b. 11/11/1891 Hammersmith, London. d. 10/09/1955 Lymington, Dorset.
Frederick William Palmer (1891-1955) was born in Hammersmith, London on 11th November 1891. His father, Thomas, born in Worcester, was a omnibus and taxi driver. His mother was Rhoda nee Smith, originally from Stanton Lacy, Shropshire. His parents married in Brentford in 1887. Frederick had six siblings, but three died in infancy.
Frederick was educated at King William Street School, Hammersmith. He was employed by Messrs Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co Ltd and later by the publishers Erskine MacDonald. When war broke out he was business manager of the magazine “Poetry Review”. He married Daisy Lily nee Dighton that year in St Olave, London. She was previously a waitress at the Aerated Bread Company. Frederick enlisted on 22nd September 1914 and served in 14 Platoon, D Company. He went to France on 16th November 1915 and was promoted to Corporal on 21st September 1916. He was awarded the Military Medal for his actions on Redan Ridge on the Somme between 13th and 15th November 1916. The circumstances of the award are not known.
On 16th/17th February 1917 north of Courcelette, France, Lance-Sergeant Palmer assumed command of his company when all his officers had become casualties. Having cut his way under point-blank fire, through wire entanglements, he dislodged an enemy machine-gun and established a "block". He then collected some other men and held the barricade for nearly three hours against seven determined counter-attacks. While he was fetching more bombs an eighth counter-attack was delivered, threatening the advance of the whole flank. At this critical moment, although suffering from extreme exhaustion, he rallied his men, drove back the enemy and maintained his position.
He was commissioned in the Battalion on 14th March, and on 3rd May he was commanding a composite group of survivors north of Oppy Wood and spent sixteen hours stuck in the German wire with every man in his platoon a casualty. He was wounded in the head and evacuated to England for treatment. The VC and MM were presented to him by King George V in Hyde Park on 2nd June 1917.
Frederick later served in the RFC and transferred to the RAF. On 1st July 1918, he was appointed Temporary 2nd Lieutenant in RAF Kite Balloon and joined No 2 Balloon Training Wing at Richmond. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 14th September and served in 16th Balloon Company. Early in the 1920s he moved to Malaya and became a director of several companies at Penang, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
Frederick and Daisy had a son, Victor Cecil Frederick in 1919, though tragically Daisy died in childbirth in 1923, when having their second child. The child also died. During the financial crisis of 1929, his company went bankrupt. Whilst in hospital in Singapore later that year, he met a nurse, Doris Kimsinn nee Seah and they married on 24th December 1937 and they went on to have three children.
When war broke out, he went back into the RAF. He was commissioned as a probationary pilot officer with the Administrative and Special Duties Branch on 7th November 1940, and served with Operational Training Units. He was appointed Acting Flight Lieutenant on 20th July 1941, and later became a pilot officer. His wife and children remained in Singapore, and the family home was destroyed in the Japanese invasion. When Singapore fell, Doris and his children were held in a refugee camp and Frederick would not be reunited with them until 1946.
Frederick spent most of the war on ground defence duties within Britain. He relinquished his commission on account of being medically unfit on 13th March 1945 and retained the rank of Wing Commander. He returned to Singapore after the war, but retired in 1949 due to ill health. The family moved to England and settled at Hordle, Hampshire. He died at Lymington Hospital, Hampshire on 10th September 1955 and was cremated at Bournemouth Crematorium. His ashes were interred in the family grave at All Saints Parish Church, Hordle. In addition to his VC and MM, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. The medals were held by the family until 1st June 2006, when they were placed on permanent loan to the Royal Fusiliers Museum, Tower of London.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL FUSILIERS MUSEUM, TOWER OF LONDON (LOAN).
BURIAL PLACE: ALL SAINTS CHURCH, HORDLE, DORSET. (ASHES INTERRED).
Frederick Palmer's medals including VC and MM on display at Royal Fusiliers Museum, Tower of London.
(Picture - Thomas Stewart).
Two images courtesy of the British Army Twitter page of the unveiling of his VC stone in Hammersmith on 16 Feb 2017
Original medal (Paul Deeprose)