The following are the first in a series of biographical sketches on the life of family members. More members will be added as information becomes available. The pedigree link of each of the biographies presently included has not yet been made. However, once the GEDCOM pedigree branches are assembled the association of each person in this biography section will be identified.


The following article was written and submitted by Dene Sambells (New Zealand). Arthur Sambells was Dene’s grandfather. Page layout and background histories by Frank Sambells.

(Ted Sambell is the son of Francis John Charles Sambell and grandson of Francis Poole Sambells who emigrated from Bermondsey England in 1914. He immigrated to Chatham Ontario and established a family in the London / Chatham area. See additional information about this branch of the family in the Clan pages of this website.)

The following is an article from the Piano Technicians Journal, November 1998, by Susan Kline, RPT, Feature Writer.

The Tuner’s Life – Not stopping now – Edward (Ted) Sambell, RPT

Frankly, this article is a tribute. Twenty years ago, Ted Sambell taught me to tune and work on pianos, and my life has made better sense ever since. I am strongly biased in his favour. He is calm, gentle, modest and very determined; and those traits got built into my attitude toward piano work from the very start, which was my great good fortune. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had this experience.

Three large groups of people have come under Ted’s influence: there are those like me, who took his diploma course in piano technology at George Brown College in Toronto, Canada; there are the students and faculty and visiting artists at the Banff Centre in Alberta; the third group are those who have taken his convention classes, or have studied with him through the Banff Centre’s Skill Development Residency program.

I met Ted back in 1978, and we’ve kept in touch ever since. He has grown and changed a lot since then, and now that he is over 70, he shows no signs of standing still. In an attempt to chart his path, let’s look at where he came from.

Early Life Ted was one of 10 children, and grew up in England in south London just before World War II. He describes his neighbourhood as a happy, easygoing and very safe slum, where children could wander at will. He grew up during the Depression and his family struggled, though he says he was always properly fed and clothed. His mother was a tower of strength who managed to make everything work out all right for her children. I once met her, and I clearly remember her firm, cheerful character. [Note: his mother was Rosina Wilder Sambell. Please see Rose Sambell’s letters from London 1940-1944 elsewhere on this website.]

His vision was very bad from earliest childhood, and he went to a school for kids with poor eyesight. The teaching there was very rigorous and thorough, and the firm basis it gave him still shows in Ted’s way of speaking and writing. Anyone who reads his e-mail posts to the “pianotech” list can witness his articulate and organized thinking and his excellent spelling, grammar and syntax. They had the idea that children with poor vision shouldn’t read small print, and had them write by assembling large rubber letter stamps to form words. He got very adept at picking out the letters he wanted and filling pages with huge printing. The school had music days when a blind pianist would come and play, and a few lucky youngsters (who had a little money to spare) would get piano lessons. Ted loved the piano tone and listened to the beats in a chord with delight – without anyone pointing them out. He craved a chance to learn to play the piano. His family didn’t own one, though his father played jobs with his violin and trumpet. This schooling continued until he was 14 years old. Then Ted got a scholarship to the Northern Polytechnical Institute, in north London, because the people running his school had the idea that if you had poor eyesight you probably had excellent hearing . (Ted says that this is a myth.)

He started the piano technology course in 1938 when he was 15. The school has a very distinguished history. Samuel Wolfenden had once been principal there. One of his professors was Sidney Alfred Hurren, a brilliant scholar with an urbane manner, who wrote the essay under “Piano” in the Encyclopedia Britannica. The course had a lot of flexibility, and allowed people to proceed at their own pace. Ted threw himself into it body and soul and moved ahead quickly, graduating early. Besides giving a good theoretical background, the course focused mainly on tuning and action work, especially center pinning and refelting. The English climate is easy on soundboards, but pianos there suffer a lot from moth damage and seized center pins.

The course included a lot of practice at tuning, which usually took half the time. The students did a lot of chipping and got very quick at it. I thought that I remembered watching Ted chip a piano in front of our class, raising it a semitone, in only five minutes; but he tells me it was 13 minutes instead. He didn’t know he was being timed until after he had finished. The most impressive demonstration of Ted’s chipping that I have seen happened late in the school year at George Brown College while I was there. A student had worked for many months on a square grand which had finally been strung but had not been brought anywhere near pitch, and time was running out. Ted said, “Never mind, I’ll chip it for you,” and the student went off to do urgent things. I settled into a chair nearby and kept quiet, for a change. I wanted to see how he would proceed. He took an A fork and set A0 (the lowest note on the piano). He then chipped rapidly from the very bottom to the very top by semitones, without once checking a note, or turning back. When he got to the very top, we checked the pitch of the highest note. It was right on! He doesn’t have absolute pitch (he says this was luck).

His mother managed to get him a piano after his first year in the tuning course, and made it a complete surprise. It was an old sticker-action upright with a walnut-burl case and loose pins. He was thrilled, and faithfully tuned it once a week with his T-hammer. He never could stand an out-of-tune piano. He bought a book and taught himself to play. He likes playing Chopin and Beethoven. He kept this piano for 10 years, until the family left England for Canada in 1949.

Once the course was over he planned to start working in a piano shop at the “Poly”, until he found out that the wages wouldn’t even pay his train fare. Instead, he started tuning for a large store in London. Most of the tuners were off fighting the war by this time and, although he was only 18, he was sent out to tune for customers a lot. He did floor tunings for the store and got paid two shillings sixpence a tuning. It seemed like a lot to him. He did 32 tunings a week.

After he had tuned his way through 200 pianos in two showrooms and had started on one of five storage warehouses with 900 more each (where the pianos were left on their feet, covered and labeled, in a heated space, and tuned at regular intervals) he volunteered for the Civil Defense. He started this work in 1941, and he continued it until the war was over. His job was digging out bomb victims and he was on call, 24 hours on and 24 off, continuing through weekends and holidays in the same pattern. If things were quiet, his group was set to clearing rubble and bombed out buildings. In between he did some piano work with his brother [Ben], who was also a tuner.

Once the war was over, work was harder to get. He printed business cards and put them through mail slots, and knocked on doors, with poor results. The family had planned for years to go to Canada once the war was over and they all saved up for it; they had Canadian roots. Ted’s father [incorrect – his father was born in London, England] and oldest brother were both born in Canada. In 1949 the family finally had enough money, and made the Atlantic crossing on the Cunard ship, Aquitania. They settled in London, Ontario.

Canada His course of action upon reaching London, Ontario was simple. Heintzman was a major company in Canada, with stores in every city. He walked into the store in London, and asked for a job. He stayed there for many years and organized a shop in the store. He didn’t look ahead. He just did the work as it appeared, whatever it was. Gradually (as cream will rise to the top) some concert work came his way. The Heintzman Company had a system where each store would keep a piano for concert rentals. (Toronto had four) The London store’s rental went out to a lot of smaller places for the Community Concerts series, and Ted would go with it in the truck, tuning it and helping with the moving. He would come back with the truck or by bus. For private customers or warranty work, he would use public transit or the customers would drive him to their homes. I wouldn’t expect tuning without a car to work very well, but Ted got around the whole region a lot. As well as being totally at home with public transit, he went in for bicycling in a big way.

Cyclist The work week was five-and-a-half days long. On Saturday afternoon, he would put overnight things in the bike’s saddle bags and ride to Hamilton (about 85 miles). He would stay with friends there, and then they’d ride farther on Sunday, all around southern Ontario. They visited Niagara Falls. When they needed to, they could come home on the train, checking their bikes. One vacation they cycled all the way to Quebec City, by way of Rochester, New York. Coming home on this trip, they decided that they wanted a day to rest, so they did 172 miles in one day in order to get back earlier.

The University of Western Ontario Ted started working for the university way back in 1951, when they had 20 music students and six pianos. Slowly, the Music Department grew, and grew, and grew. I’ll say more about that later.

The Heintzman Factory This settled period came to an end in 1960 when Bill Heintzman asked Ted to move to Toronto and work in the factory as a foreman. This was intensely frustrating. The company was already declining and “modernization” only sped the progress downhill. What resources were still available were stubbornly misused and his advice was persistently ignored. After six months he had had enough and quit. He moved back to London, Ontario, but instead of working for the store, he rented his old shop from them and soon hired two employees. He reluctantly let them go with six months’ notice when the government paperwork got too laborious for him. He got married and moved the shop, including his bass string machine, to his basement. Meanwhile, the Music Department at the University of Western Ontario continued to grow and took more of his time.

