Palmer, Hon. Robert Stafford Arthur

He was the second son of the 2nd Earl of Selborne, K.G., G.C.M.G. (C, 1873-1878: Warden of Winchester College 1920-1925) and grandson of the Marquess of Salisbury, three times Prime Minister. He was thus a cousin of George Cecil (B 1909-1912 – killed in action 1/9/1914 – see individual entry). He was Senior Commoner Prefect in 1907 and won the Warden and Fellow’s Prizes for English Verse and Greek Prose and the Duncan Prize for English Historical Essay. The same year he was elected to a Classical Scholarship at University College, Oxford. He took First Classes in Classical Moderations and Literae Humaniores, obtained distinction in the examination for the Ireland Scholarship and was President of the Union. In 1911, he visited India and on his return was persuaded by his friends to publish a record of his journey under the title “A Little Tour in India”. Shortly before the war he was called to the Bar.

He had already served for some time in the 6th Battalion Hampshire Regiment – his county Territorial battalion – and went with them to India in October 1914. The following August he left Agra with a draft to reinforce the 4th Battalion of the Hampshires and took part with them in an unsuccessful attempt to relieve the garrison at Kut-el-Amara, during which he fell at the Battle of Umm-el-Hannah on 21st January 1916. At first he was posted as missing but it later became known that he had fallen into the hands of the Turks and died soon after reaching hospital. The famous writer and politician, A P Herbert (C 1906-1911) wrote to his parents in May confirming this: “I am more grieved than I can say to have given you the news which I telegraphed yesterday. I know how cruel the anxiety of doubt is, and telegraphed to you when I had the evidence which I and my friends here considered reliable. About six days ago I went out to the Turks to discuss terms for the surrender of Kut. I spent the night in their camp and have been with them several times since then. I asked them for information about three names. About two of the names I could get little information. On the third day I received a message from Ali Jenab Bey, telling me that your son had died in hospital, and that all that could be done for him had been done, and asking me to tell you how deeply he sympathised with you. The next day Ali Jenab and two other Turks came into our camp. One of them, Mohammed Riza, a relation of Jenab Pashas, told me that your son had been brought in after the fight on the 21st, slightly wounded in the shoulder and badly wounded in the chest. He had been well looked after by the Doctors and the Colonel of the Regiment (I could not find out which Regiment) had visited him, and at the Doctor’s wish sent him some brandy. He did not suffer and the end came after four hours. It is useless to try to tell you how sorry I feel for you and all of yours. In this campaign, which in my mind has been the most heroic of all, many of our men who have given their lives have suffered very long and very terribly, and when one hears of a friend who has gone, one is glad in this place, to know that he has been spared that sacrifice.”

He is commemorated at Winchester by the altar piece in Chapel, erected in his memory and the memory of Lieutenant Wilmot Babington Parker-Smith (E 1899-1904) who died of wounds on 12th September 1915. Palmer’s parents paid for the “Mother” figure which was dedicated in 1923 by HRH The Prince of Wales.

“Letters from Mesopotamia: from Robert Palmer” has been printed for private circulation. A sonnet which appeared under his initials in the Times in the autumn of 1915 is prefixed to the volumes.

War: World War 1

  • Surname: Palmer
  • Forenames or initials: Hon. Robert Stafford Arthur
  • House: C
  • Years in School: 1902-1907
  • Rank: Captain
  • Regiment: Hampshire Regiment
  • Date of Birth: 26th September 1888
  • Date of Death: 21st January 1916
  • How Died: Died of wounds
  • Location in War Cloister: Outer C3
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Unknown but commemorated on Panels 21 and 63 of the BASRA MEMORIAL