E. J. Palmer
Private, Devonshire Regiment, 9th Battalion
Died 30 September 1915, aged about 20
Remembered on the Loos Memorial, France
This identification was made by Chris Burge, who writes:
Eli John Palmer was born in 1895, the sole child of parents Eli John and Julia Susan Palmer. Eli’s mother was 45 at the time of his birth and had several children from a previous marriage before she was widowed. Eli grew up with his older half-siblings, living at 55 Lambeth Road.
By the time of the 1911 census, Eli’s mother had been widowed for second time when Eli’s father died in 1910. Julia Susan Palmer was now sixty years old and no longer working. Two of her sons from her previous marriage still lived with her, Albert and Francis Hewett. Young Eli worked as an errand boy for a hosier’s. The four adults shared just three rooms at 3 DeLaune Street, Kennington.
Perhaps spurred by the heady mix of patriotism and a sense of adventure, Eli John Palmer volunteered in London early in the war and joined the 9/Devons in 1914. This ‘New Army’ battalion was finally ready to move to France on 27 July 1915. After a few weeks of trench holding, the 9/Devons were at the first day of the Battle of Loos on 25 September 1915, facing a hail of fire when assaulting the enemy lines. During the bitter fighting, the 9/Devons were ‘stood to’ in the front line trench from 6.30pm on the 29 September to 2.30am on the 30th, under intermittent shelling. Eli John Palmer was killed on this day. Over a few days, the battalion’s total casualties were 15 officers and 461 men, close to 50 per cent of its strength.
Eli had nominated his mother Julia as his next of kin and sole legatee. She would receive his £3 10s war gratuity and a small pension at the war’s end. Julia lived at 16 Prideaux Road SW9, near Clapham North, from 1919 until she passed away in 1924, aged 76.