Topic: Clarence Victor Palmer

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Clarence 'Cal' Victor Palmer (Army Service #6/3124) was a soldier in the First World War who lived for a while in the Wharenui area and attended school there.

Clarence was born in Christchurch on 22 September 1895 but with his mother's surname, 'Taylor'. Mary Ann Taylor was single when at the age of 26 she gave birth to Clarence. The name of Clarence's father was not revealed. Originally from Gloucestershire, England Mary Ann had immigrated with her family to New Zealand on the 'Waimate' in 1874.

When Clarence was almost one year old Mary Ann married William Richard Palmer on 2 September 1896 and Clarence became a Palmer. There were ten children born after Clarence; Nellie (1897), Arthur George (1899), John Richard (1901), Emily Mary Jane 'Ruby' (1903), Walter Cecil (1904), Leonard Selwyn (1905), Ivy May (1907), Hazel Maud (1908), Edward Arnold (1910) and Roy (1913) - all of whom survived childhood to live long lives. William Richard Palmer was born  in Croydon, Surrey, England in 1869 the same year as Mary Ann. His family immigrated to New Zealand on the 'Eastern Monarch' in 1874.

Clarence began his scholling at Fendalton School in Clyde Road reaching standard two there before his father enrolled him at the recently opened Wharenui School on 3 February 1908. According to the Wharenui School 'Register of Admissions, Progress and Withdrawls' the Palmers were living in Wharenui Road, that Clarence finished standard three there in December 1908 and then went on to work in Christchurch. However he was enrolled at Wharenui again by his father on 11 July 1910 and finished standard four in May 1911. The register does not say where he was destined to go after he left school but he most likely went on to work again.

When he enlisted for the army in 1915 Clarence attested that he had been working for the well known butcher G. Knight of High Street, Christchurch. There is a photograph of the interior of Knight's business taken shortly before the war and it is possible that the young man donned in butcher's apron, standing next to the counter, is Clarence. A report in the Press lists Clarence responding to an appeal for recruits in May 1915. Some of Clarence's Wharenui School mates are also listed: Herbert Victor Tregoning and Philip Arthur Lummis.

Clarence was initially in C Company 7th Reinforcements after he was passed 'fit' in his medical examination on1 June 1915. That medical described him as 5' 5¾" tall, 129lb with brown eyes, brown hair and fresh complexion with a small goitre. On 14 June he arrived at Trentham where he was posted to Private 1st Company, 1st Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment on 14 June 1915. He became sick with influenza and was admitted to the camp hospital on 6 July. He was kept there until 16 July before he was granted two weeks sick leave. Once he had finished training Clarence embarked at Wellington with the 7th Reinforcements. He was probably on HMNZT #34 'Warrimoo' which departed with the other four ships on 10 October. Their convoy travelled via Albany, Australia (19 October) and Freemantle (22 October) before the long haul to Suez (18 November) where they disembarked  on 20 November 1915. 

One of the first assignments for the newly arrived Canterbury Infantry Battalion reinforcements was to guard the numerous Turkish prisoners of war in Cairo. This task may have lasted until early 1916 when the reinforcements were sent to join their battalion in the New Zealand Camp at Moascar for further drilling and training. One of Clarence's Wharenui School mates, Herbert Tregoning happened to be in the same 1st Company. Whether or not Clarence was in 15 Platoon with Herbert is not known. But given that they both had enlisted for the army on the same day it is likely that they intended to serve together if they could and they may have had contact with each other in the coming months. Clarence had to be admitted to the 1st Australian Dermatological Hospital in Abbassia on 27 February 1916.  He was discharged to the New Zealand Base depot at Ghezireh on 6 April and then on 20 April rejoined his battalion at Moascar.

Throughout this period the New Zealand Division had been reorganised and enlarged in preparation for being sent to France. Clarence's army file states that he embarked for Marseilles on board the 'Caledonia' a former British passenger liner on 10 May. The entire Regiment had been shipped to Marseilles in early April but Clarence had been still recuperating at Ghezireh. Clarence rejoined his battalion in the Armentieres sector on 18 July 1916. In August the New Zealand Division was pulled out of the front line and moved towards the Somme for it's entry into that battle which was already in progress. Much training was needed for the Division as tactics had evolved significantly since the New Zealanders had arrived in France.

In September the Division moved out of their training area at Merelessart and marched towards Fricourt where it arrived on 10 September. It remained here until it entered the attack. The 1st Canterbury Battalion was not involved in the first phase of the attack but on the 14th it was ordered to support trenches near Mametz Wood but was then diverted to a position in front of Flers where on 17 September it was shelled by the Germans all afternoon and night. Coincidentally, another former Wharenui School mate, Reginald Vincent was serving in the NZ 1st Light Trench Mortar Battery in this fighting where he was wounded. On the night of 18/19 September 1st Battalion was relieved and went to Savoy Trench for rest and to receive new reinforcements. Clarence and his 1st Battalion were next involved in the Battle of Morval which began on 24 September with an artillery bombardment that lasted until the attack was launched at 12.35pm the next day. The 1st Canterbury battalion was on the right of the attack and resistance was relatively light allowing the New Zealanders to achieve their objectives with minimal losses a short time later.

A further attack was carried out on 27 September with 1st Canterbury on the right once again. Clarence's 1st Company was in the second wave of the attack which again, quickly achieved it's objectives. They consolidated their gains until they were relieved on 28/29 September back to Savoy Trench to act as Divisional reserve. On 2 October 1st Battalion took over the trenches south-west of Flers for two days before moving to bivouacs at Pommiers Redoubt. This ended 1st Battalion's involvement in the Somme Campaign.

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Clarence Victor Palmer


First Names:Clarence Victor
Last Name:Palmer
Place of Birth:Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand