b. 07/07/1920 Gillingham, Kent. d. 23/12/1944 Cologne, Germany.
Palmer was born at Gillingham, Kent on 7 July 1920 the son of Arthur and Lilian Palmer. As a boy Palmer attended Gravesend Grammar School in Kent, where a memorial portrait and his VC citation hang to this day in the school's hall. Palmer first flew operations in January 1941 and took part in the first 1,000-bomber raid against Cologne in 1942. He was one of the first pilots to drop a 4,000-lb. 'Cookie' bomb. In 1943 he served with 20 OTU at Lossiemouth in Scotland.
By the end of 1944 Palmer had completed 110 bombing missions, many as a member of the Pathfinder force, necessitating deep penetration of enemy territory and low-level ‘marking’ operations against heavily defended targets.
He was 24 years old, and a Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve Squadron Leader serving in 109 Squadron, during the Second World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 23 December 1944 over Cologne, Germany, Squadron Leader Palmer was detailed to lead a formation of Lancaster bombers to attack the marshalling yards in daylight and it was the task of his aircraft (serial PB371) to use the "Oboe" radio bombing aid and mark the target as "master bomber".
Palmer flew one of 27 Lancasters and 3 Mosquitoes from 8 Group to attack the Gremberg railway yards. The raid went badly. The force was split into 3 formations, each led by an Oboe-equipped Lancaster with an Oboe Mosquito as reserve leader. During the outward flight, two Lancasters collided over the French coast, their crews all killed. On approaching the target, it was found that the forecast cloud cover had cleared, and because the formations would have been very vulnerable to Cologne's flak defences during the long, straight Oboe approach it was thus decided to allow the bombers to break formation and bomb visually.
Unfortunately the order to abandon the Oboe run did not reach Palmer, who continued on with his designated role, even though his aircraft was already damaged by flak. Some minutes before reaching the target two engines were set on fire, but disdaining the possibility of taking evading action and being determined to provide an accurate and easily visible aiming point for the other bombers, he managed to keep the badly damaged aircraft on a straight course, made a perfect approach and released his bombs. The Lancaster was last seen spiraling to earth in flames and only one member of his crew escaped.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: RHEINBERG WAR CEMETERY, GERMANY.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT XIV, ROW C, GRAVE 13-14
St Clements Danes Church, Aldwych
National Memorial Arboretum (Andy Wright)