About this time, he tuned at the Stratford Festival for the series of chamber music concerts played by Glenn Gould, Oscar Shumsky, and Leonard Rose. Ted greatly admired Glenn Gould and enjoyed working for him. He made several emergency trips to tune for Glenn Gould for concerts in the U.S. and was asked to take on his Toronto tunings. Ted reluctantly turned them down, because he felt that in an emergency situation he might not be able to get there in time from London. He later regretted this decision.

Meanwhile, the University of Western Ontario grew and pleaded with him, and grew some more, until 1972 when Ted started working for them full time. He built a small shop there which I once got to see. It was exquisitely planned to make use of the limited space. He designed a plate hoist that folded back against the wall so it took up almost no room. He worked for the university until 1977 when he started the course at George Brown College. Four people now do his job at the university.

Teaching at Last After he left London, Ted began tuning for the Banff Centre each summer and one week at Christmas, and he taught at George Brown College in Toronto the rest of the year. He continued this schedule until he left Toronto and moved to Banff in 1990.

When I attended George Brown College in 1978 the course was only in its second year, so I witnessed its early stages. Everything got more organized as time went on, but for those with real motivation, the first year or two was a paradise. The attention and patience Ted spent on us was essentially unlimited, and we had great freedom in our use of time. Those with a tendency to let things slide lost out during those early years, and that type of student probably did better later on, when there was a firmer structure. Ted’s lectures were logically organized and beautifully prepared from the first, however.

Ted was changing as I watched those first two years. After a little mountain-climbing excursion at Banff in 1978, he decided he was out of shape. He started jogging and lifting weights. He ran two marathons a few years later. He also was organizing the course, and setting up his bass string machine and a hoist. He was buying some more power tools for the course, he was setting up a tool crib, and he was working hard on the curriculum. He also did concert tuning for Tom Hathaway, a very good rebuilder and dealer, and consulted with Ari Isaac, who was getting ready to start making hammers about then. With both years of the two-year course in residence at the same time, he was sometimes overburdened, and got some nasty cases of flu. Don Stevenson assisted with the teaching during my time in the course, which helped.

The year after I graduated, Anne Fleming-Read entered the course. She soon became Ted’s assistant, and she now is in charge of the program.

Banff In 1980 I was lucky enough to spend a summer at Banff in their apprenticeship program. I still remember the day of my arrival. There was a concert that evening, and Ted got to Banff with just time enough to tune the piano on stage in the late afternoon. Before leaving Toronto, Ted had been having long phone conversations with people at the Centre about problems with this piano. During intermission, several people came up to me and asked, “What did Ted do to the piano? It sounds so much better!” All I could answer was, “He tuned it.”

Back in 1980 there was no piano shop in Banff. Piano work was done backstage, and Ted had a storage closet for supplies and tools. Soon after I departed the scene, Banff hired a full-time piano technician who stayed all year and Ted would come out in the summer. I don’t know who these people were, but I do know that one of them, Otto Keyes, changed the whole future of the Centre when he acquired a large room for a shop. It became the shop – the magical shop that turns visitors green with envy.

Ted has always had strong leanings toward tools, jigs and shop fixtures, but he did not create the fabulous shop single-handedly. Denis Brassard is the other full-time technician at Banff. He and Ted make quite a team. Denis graduated from the George Brown College course in 1984 and has been at Banff a long time now, building things, exploring computer programs, designing things, and generally enjoying himself, while keeping the pianos sounding lovely. Also, Robert Haist comes each summer when everything gets busy at Banff.

Vision Ted says that, except for his being unable to drive, his poor eyesight never kept him from doing anything he wanted to do. When I met him, he used contact lenses along with thick glasses, but that certainly didn’t hold him back. However, as he got older he began to get cataracts as well. Ironically, this was a good thing. The surgeon was delighted to give him the good news: as they replaced the lenses to get rid of the cataracts they could correct for his nearsightedness, and he would have nearly normal vision for the first time in his life. The first thing he did when he could truly see was to retake all the slides for his convention classes.

