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Edwin Christopher Lance

Edwin Christopher Lance

Male 1893 - 1970  (76 years)


  • Name Edwin Christopher Lance  [1, 2
    Known as "Christopher" 
    Birth 11 Jun 1893  Taunton Find all individuals with events at this location   [1, 3, 4
    • On the 11th June (S. Barnabas Day), at Taunton, the wife of the Rev. Edwin M. Lance, The Vicarage, Langport, of a son. [The Times]
    Residence Mar 1901  Vicarage, Easton-in-Gordano Find all individuals with events at this location   [1
    Education abt 1906 - 1911  Lancing College Find all individuals with events at this location   [5
    Residence Apr 1911  Lancing College Find all individuals with events at this location   [5
    Military Service 1912 - 1920  Captain, Somerset Light Infantry  [6
    • Military service:
      - Dec 1912: enlisted in King Edward's Horse, then still a Yeomanry regiment;
      - Jan 1915: promoted to Corporal; deserted; reenlisted in West Yorks Regt at York;
      - 18 Mar 1915: embarked for France with 2nd Battn, West Yorks;
      - Sept 1915: commissioned in the field; transfered to 6th Somerset L.I. as 2nd Lieut;
      - after Nov 1918: Captain & Adjutant, 1st Volunteer Battn, Karelian Regt; service in North Russia;
      - 07 Aug 1919: wounded; evacuated to UK, in hospital in Edinburgh & Bath;
      - Sep 1920: discharged. [6]
    Decoration 1917  DSO  [6
    • "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He was the only officer left of his battalion when the final objective was reached. Both flanks of his battalion were exposed and they were almost surrounded by the enemy. Thereupon he skilfully withdrew his men from a difficult position to a strong one 200 yards in the rear, checked the advance of the enemy, and held on under intense artillery fire until relieved two days later. The sound tactics, cool judgement and the daring example which he set his men undoubtedly secured a very important position." [7]
    Occupation 1925  Argentina Find all individuals with events at this location ; Engineer  [8
    • Passengers on "Highland Loch" arr London 10 Dec 1925: Edwin Chris. Lance, 42, engineer; Inger Mary Lance, 21; 1st class, emb La Plata, resid Argentine, future resid England, UK address Thurbeare, Burgess Hill, Sussex.
    Marriage abt 1925  Chile Find all individuals with events at this location   [9
    Inger Mary Church,   b. 27 Dec 1903, Johannesburg, South Africa Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Occupation abt 1934 - 1935  Spain Find all individuals with events at this location ; Civil Engineer  [10, 11
    • Passenger on "Sierra Ventana" arr Southampton 05 Aug 1934: Edwin Christopher Lance, 40, civil engineer, cabin-tourist class, emb Santander, resid Spain, UK address: Hill Lands House, Send, Surrey.
    • Passenger on MV "Shropshire" arr London 31 Mar 1935: Edwin Chris. Lance, 42, civil engineer, 1st class, emb Gibraltar, resid Spain, UK address: Hill Lands House, Send, near Woking, Surrey.
    Death 20 Mar 1970  Alicante, Spain Find all individuals with events at this location   [12, 13
    • Died in Channel Islands per one source. Jersey archives have probate record of Will and Testament of Edwin Christopher Lance, of Radcliffe, Mont Cochon, St Helier. Dated 14/07/1951.
    Notes 
    • Captain Lance, the son of a clergyman of Wells Cathedral, was born in 1892. He always sought adventure. He trained as a civil engineer and with the onslaught of WW1 he headed for the 'Front' as a Private Soldier in the West Yorkshire Regiment where, due to his exceptional aptitude, he was commissioned in the field.
      Soon after, he was awarded the DSO (Distinguished Service Order) for his leadership achievements in the murderous battle of Delville Wood on the Somme in 1916. Years passed with many battles in many theatres of war on different continents until 1931 when he arrived in Madrid as a civil engineer. Here he was engaged in the construction of roads, bridges and dams before the start of The Spanish Civil War.
      At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Lance was also an attaché at the British Embassy in Madrid and witnessed the carnage first hand. Many Spanish sought refuge in foreign embassies and he saw how much the Spanish around him were suffering. Using his diplomacy, great affability and skill at dealing with Spanish officials and guards, he organised escape routes from Madrid to the ports of Valencia and Alicante and onward by sea to Marseilles or Morocco. One of his tricks was to smuggle people out of Madrid in an ambulance unit kindly donated by a Scottish philanthropist, and take them to Alicante, where he would get them on board ships disguised as members of the crew - quite a chancer! He helped, not only, stranded British citizens but also Nationalists and Republicans alike, all people in danger of their lives as they became caught up in the war.
      Lance, apparently, always wore a conspicuous check jacket, and was brilliant at cracking jokes with the anarchist and communist militiamen, and bribing them with cigarettes. His language was liberally sprinkled with words like 'topping', 'old girl' and 'Hell's bells'! Such was his love of danger and risk-taking, that he even got to meet General Franco as well as Dolores Ibarruri - 'La Pasionaria', the feared leader of the Spanish Communist Party.
      Both sides used him as a spy. The British Embassy at the time, whose attitude to the war was generally cynical, callous and pro-Franco, probably made good use of Lance too. By the end of the war he had helped hundreds of people escape from Spain. However, Lance was arrested by the Republicans as 'Criminal No. 1' and charged with spying. He was imprisoned in a series of terrible prisons from Valencia and Barcelona to Gerona. Just when he thought he was due to be executed by firing squad, a message came through from the British Embassy that got him released and sent home to England. After a full and active life, he retired to The Channel Isles where he died in 1970.
      Acknowledgements: Summarised by Peter Little from The Spanish Pimpernel by C E Lucas Phillips, published by Odhams Press Ltd., & William Heinemann Ltd., 1960.
    • Capt. C. Lance. A 'Pimpernel' in Spanish War. Captain Christopher Lance, a former British Army officer who helped hundreds of Spanish nationalists to escape from the republican zone during the Spanish Civil War, died on Friday in Alicante in southern Spain. He was 77. He was working as an engineer in Spain in 1936 at the beginning of the war; when the British ambassador left Madrid, Captain Lance moved into the evacuated embassy in the Spanish capital with the permission of the British consul general. Many prominent Spanish nationalists owe their liberty and probably their lives to his efforts in helping them to flee the country or escape to territory held by General Franco. Lance was arrested by the republican authorities and sentenced to death. Known as the English "Scarlet Pimpernel" he was finally liberated after spending 15 months in gaol when nationalist troops captured Barcelona. In 1961 the Mayor of Madrid presented him with the city's gold medal in recognition of his work in the Civil War. [The Times] [13]
    • see also:
      - "Trail Sinister", by Sefton Delmer (vol 1);
      - "History of the Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert's) 1914-1919", by Everard Wyrall, 1927.
    Person ID I4480  Tatham | Christopher branch | Descendant
    Last Modified 21 Jul 2011 

