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Alfred Palmer
4981, 202524 Devonshire Regiment

      Alfred Palmer was the son of John Palmer and his wife Ann, who in 1911 were living with him on Church Hill. Father and son were both farm labourers. Alfred had been born late in the marriage; his parents were already 64 and 63 years old at the time of the 1911 census, whereas Alfred was still only seventeen. Sadly, all military documents relating to Alfred were lost in the London blitz, but we do know for certain from the Chumleigh Deanery Magazine that he was already serving in the 6th Battalion of the Devon Territorials in September 1914, then aged about 20. Turning to Medal Cards for help, there are three possible cards showing an Alfred Palmer who served in the Devons during the war.

      The most likely card for Alfred is numbered 4981 followed by the new number 202524. This shows an enlistment in the Devon Territorials either before the war or on the outbreak, with the first number (reflecting his service in the 6th Devons). All Territorial battalions were renumbered on 1st March 1917: details were first published on 23rd December 1916. 202524 was a number given to a man serving in a 4th battalion, however, which means that if this card does apply to Alfred, he must have been posted from the 6th Battalion to the 4th either before the 6th was mobilised for war service in India, or during their subsequent history in India and Mesopotamia thereafter. By August 31st 1914 the 4th, 5th and 6th Battalions had all been accepted to go overseas, and the great majority of men had volunteered to go. Those who for various reasons chose to remain in the UK were sent back to their Headquarters to serve as a nucleus for the Reserve or second line battalions which each unit was to form. Alfred might have been rejected for India on medical grounds or perhaps because for some reason he did not wish to leave his elderly parents. Ultimately this would have led Alfred to be serving in the 2nd/4th Battalion at the time of the renumbering. The 2nd/4th themselves left for India at the end of December, and proceeded to Wellington in the Madras area, though of course we have no means of knowing if Alfred went with them. Those men left behind from the 2nd/4th were then collected at Tavistock and in February 1915 re-named ‘The Devon and Cornwall Brigade Provisional Battalion.’ This became the 86th Provisional Battalion in August 1915 and early in 1917 at the time of re-numbering were re-designated the 15th Battalion Devonshire Regiment.

      The medal card records that Alfred was awarded only the Victory Medal and never received the British medal. This curiosity is explained by looking at the second possibility: a medal card awarded to a Devonshire Regiment man number 1775, who was recorded as never serving overseas but who was given instead the Silver War Medal. However, this man was also incorrectly issued with the British Medal belonging by rights to our first candidate. We also know from the card that he never sent it back. Since no medal could ever be minted twice, this would explain why our first man never received it. The original number 1775 indicates that of an older man, possibly rejoining a regular battalion as a reservist, too elderly to be sent overseas, clearly not our man.

      The third medal card of a Devon Regiment Alfred Palmer is numbered 24444 / 90933 with the second number in the Labour Corps. This is only a distinct possibility if Alfred had volunteered for a regular or New Army battalion in 1914 and for some reason had been posted (perhaps following injury) to the Labour Corps. We know this not to be the case since Alfred served in the 6th Devons.

      We attach the one possible medal card to this site together with a brief summary of the war service of the Devonshire Regiment. Only further information, perhaps from a descendent, might help us to know more of what must be an interesting service history.

16 July 2011



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Medal Card 1

Medal Card 2