Growth Every once in a while as the years passed I phoned Ted, or came up to Banff for a few days. First I started hearing about capping bridges and jigs for laying out bridge pin locations; I heard about adjustable lyre props; I heard about an alteration to the Steinway pitman, so it doesn’t bind in the keybed.

I heard about the Centre advertising across Canada for Steinway Ds to rebuild. I was there when one arrived from Brandon, Manitoba. Pianos at Banff started to be named because there were enough of them that they could be confused with each other. The one from Brandon is called the “Brandonburg”.

Then I started hearing about soundboards and a kiln to dry out the wood for them. Pretty soon I heard about making soundboards from raw lumber. Then I heard about videos of the soundboard process. I heard about a system to install upright hammers with factory precision. I visited, and saw jigs and new tool racks, regulating tables, a new lathe, a narrow keyboard installed in a Yamaha grand, and more jigs. I heard about making better videos, and the wish to edit them on a computer. I saw a Heintzman upright with a new a redesigned soundboard.

I saw a video of a strange electro-mechanical musical instrument called the “Clusterflux” which Denis and Ted had helped an inventor to build. It won the Bourges Prize in France, and the inventor, Garnet Willis, is coming back to Banff to make another version called the “Kinetoflux”.

I heard about the Banff Residency program where people can come for a week or more to study a particular aspect of piano work or to do a particular project. Then Ted became the Calgary PTG chapter president, and the Northwest Regional Convention was held at Banff. I was there – which is hardly surprising. I love to go there.

Smiles At the end of his class on bass strings at the Banff convention, Ted talked about his age. He explained that although he is well over 70 he feels no wish to stop working on pianos and intends to continue as long as he can. “They’ll have to scrape me off the keyboard.”

Ted Sambell is not hard to locate. He can be found at the remarkable shop or in the Banff Centre “Music and Sound” building most of the time. If he is not in Banff, he is probably either at a PTG convention, or on one of the international tours of piano factories sponsored by IAPBT (the International Association of Piano Builders and Technicians), or he is in Toronto visiting his daughter and two grandchildren.

When I visited Banff, people were polite though somewhat distant – until they saw that I was with Ted. Then everyone, from the waitresses and students, all the way up to the faculty and administrators, smiled warmly at me.

The “transportation” of Joseph Sambell

On Jan. 10th 1842 a very young 15 year old boy by the name of Joseph Sambell found himself standing before the judge H. Merivale Esq., at the Guildhall of Falmouth. Here the Quarter Sessions of the Grand Jury were being conducted. Joseph, reaching only four foot seven and a half inches tall, had a fresh complexion marked by the irregular flushing of his cheeks that was so common among his family. He was about 15 years of age with sandy brown hair and no evidence of whiskers. His boyish looks were broken by the experience of adolescence, a scar on his right cheek, one over his right eyebrow and another at the centre of his forehead. A mole on the left cheek further added to the caricature of his oval face.

The account of the court proceedings appeared in the West Briton Newspaper of January 1842. It revealed that after the reading of the proclamation against vice and immorality the “learned gentleman” expressed that he was glad there were only two cases of larceny before him. Both cases related to shop-lifting. Merivale noted that this crime, in a town like Falmouth with narrow streets and a constant flow of people from one part to another, was all too easy to master. All the Grand Jury had to do was examine if there were reasonable grounds for the charges and the petty jury would afterwards hear the cases.

Joseph’s hazel eyes starred upward past his broad nose to the imposing white wigged head of the judge before him. The details of his case – incident no. 12902 – were reviewed. Although educated, Joseph most recently had been working as seasonal agricultural labourer. During the Christmas season he met up with friend William Roberts and together they explored the busy little shops of Falmouth. Browsing the displays of candy, clothing, shoes and other wares of the village shops, they decided to enter the bookshop of Mr J. W. Dixon.

The details of the scene that followed are sketchy, but upon the boys hasty exit, proprietor Mrs Dixon hailed a constable to seize the boys for stealing. Young Joseph was caught with two pencils in his hand which he had taken from the shop without making payment.