    Father Edwin Mildred Lance,   b. 31 Jan 1862, Thurlbear Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 20 Aug 1935, Hill Lands House, Send Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 73 years) 
    Mother Mary Henley Christopher,   b. 28 Jan 1863, Watford Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 13 Jun 1914, Bath Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 51 years) 
    Marriage 07 Jan 1890  St George, Bloomsbury Find all individuals with events at this location   [14, 15, 16
    Edwin Mildred Lance & Mary Henley Christopher
    Edwin Mildred Lance & Mary Henley Christopher
    Marriage register
    Family ID F1360  Family Group Sheet

    Family Inger Mary Church,   b. 27 Dec 1903, Johannesburg, South Africa Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Engagement 14 Jun 1924    [17
    • The engagement is announced between Captain Edwin Christopher Lance, D.S.O., late Somerset L.I., son of the Rev. Prebendary Lance, Provost of Lancing, to [sic] Inger Mary, elder daughter of Mr. and Mrs. H. W. Church, of Haedo, Argentine Republic. [The Times]
    Marriage abt 1925  Chile Find all individuals with events at this location   [9
    Last Modified 06 Jul 2011 
    Family ID F1403  Family Group Sheet

  • Event Map Click to display
    Link to Google MapsBirth - 11 Jun 1893 - Taunton Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - Mar 1901 - Vicarage, Easton-in-Gordano Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsEducation - abt 1906 - 1911 - Lancing College Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - Apr 1911 - Lancing College Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsOccupation - Engineer - 1925 - Argentina Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarriage - < - abt 1925 - Chile Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarriage - abt 1925 - Chile Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsOccupation - Civil Engineer - abt 1934 - 1935 - Spain Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDeath - 20 Mar 1970 - Alicante, Spain Link to Google Earth
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  • Photos
    Edwin Christopher Lance (1893-1970)
    Edwin Christopher Lance (1893-1970)
    The Spanish Pimpernel

  • Sources 
    1. [S01] Census, UK, 1901.
      age 7 b Taunton

    2. [S05] The Times, funerals, 24 Aug 1935.
      father

    3. [S05] The Times, birth notice, 14 Jun 1893.

    4. [S02] BMD Index, birth reg Taunton, 3Q1893.
      (Male) Lance

    5. [S01] Census, UK, 1911.
      age 17 b Taunton

    6. [S29] Medal Index Cards WW1.

    7. [S35] London Gazette, 26 Sep 1917.

    8. [S12] Passenger Lists, Highland Loch, 10 Dec 1925.

    9. [S08] Family Trees & Websites, Munthe.
      tree accessed 06 Jul 2011

    10. [S12] Passenger Lists, Sierra Ventana, 05 Aug 1934.

    11. [S12] Passenger Lists, Shropshire, 31 Mar 1935.

    12. [S07] Other Sources, San Miguel de Salinas website, 06 Jul 2011.

    13. [S05] The Times, obituary, 23 Mar 1970.

    14. [S02] BMD Index, marriage reg St Giles, 1Q1890.

    15. [S06] Parish Registers, marriages, St George, Bloomsbury, 07 Jan 1890.

    16. [S01] Census, UK, 1911.
      marr 21 yrs

    17. [S05] The Times, forthcoming marriages, 14 Jun 1924.