Palmer, Robert Anthony Maurice

Personal Information

Rank S/L
Forename(s) Robert Anthony Maurice
Surname Palmer
Gender M
Age 24
Decorations VC, DFC*, MiD, AE
Date of Death 23-12-1944
Next of Kin Son of Arthur Robert and Lillian Palmer, of Gravesend, Kent. Brother of Douglas Palmer.

Aircraft Information

Aircraft Avro Lancaster III
Serial Number PB371
Markings 6O-V

Memorial Information

Burial/Memorial Country Germany
Burial/Memorial Place Rheinberg War Cemetery
Grave Reference Joint grave 14. C. 13-14.

IBCC Memorial Information

Phase 2
Panel Number 222

Enlistment Information

Service Number 115772
Service Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Group 8
Squadron 582
Trade Pilot
Country of Origin United Kingdom

Other Memorials

Location Adjacent to former Airfield Site, Little Staughton, Bedfordshire
Country United Kingdom
Memorial Type Inscribed Stone Memorial
Memorial Text A memorial to RAF Little Staughton, including 109 Sqn
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Location All Saints Church, Little Staughton, Bedfordshire
Country United Kingdom
Memorial Type Inscribed Stone Tablet & Sqn Badge
Memorial Text In memory of 109 and 582 Sqns. At R.A.F. Little Staughton
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Miscellaneous Information

Did not receive the order to abandon the operation and, despite considerable damage, the pilot steadfastly kept course and delivered his bomb load. Flying as Master Bomber
VC Citation (London Gazette 20th March 1945): "This officer has completed 110 bombing missions. Most of them involved deep penetration of heavily defended territory - many were low-level "marking" operations against vital targets. All were executed with tenacity, high courage and great accuracy. He first went on operations in January, 1941. He 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 Ib. bomb on the Reich. It was known that he could be relied on to press home his attack whatever the opposition and to bomb with great accuracy. He was always selected, therefore, to take part in special operations against vital targets. The finest example of 'his courage and determination was on 23rd December, 1944, when he led a formation of Lancasters to attack the marshalling yards at Cologne in daylight. He had the task of marking the target and his formation had been ordered to bomb as soon as the bombs had gone from his, the leading aircraft. The leader's duties during the final bombing run were exacting and demanded coolness and resolution. To achieve accuracy he would have to fly at an exact height and air speed on a steady course, regardless of opposition.  Some minutes before the target was reached, his aircraft came under heavy antiaircraft fire, shells burst all around, two engines were set on fire and there were flames . and smoke in the nose and in the bomb bay. Enemy fighters now attacked in force.  Squadron Leader Palmer disdained the possibility of taking avoiding action. He knew that if he diverged the least bit from his course, he would be unable to utilise the special equipment to the best advantage. He was determined to complete the run and provide an accurate and easily seen aiming-point for the other bombers. He ignored the double risk of fire and explosion in his aircraft and kept on. With its engines developing unequal power, an immense effort was needed to keep the damaged aircraft on a straight course. Nevertheless, he made a perfect approach and his bombs hit the target. His aircraft was last seen spiralling to earth in flames. Such was the strength of the opposition that more than half of his formation failed to return. Squadron Leader Palmer was an outstanding pilot. He displayed conspicuous bravery.  His record of prolonged and heroic endeavour is beyond praise." Mentioned in Despatches January 1944.
Remarkably, this was his 111th operation. Attached from 109 Sqn. Born 7 July 1920 in Gillingham, Kent, he was the son of a Royal Flying Corps pilot. On leaving Gravesend Grammar School he was employed by the local corporation but the tales of his father's flying exploits was always bound to draw him to the RAF and so on 22 August 1939 he enlisted. After a brief spell with 75 Squadron he was flew his first tour with 149 Squadron after which he was posted to 20 OTU as an instructor, which frustrated him, although he siezed the opportunity to fly in the 1000 Bomber Raids during that time. 20OTU later came under the command of S/L Ian Bazelgette (himself posthumously awarded the VC), another frustrated pilot wishing to return to operations, who recommended Palmer be posted to 109 Squadron PFF after a period of training to covert to Mosquitoes. His first DFC was awarded on 30 Jun 1944 and the second when he completed his 100th operation. He was also promoted to Squadron Leader and opted to continue flying.

IBCC Digital Archive

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The National Archives

Fellow Servicemen

Last Operation Information

Start Date 23-12-1944
End Date 23-12-1944
Takeoff Station Little Staughton
Day/Night Raid Day
Operation Köln- to attack the Gremberg railway yards. This raid went badly wrong. The force was split into three formations, each led by an Oboe equipped master and a similarly equipped Mosquito reserve master. Improved weather meant that the crews could bomb visually and the order was given. Tragically, the order did not reach S/L R A M Palmer's aircraft and they carried on unawares, being hit by flak on their approach but dropping their bomb load nonetheless. Soon afterwards they were set about by fighters and the aircraft was downed in the target area. S/L Palmer was posthumously awarded a VC for his valour.
Reason for Loss Shot down by flak in the target area

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Casualty Pack

IBCC is delighted to introduce a unique facility to link the Losses Database to the relevant RAF Casualty Pack on the National Archives website. This project is the result of on-going collaboration between IBCC, the MOD Records Office and National Archives, Kew. This document describes what Casualty Packs are, when they were created, the process of making them available to the public and then goes on to describe the process by which you can view the contents of the packs. Casualty Packs (CPs) were created by the RAF whenever there was serious injury or loss of life associated with operational activity within the RAF. This includes operational flying losses, enemy action due to air raids, road accidents either on station or even off-station if they involved RAF vehicles. Deaths due to natural causes in service or accidents that did not involve RAF vehicles did not generally give rise to a CP.

CPs were originally given a unique reference number by the RAF. Each begins with the letter ‘P’ and is followed by six digits, then an oblique (forward slash) and the finally the year in which the incident took place- for example P396154/42.

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