In court Joseph confessed to his crime and absolved his mate of any guilt. His friend was acquitted and immediately set free. Joseph on the other hand faced the wrath of the social justice of the day and was sentenced to two years hard labour followed by seven years “transportation” to the penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania)! Frightened Joseph was taken away before his parents Joseph and Emma to serve the first part of his sentence at a local goal.

Joseph Sambell next appears in the records of the Australian Convict Index. On Jan. 20th, 1844, he is recorded as having departed Woolwich along with 290 other male adolescent convicts who were in the “prime of life”. The ninety-five day voyage on the Equestrian I was commanded by Master James Cromarty. At the end of the arduous journey, ship surgeon William West inspected the convicts at Millbank prison and reported that Joseph Sambell had conducted himself “without offence” and that his condition was “orderly.” It appears that the voyage had gone well. Only two lives were lost on the journey.

Joseph spent the next several years at Point Puer Prisoner’s barracks (Port Arthur, Tasmania). Point Puer was established in 1834 and was the first British institution built for criminal boys. It was initiated by Lt.-Governor Arthur during a time when teenagers were being seen in their own terms as children, rather than as small adults. The objective of making constructive colonial citizens out of transported teenagers was to be achieved by separating them from adult convicts and providing a reform program of education. The vehicles used to change immoral habits were rooted in trade training, religious instruction and backed up with the threat of the cat-o-nine-tails, leg irons, or sensory deprivation in solitary confinement.

Penal labour provided the backbone for the colony’s self sustaining economy. The daily work of the convicts ranged from ganged labour – including timber-getters in irons, and unironed garden gangs – to relatively skilled labour in the shipyards. The station’s workshops housed blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors, basketmakers, carpenters and stonemasons. The labour was designed to provide an avenue to reformation, as well as to improve the economic returns of the large and expensive settlement.

Finally, on Dec 7th 1848 Joseph Sambell’s imprisonment was reviewed. A month later on January 11th 1849 he was released with a “certificate of freedom.”

However, the outcome of the imprisonment experience produced mixed results. Upon release the defiant culture of many boys continued into adulthood. For others their trades provided opportunity to pursue careers and successful lives. In the case of Joseph Sambell another newspaper account in the Colonial Times of Hobart Tasmania strikes an unfortunate outcome. On April 5th, 1850 Joseph revisits the court of the Quarter Sessions, this time in the town of Hobart. Without description of the circumstances the article concludes: “the following prisoners were then placed at the bar and sentenced:- – – Joseph Sambells to be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for two years, to pay a fine of $50 and to find two sureties.”

The penalty of “transportation” was abolished in 1851.

Article written by Frank Sambells, Milton, Ontario Canada.

To date (2011) I have found no record of either the ancestors or descendents of Joseph Sambells. Perhaps he once again used the alias that was recorded in the transcripts of the Falmouth Quarter Sessions, – James Youden.

The story presented is based on the information gathered from the following sources: – West Briton, 7 Jan. 1842 – Colonial Times of Hobart Tasmania 1850 – Cornwall court of Quarter Session 1736-1852 – Australian Convict Index – Tasmanian conduct Record

Sapper Henry Sambells 1910 – 1944

Henry (Harry) Sambells was the son of James and Florence Sambells who Emigrated from Torpoint Cornwall in 1928. They immigrated to Ontario Canada and established a branch of the clan in the region of Hamilton. See additional information about this branch of the family in the Clan pages of this website.

A short ride on a long road

It was mid afternoon of Friday Sept. 22th 1944. The chill of the previous night had not parted the men’s stiff muscles. Their boots were caked with mud but their vital task was complete. Now the small group from the First Platoon of the 6th Field Coy of the Royal Canadian Engineers could try and relax as they sped back to Command Headquarters. It was to be a short ride on a long section of road they had worked that day.

It was a very cloudy, cool, damp and drizzling day. The road was pot marked with puddles. In places the gravel surface was slippery with mud. Inclement weather had made their life saving task all the more difficult. Even the treads of the M3 half-track they were travelling in did not reduce the swaying and sudden upwards motions they felt as the nine companions tried to relax on the benches of the open cab. It had been a hazardous day of uncomfortable tension.

