At the church where I got married, in Shirland, Derbyshire, there is a World War One memorial plaque.
I thought I’d have a look on Ancestry to see if I could find out any background to the men on the memorial and ended up discovering quite an interesting tale about William Palmer.
William Palmer, the son of George and Elizabeth was born in Shirland in 1879, one of eight children. In January 1894 he married Margaret Allen from Ambergate and they settled in Shirland; William was working as a miner.
The 1911 census recorded William & Margaret living in Chapel Houses, Shirland with six children; Frances, George William, Louisa, Samuel, Alwinne and Herbert. They also had an older daughter, Elizabeth born in 1894 and a daughter Margaret, born in 1898 and who died aged eleven months.
Despite being aged 37 and with dependant children, William Palmer enlisted in the Sherwood Foresters on the 3rd February 1915 and became Private 22945. But he was discharged from the army on the 10th March as he was: “not likely to become an efficient soldier.”
A re-enlistment letter dated 2nd August 1915 states that he may re-enlist for Home Service only, his medical examination had revealed: “valvular heart disease & bronchitis, on the slightest exertion this man becomes distressed in his breathing. His breathing is harsh & there are patches of tubular breathing over both lungs.”
Undeterred, William re-enlisted in Chesterfield later in August 1915 and was posted to the Durham Light Infantry No 33630. Sadly, on the 15th August 1916, William was accidentally drowned at South Shields and was buried at Harton Cemetery there.
His widow Margaret was initially denied a widow’s pension as William was, “not engaged in military duty when he met with the accident which caused his death,” but following an appeal she was granted 15 shillings a week for a year from April 1917.
I think it is fitting that William Palmer is mentioned on his village war memorial – despite his ill health he still managed to serve his country.