Dr. Bruce Philip Lambert, OBE
The following text is reproduced from the eulogy given by Byrne Goodrick, Hon. FAIC, at the
funeral service for Bruce Lambert on 6 April 1990 at the Wesley Uniting Church, Forrest,
Of all the people who might have been chosen, I am indeed
honoured to be asked to speak about Bruce. If I have any
qualifications to do so it is because I have been closely
associated with him both during World War II and in our
chosen profession for fifty years.
Bruce Lambert was born at Gosnells, Western Australia, in
1912, but moved at an early age to Victoria. He attended
Wesley College, Melbourne and completed a Diploma of Civil
Engineering at the Melbourne Technical College. In
qualifying to practise as a land surveyor he was awarded the
prize of the Victorian Institute of Surveyors. Prior to World
War II, he was employed successively by the Titles Office, the
State Electricity Commission and the Melbourne City
In 1939 he married Gwen Carmichael, a wonderful
partnership which produced a great family.
At the outbreak of war he was already a commissioned officer
in a militia artillery brigade. Early in 1940 a small militia field survey unit was formed with
recruits from various survey departments in Melbourne. I was a junior draftsman with the
Victorian Lands Department and went into camp with the unit at Mt. Martha. Bruce was OC.
I believe he held the rank of Captain. Mid 1940 saw the establishment of the 2/I Corps Field
Survey Coy AIF and most of that small militia unit enlisted, including Bruce as a Lieutenant,
which in itself says something about the man.
Even at Puckapunyal Bruce showed out as a `goer', often setting a cracking pace on route
marches and bivouacs, a role he saw as `toughening up' and enjoyed. It was obviously
successful because the unit's last training exercise prior to sailing for the Middle East was a
90 kilometer march in three days, mapping an area of 50 sq. miles in a week followed by a
90km march back to Pucka.
Enroute to the Middle East the convoy pulled into Bombay where the Unit transhipped from
the troopship Mauritania to a transport named the Kehdive Ishmael. Conditions for other
ranks were appalling and Bruce was the officer who came to check the situation and try to do
something about it.
The Coy's first appearance in an order of battle was on the Greece expeditionary force but of
course that operation came unstuck and we returned from Egypt to Palestine where field
parties moved to northern Trans Jordon. Bruce was engaged in mapping and co-ordinating
the Palestine Trans Jordon triangulations and connecting them across the border with the
French triangulation in Syria. He was later involved in mapping for the Syrian campaign and
the extension of the Palestine map series into Lebanon. When the 2/1 moved into Lebanon he
was mapping in the Bekar Valley around Damascus and along the Turkish border in the
On return to Australia in 1942 the 2/1 became part of 1st Army, and Bruce was promoted to
Captain. He also served as a Captain with the newly formed 6th Coy, later as Major when CO
of the old 2/1 in New Guinea, and finally as a Staff Officer in Australia, the Dutch East Indies
and Borneo.
When the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia established a geographic centre of
Australia in 1988, the centre was named in his honour and he was awarded the
G.P. Thompson Foundation medal. He was an Honorary Fellow of The Institution of
Surveyors, Australia.
Few people achieve such eminence in their chosen professions as did Bruce Lambert. He
presided over the mapping of Australia in what must be described as its golden years and
leaves a significant legacy in the development of this country. His achievements, dedication,
honesty and moral standards made him a great Australian and a great friend.
Bruce was the best type of Army Officer, seen by the `Digs' as a bit of a hard man but
popular because he was fair and wasn't afraid to mix it on the sporting field or elsewhere. He
liked Australian Rules football and I have photographs of us in opposing teams (field sections
v. drawing and litho sections) taken on the Damascus racecourse. On one occasion the Coy.
played an Army HQ team and he tangled with a big fellow on the opposing side who turned
out to be the area Provost Marshall. Bruce was pleased with the result but the rest of us didn't
see the Coy. being offside with the Military Police as such a good idea.
Post-war, his first appointment was as Deputy Director of National Mapping in the
Commonwealth Department of the Interior and, in 1951, Director of National Mapping and
Chairman of the National Mapping Council, in which capacity he continued until his
retirement in 1977.
An overall coverage of air photography, photoscale compilations and published 1:250 000
scale planimetric maps was completed in the mid-l960s. The National Geodetic and Levelling
Surveys were successively completed in 1965 and 1971.
Considering the size of this country, and the small numbers of people involved as compared
with other countries, this was an incredible achievement, and very much the result of Bruce's
attitude to mapping generally which was to adopt measures and techniques designed to get
map products to users as quickly as possible (no doubt a legacy from the urgencies of
wartime mapping).
In 1965, the Federal Government approved commencement of a program of 1:100 000 scale
contoured mapping. In 1970, the Division of National Mapping was given the task of
mapping the Australian Continental Shelf (an area almost as big as Australia itself). The
Lambert Shelf Valley, a major submarine feature lying on the North West Shelf, bears his
Concurrently with these activities, the Division continuously maintained a program of
mapping in support of Australian Antarctic research and published a wide variety of thematic
maps including the World Aeronautical Chart Series and National Atlas. Bruce was
particularly interested in mapping Antarctica and enjoyed being personally involved in the
days when plotting was from trimetrogen photography. The huge `Lambert Glacier' in
Antarctica (perhaps the world's largest) also carries his name.
Also during this period Bruce was responsible for the introduction to Australia of a number
of new surveying and mapping techniques and the establishment of an astrogeodetic satellite
observatory at Orroral Valley in the ACT
Throughout his career Bruce Lambert was very active in international surveying and
cartography. Jointly with an Indonesian team he brought about the survey of the New Guinea
International Boundary. In the early 1970s, he was one of six internationally selected
surveyor/cartographers who met in New York as a group of experts to advise on Projection
and Planning in Cartography for the Second United Nations Decade.
Bruce made many contributions to cartographic and surveying literature. He certainly did not
seek recognition, that was contrary to his nature, but the recognition he received is worthy of
For his public service in mapping Australia, he was made an Officer of the Order of the
British Empire in 1970. The University of New South Wales conferred on him an Honorary
Doctorate of Science in 1977. He was the recipient of the Australian Institute of
Cartographers first gold medal, and made an Honorary Fellow of the Institute.
The Australian Surveyor June, 1990, Vol. 35 No. 2 Pages 200-201