Many of our residents have amazing stories to tell, and none more so than Pam Lamm, a very special member of the Rawhiti Estate family who was born in Egypt, grew up in India, drove ambulances in World War Two, helped heal injured soldiers and likes “to call a spade a spade.”
We were delighted to welcome Pam to the Rawhiti Estate family in early March, and from the very first moment we met her, we knew she was extraordinary.
We took the opportunity to sit down with Pam during our ANZAC Day celebrations to learn more about her experiences during the war.
During the 1930s, Pam was passionate about the art of dance and was in the process of becoming a professional dancer. However, as we all know far too well, the world changed forever on 1 September 1939, and with it, Pam’s life too.
She was quick to put her hand up to help the war effort by joining the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY). It was a straightforward decision for her, “it was the obvious choice; all of my friends were doing it,” and with that, and her father’s blessing, she began to serve.
Pam contends that the war only truly began after the battle of Dunkirk, which she witnessed first-hand, seeing “every kind of vessel” pitching in to help in the aftermath. While she will be one of the first to tell you of the horrors of war, she also noted that it “can bring the best out in people,” and it was what she saw in Dunkirk that fostered that belief.
Once she, and the world, had witnessed the true toll of battle during Dunkirk, working as a FANY, Pam quickly learned the ins and outs of military discipline. Here, she was put behind the wheel of an ambulance, tasked with transporting wounded soldiers in the same corps as the future Queen Elizabeth II. However, she soon came to realise that there was more she could do.
Pam’s face lights up at the mention of “the Kiwi maestros”, Sir Archibald McIndoe and his cousin Sir Harold Giles. After leaving the FANY, Pam worked as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse in their ground-breaking reconstructive surgery. She was particularly fond of Sir Archibald, proclaiming him to be a “brilliant surgeon and psychologist,” and that “he understood that the people they were treating were disabled but not ill.”
Pam and her team tended primarily to burned airmen but also citizens, including children, badly burned in the ‘Blitz’ and who had sustained terrible injuries during the war. In the process of performing new plastic surgery techniques on these people, they created what was affectionately known as the “Guinea Pig Club”. Sir Archibald and Sir Harold’s work was so important that a film based on their exploits is currently being produced.
The war’s impact on Pam continued as it wore on, as while she was pregnant with her first child, she lost her first husband who was part of the Airborne Division that suffered more than 7,000 losses in the Battle of Arnhem. The personal toll of such a loss is hard to fathom, but Pam is a very resilient woman.
One thing that Pam is very passionate about letting people know is that “those who serve in war are ordinary human beings, with friends, families and people that care about them.” She also believes that by passing along such stories as those of the Diggers that fought so hard to preserve freedom that it “allows them to live on,” through their tales of bravery, sorrow and sacrifice.
After the war ended and life returned to relative normalcy, Pam married again to “The Father of High Voltage Current,” Dr Uno Lamm. Dr Lamm, who passed away nearly 30 years ago, obtained 150 patents and wrote approximately 80 technical papers to become one of the pioneers in the electrical industry.
Currently, Pam is enjoying her well-deserved retirement. Her love for dancing has not waned after all these years and she is a big fan of our weekly Tai Chi lessons. In keeping with the fitness theme, Pam can often be seen walking up and down Rangitoto Avenue. She also loves to spend time with her family, and could not be prouder of her daughter, granddaughters and great grandchildren, who visit her regularly, taking her out to local food hotspots.
Pam is what we like to consider a prime example of a life well-lived, and we could not be happier that she has chosen to join us at Rawhiti Estate.