The men had spent hours on foot scouring the route looking for buried land mines. Several had been detected and with great caution were successfully removed or purposefully detonated without incident. Even a booby trapped tree by the roadway had been cleared of a trip wire that was intended to catch men off guard with their pants down. The mission was accomplished.

Harry and his mates rewarded themselves with cigarettes. The smell of sweet tobacco smoke was a soothing comfort to the scent of distant cannon shells and that ever disgusting odour of carrion that wafted across the road on occasion. Was it animal or human? No one commented. Instead, they took a heavy drag on their cigarettes to camouflage reality.

The precious metal detectors they had been using all day were securely stored away in padded boxes. Their lives depended upon those instruments. The cleared road would now be one of the gateway routes for allied troops in the next few days. The target city was Boulogne where a significant contingent of Germans forces were held up. The men had witnessed successes of the campaign and now felt that it was only a matter of time before the Germans were completely routed. Maybe they would make it home for Christmas. What a marvelous thought.

Sapper Harry Sambells sucked back on his cigarette wishing he was elsewhere but at the same time taking pride in what he was accomplishing. In a letter sent the previous day to his brother Charlie and soon to be sister-in-law Ivy Davis he wrote:

I suppose I have traveled 200 miles in the past three weeks and still see apple orchards in abundance. It’s amazing how far I went in one single day, and quite a thrill passing through the liberated towns and villages. If only you could see the happy people wild with joy, giving us a great welcome. This is the only time I feel this war is worthwhile.

I had one very pleasant experience in one small place. First the café was giving away free drinks to the soldiers, and feeding us rye bread and fresh butter with strawberry jam. After a bunch of us got talking to some very charming mademoiselles, the prettiest one, was going home so she playfully took my arm, and I took up the gesture and started walking along with her. I didn’t stay long, thinking we were going to pull out, but I went back again later and took my shaving gear for a much needed clean up. You should have heard the excitement when she saw me coming up the road. I was right at home,- hot water! After shaving she powdered my face, then took me outside and brushed my clothes down and even polished my shoes. I had supper there and she held the glass of cider for me to drink from and gave me 8 eggs. Oh Boy! What a girl, Madelaine! I assure you I was sorry to leave that place.

The weather is getting colder at night, -the first frost last night. I’d hate to spend the winter here. We had an issue of rum this week, the first since I landed in France. We were getting a bottle of beer each week for a while, but the past three weeks even that has been missing. The best drink in these parts is cnak, a very smooth spirit. The most potent of them all is calvados, a whisky made from cider, “just like fire water” as pop used to say.”

The company Command Headquarters was bivouacked in a small valley beside the railway track. The site lay behind the low hills just south of Calais. Despite the protections afforded by the strategic location all the men would be taking refuge in the comfort of their individual slit trenches. The enemy was too close to do otherwise. Sleep tonight would be intermittent due to possible cannonades from artillery posts and the irregular dropping of night flares by reconnaissance planes.

Having survived the D-Day landing of June 6th and participating in the successful assault on the town of Cannes, Harry too shared the optimism of others in his company. The month before he had written “I think this time next year will see us all together again, that is, all going well, baring booby traps, mines and snipers etc.”

It was to be a short trip on a long road. In fact much too short. As Harry was about to light another cigarette a sudden and deafening flash of light scattered metal, bodies and limbs. Five of the nine men including Harry Sambells were killed instantly.

Back home Harry’s brother Charlie was celebrating his first wedding anniversary with his wife Ivy in Montreal. Charlie nor the rest of the family in Hamilton did not hear of the tragic news until several days later.

In his book on the history of the 6th field company Platoon sergeant S. A Flatt wrote:

The 22nd of Sept was one of our tragic days that we would so much like to forget. No. 1 Section who had been clearing mines for the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, were returning to Company Command over the road from Escault to Le Choquel when their half-track ran over a mine that somehow or other had been missed. The half track was completely demolished and five men were killed and four wounded.

On Oct. 5, Major T. R. Murphy of the 6th Cdn. Field Coy wrote the following to Henry’s parents, James and Florence Sambells, who were living in Hamilton, Ontario. Murphy conveyed details of the sad event to the family in this letter. He wrote:

It is with deep regret that I write to extend to you my sympathy in the loss of your son Sapper H. Sambells, a member of this Unit. Your sorrow is the heaviest that one person can be asked to bear and while mere words are quite inadequate I want you to know that the officers and men of the Unit as well as myself send to you and your family our sincerest condolences.

