25th County of London Cyclist Battalion
The London Regiment


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Ernest Owen PALMER

Ernest was born in 1895 in the City Road area of London to Owen and Annie Palmer.

He was a keen cyclist and joined a local club with many other young men of the area. As war loomed he joined the London Regiment's Territorial Unit which later became the 25th London (Cyclist) Battalion. He joined up on 29th August 1914 at Crystal Palace .

Some of the training took place in Kent around the Pevensey Bay area and he had a great love of this county and spent many happy family holidays camping there after the war. Soldiers were seen cycling in formation with their rifles attached to the crossbars of their bicycles.

With the regiment he went out to India and was very impressed by the Khyber Pass and grew to love Indian food especially hot curries and learnt a little of the language for fun.

He was disembodied 27th December 1919 at Stoke Newington having escaped illness and injury for five years.

He was a keen athlete, swimmer and loved playing tennis and continued well into his late 50s even though he had lost the sight in one eye due to Glaucoma.

He drove a small Austin 7 straight after the war, using it for his job as a commercial traveller and menswear agent, seeing much of the British Isles during his working life  and always had a car

His good tenor voice gave him many years of enjoyment being a member of the local amateur operatic societies and he particularly loved Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.

When WW2 broke out he applied to go into the Army again but was sent to the Home Guard in Shepperton. He spent many happy evenings there amongst friends “waiting for Gerry to invade” and peeling lots of potatoes for the evening meals.

He gained a classified job for the War Department driving a lorry full of gravel, from Shepperton gravel pits to London each day. He never spoke about it, even after the war but always turned up for work in jacket, trousers, waistcoat, shirt, tie and even a trilby hat. He must have been the best dressed lorry driver they had ever seen. We have thought since then that maybe it was something to do with the Mulberry Harbours being constructed in the docks.

He married Lily Rowena Williams in 1921 and had two sons but sadly his wife died after the birth of the second child. His elder son developed TB and had to go into a sanatorium where he died aged seventeen. Because Ernest had to travel so much the younger boy went into a foster home. He went on to meet and marry Harriet Lilian Thompson and had three more children but sadly lost the last boy at the age of eight months. His younger son by his first wife grew up in the second family.

Like his sister and his elder son he too had had TB and this left him with a weak chest but it never stopped his indomitable spirit and we all remember him - still swimming across the River Thames and back, well into his late 60s.

He died in December 1974 after two weeks illness, survived by his second wife and four of his children.

Ernest in 1914.

 

 


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