamboo hospital without electricity or lighting.

One of the many stories in the book tells of her treating a female Japanese journalist who had been shot in the back by her own side. Madge said: “Bob went to great lengths to check everything and he was so excited to find the actual record of the Japanese journalist being there, which is pictured in the book.”

Madge Lambert with Prince Harry. ks180091-7

A six-week placement at Cox’s Bazaar casualty clearing station put Madge within metres of the frontline.

“The weather was terrible and at night we thought it was thunder when in fact it was gunfire,” Madge said. “It used to upset the injured boys more than us because they had just come from there.”

Madge was sent home to Dover in 1946 to be demobilised, but it wasn’t until January 1947 when Basil returned to his Woking home.

They married on October 16, 1948, and will celebrate 70 years together with daughters, Carolyn and Angela.

They moved to East Wittering in 1997 and Selsey 15 years later. In 2016 they danced live on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and spoke about their incredible life together.