I feel that you would no doubt like to know the circumstances surrounding the tragedy, which took place on Friday, 22 Sept. During the attack on Boulogne, it was discovered that all roads into the city were heavily mined with many diabolical devices to detonate same. Your son was a member of one of several groups engaged in the hazardous and vital task of mine clearance on these routes. This party had been working on these roads for some time and had done an excellent job, resulting in the other arms getting forward to their objectives without loss of time. One mined roadblock (between Escault to Le Choquel) however, was armed with booby trap devices and was detonated. In the resulting explosion your son was instantly killed. It may be some measure of consolation to you to know that he suffered no pain at all, and died doing a vital and urgent job, without which our success in capturing the city would have been much more difficult to accomplish.”

Today, the construction of the tunnel under the English Channel and access highways into France, have transformed the battlefields of the Pas de Calais from what they were in WWII. However, a visitor can still follow the battle plans from the excellent information displays situated in the area. The place to start is at the Canadian Military Cemetery that has a special exit off the A-16 near Calais. Here on a once bare hillside now covered with pine trees, you will find the graves of many of the 925 Canadian men who died in September 1944. “Sapper” Henry Sambells is one of them.

Derrick Sambells (nephew of Harry) visiting the Calais Canadian War Cemetery, Leubringhen, France Nov 2007

Article written by Frank Sambells, Milton, Ontario Canada.

Frank is the son of Charlie, brother to Harry Sambells.

The story presented is based on the information gathered from the following sources: – Sixth Canadian Field Coy, RCE 1939 – 1945 by CQMS S,A, Flatt – Letters from Harry Sambells to Charlie Sambells (archives) – Letter from Major T. R. Murphy (Oct 5 1944) to James & Florence Sambells – Historical weather reports 1944

Tribute to Geoffrey Tremayne Sambell 1914 – 1980

Geoffrey Tremayne Sambell (1914-1980), by unknown photographer, 1944 Australian War Memorial, 074344

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002 by Colin Holden

Geoffrey Tremayne Sambell (1914-1980), Anglican archbishop, was born on 28 October 1914 at Broadford, Victoria, fourth of seven children of Edgar Shadforth Sambell, butcher, and his wife Barbara Katherine, née McPhee, both Victorian born. The family moved to Glen Iris and Geoff attended Melbourne High School. While working as a commercial traveller (1931-34) for R. H. Mytton & Co. Pty Ltd, a South Melbourne cutlery firm, he developed his organizing abilities, established a network of contacts with business people, and revealed the strong commitment to social justice that was to characterize his later career. The experience of attending Lord Somers’ Camp in 1932 led him to open a club for unemployed youths in South Melbourne.

Called to the Anglican priesthood, Sambell entered Ridley College in 1935, gained his licentiate (1939) from the Australian College of Theology and began studying at the University of Melbourne (B.A., 1947). He was made deacon in 1940 and ordained priest on 9 February 1941. Following a term (1940-41) as curate at St John’s, Malvern, he was appointed chaplain, Citizen Military Forces, on 8 January 1942. In August he transferred to the Australian Imperial Force. He served in New Guinea with the 57th-60th Battalion (1943-44) and the 2nd/11th Battalion (1944-45), performing the duties of canteen officer, arranging competitions and sporting events, and demonstrating a capacity for openness in his relations with servicemen of varying backgrounds. Although he relinquished his A.I.F. appointment on 19 March 1946, he continued to be active in the C.M.F. in 1949-51 and 1958-60.

Sambell’s first post on returning to Melbourne in 1946 was a curacy at St Mark’s, Camberwell. Archbishop Joseph Booth responded to his war record and increasing assertiveness by appointing him director of the newly created Melbourne Diocesan Centre on 24 April 1947. Charged with revitalizing four inner-city parishes, and helped by a team of parish clergy, chaplains and lay people, Sambell was assisted by people working in factories, hospitals and law courts. The centre grew under his leadership and took control of many aspects of non-parochial ministry. In 1961 he became director of the newly created Home Mission Board: it incorporated the centre and other diocesan departments that provided services such as counselling and chaplaincy.

