No.13804, Private, Fred PALMER
Aged 21

9th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment
attached to 71st Coy., Machine Gun Corps
Killed in Action on Monday, 28th August 1916

Fred Palmer was born in Icklingham (Mildenhall Q3-1895 4A:809) son of Frederick R and Georgina PALMER (née COLLINS).

1901 census...Aged 5, he was at Berners Cottage, High Street, Icklingham with his father Frederick R Palmer [33] farm labourer born Eriswell; his mother Georgina [32]; brother Arthur [6]and sister Ellen [3]. No place of birth is recorded except for his father.

1911 census...Aged 15, farm labourer, he was at West Street, Icklingham with his parents; brothers Arthur (cowman) and Joseph [4]; sisters Ellen, Priscilla [8] and Ruth [2]. All the family except Fred senior are now recorded as born in Icklingham. One sibling had died.

He enlisted in Icklingham, from his war gratuity it would seem in August 1914.
The 9th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment and 71st Coy Machine Gun Corps were part of 71st Brigade, 6th Division. The war diary says the 9th Suffolks were at rest on 28th August 1916 but had a route march to Beauval. One of their unpleasant duties leading up to the 28th was clearing the battle field near Mailly-Maillet of the dead from July 1st of the Ulster Division. Fred's is the only death in the battalion that day, perhaps he was actually in action with the Machine Gun Corps but their war diary has not been found yet.

The Bury Free Press of 21st October 1916 reported :-

Since the commencement of the forward move on the Somme we regret to have to record the death of four out of the 40 Icklingham men who have ventured their lives in support to the great principles of justice and the right for which we and our allies are contending. Of these, Prvt James Hunt of the 10th Suffolk, and Prvt Geo Ranns of the 9th Suffolks, were killed in action last July {Geo. Ranns died with Horace Sharman , who is not mentioned here} and both were highly spoken of by the officers of their respective Companies. More recently came the sad tidings of the death of Prvt Fred Palmer, who had been selected from the 9th Suffolks to serve in the 71st Company of the Machine Gun Corps, and was the first of that company to be killed in action. His Company Officer (Lieut H.T. Powell) writes of him as "a very keen and brave soldier, well liked by us all, and he adds "His officers from the Suffolk Regiment are all equally deeply grieved as we are. Letters from Captain Seymour Church, of the 9th Suffolks and from the Chaplain who officiated at his funeral bear testimony also to the affectionate regard felt towards him and the sorrow of his comrades at his loss". Last on the roll of honour is Prvt Spence Turner who fell in action at Ginchy on September 13th..........................

Thanks to Rosalind Hamill we have copies of three letters written by his officers to his mother.

Dear Mrs Palmer - By the time this reaches you, you will already have received the sad news of the death of your son, Pte.J.Palmer, 9th Suffolks, but I thought you might like to have a few lines from the Chaplain who took the service at the grave.Your son was, as you probably know, attached to the Machine Gun Company of the Brigade. He was the first of the Company to be killed. Yesterday afternoon his body was laid in the ground. I was most touched, the way in which his comrades carried out their part of the sad duties to the dead friend. Capt. Wilson, the Commanding Officer of the Company, the Officer commanding the section and the medical officer of the Suffolk Regiment were all present at the service. I thought you might like know this. We all sympathise very much with you in your great loss.If there is anything else you care to know that I can tell you please let me know ...Winlock Jones, Chaplain HQ 71st I.B.

Dear Mrs Palmer - It is with deepest regret I write to inform you of the death of your son Pte.F.Palmer. Please accept my sincerest sympathies in your great loss and sorrow.Your son had not been with my Company for some time. having been taken by the Machine Gun Company and at time (sic) I was very grieved to lose him and endeavoured to retain him with me. He was always such a brave and cheery boy (for he was no more) and was liked by all. He was killed at once and is buried in a soldier's cemetery near the firing line. I hope the knowledge that he was always brave in action and died bravely in the defence of his country will in some little way help to cheer you in your sorrow. If there is any way in which I can assist you in obtaining any information please let me know. Yours very sincerely Seymour Church..Capt. "C" Company 9th Suffolk Regiment.

Dear Mrs Madam - It is with the greatest sorrow that I have to inform you that your son No 13804 Pte J.Palmer was killed on duty yesterday morning at 10:30. He was taking his turn on sentry when a shell burst in the back of the trench. A flying fragment hit him in the head, death being instantaneous. He was buried in the afternoon by the Rev Jones in the presence of Capt Wilson within a half a mile of the line he was helping to defend. Your son was attached to this company about a month ago and during the time he has been in my section, I , together with the other officers and NCOs of the Company have always found him a very keen and brave soldier. He was well liked by us all and his officers from the Suffolk Regiment are equally deeply grieved as we all are. Your consolation, Madam, is as ours and probably his, that his life was given fighting for his King, Country and for a cause which all; we Englishmen think is one of Justice...I am Madam, Yours Sincerely H.T.Powell 2nd Lt.

His Memorial Plaque (commonly referred to as The Dead Man's Penny)

photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Fred Palmer is buried in Knightsbridge Cemetery, Mesnil-Martinsart grave D:29
and also commemorated on the Weather Heath Memorial (Elveden Column by the A11)

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details

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