Having been appointed to the board of the Brotherhood of St Laurence in 1947, Sambell insisted on sound management. His careful scrutiny of the community’s finances stabilized the more erratic approach of its founder G. K. Tucker. Sambell played a major role in reshaping the brotherhood as director of its social services (from 1949), and as executive-director and deputy-chairman of its board (from 1956). Among measures to make its operations more professional, he began employing trained social workers in 1953, a step which promoted co-operation with government welfare agencies. In 1957, following a study tour of the United States of America, he introduced a salvage division which became a significant source of funds.

Sambell revived the Victorian Council of Social Service as its president (1956-58) and joined the national organization, the Australian Council of Social Service. His increasing prominence was reflected in his appointment as archdeacon of Essendon (1955) and of Melbourne (1961), and his consecration on 24 February 1962 as a coadjutor bishop. In 1964 he attended the meeting of the East Asia Christian Conference, held in Bangkok. Hugh Gough, the Anglican primate in Australia, appointed him local director of Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ. Sambell was later made a delegate to the Anglican Consultative Council.

Elected archbishop of Perth, Sambell was enthroned in St George’s Cathedral on 24 October 1969, thereby becoming Perth’s first Australian-born Anglican prelate. He rapidly restored the morale of his clergy and increased their stipends. Characteristically, he streamlined diocesan administration, developed new parishes, strengthened the position of religious education and broadened chaplaincy services. In 1974 he established the Anglican Health and Welfare Services Board. Projects initiated under his direction included a recycling operation, housing for single-parent families, an Asian Community Centre, and a marriage and family counselling service.

Eager to eradicate the sense of Western Australia’s regional isolation, Sambell sent theological students to be trained at colleges in the other States and allowed some to be placed in Asian countries. His initiative for a diocesan programme, Celebration ’75, included an Easter Day eucharist to which major prelates from developing nations were invited. Due to the links he forged, Australia was granted full membership in 1976 of the Christian Conference of Asia.

In 1976-80 Sambell chaired the Federal government’s National Consultative Council on Social Welfare. His experiences in Western Australia transformed his understanding of Aboriginal communities and their needs. After a magistrate fined the diocesan trustees in 1977 for allowing fringe-dwelling Aborigines to camp in the grounds of a suburban parish church, Sambell publicly criticized Sir Charles Court’s government in 1980 over its handling of the Noonkanbah affair. Although gravely ill, he visited England later in the year, assisted by Tao Tong, a Laotian student whose guardian he had become in 1968. He died of cancer on 19 December 1980 in Perth and was cremated. On 31 December he was posthumously appointed C.M.G.

Five ft 10½ ins (179 cm) tall and heavily built, Sambell was at once lonely and gregarious, brusque and welcoming, and often revealed his emotions more tellingly in body language than in words. He was driven both by a vision of the future and by an element of insecurity. Early in his appointment to the Melbourne Diocesan Centre he was nicknamed ‘the Boss’. He maintained control by his mastery of financial information, which exceeded that of accountants on his staff. His strategies were sometimes the product of sleepless nights. Convinced that the Church should minister on the basis of need rather than the availability of funds, he pushed for the creation of new positions and roles, and for the appointment of young clergy. Among the junior priests he encouraged were the future bishops Peter Hollingworth, Michael Challen and James Grant.

Sambell’s belief in the importance of co-operating with government organizations made him an intelligent pioneer of social-service work. His nationalism—tinged with a sense of alienation from the English expression of Anglicanism—and his growing sympathy with Anglicans from developing nations and the United States were significant in countering provincialism in Western Australia and prophetic in a national context.

Select Bibliography • J. Handfield, Friends and Brothers (Melb, 1980) • J. Tonkin (ed), Religion and Society in Western Australia (Perth, 1987) • Church of England, Diocese of Perth Year Book, 1970-81 • A. Porter, Biography of Geoffrey Tremayne Sambell, 1914-1980: Archbishop of Perth, 1969-1980 (M.Phil. thesis, Murdoch University, 1990) • private information.

Citation details Holden, Colin, ‘Sambell, Geoffrey Tremayne (1914–1980)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 January 2012.


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