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In Memory of

Edward Sidney Palmer BEM 1904-1980

Coxswain, Naval Harbourmaster launch in 1940, later Tug Master & Pilot
Awarded BEM for rescue work following attack on AA Ship HMS Foyle Bank in Portland Harbour 4 July 1940

Click images to enlarge
 

The Sinking of HMS Foyle Bank

"4th July 1940 during the Battle of Britain - Anchored off the SE breakwater within Portland Harbour, auxiliary AA ship "FOYLE BANK" (Capt H P Wilson) was attacked by 33 Ju87 divebombers and apparently hit by a total of 22 bombs. With one of the attackers shot down, she sank to the bottom with 176 men killed out of a total crew of 19 officers and 279 crew. Leading Seaman Jack Mantle, gunner in the "Foyle Bank", continued in action although mortally wounded and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. (According to one source she was sunk off Portland in attacks on Thames-out convoy 0A178 which also accounted for four merchantmen. These, as well as other photographs of her hit and sinking bear out the Portland Harbour location.)"

Most of the "photographs of HMS Foyle Bank (below) were taken by a Navy engineer before she went down".

Information & Images supplied by Edward Palmer's grandson, Eddie Palmer (e.j.palmer@ntlworld.com);
additional notes by Gordon Smith

 

     
 
     
 
     
 
 
 

 
 

Part of the story of Edward Sidney Palmer BEM told in his own words to his family, Christmas 1977

Serving on Royal Mail Lines SS Orbita in 1922 aged 18

from the 1930's on:

……… I signed on those ships until 1934, I then bought myself a fishing boat to work for myself, making all my own trawl nets in the winter time when the weather was too bad to put to sea. I also joined the Weymouth Lifeboat and I was with them right up to the 2nd World War. It was hard work mostly night time trawling and not a lot of money for it, but we got by with a struggle. Well in November 1939 the 2nd Engineer of the Lifeboat told me there was a coxswain job going in the Naval Harbourmasters launch at Portland. Things were bad with the fishing at this time of the year. Well I apply for the job.

After proving I was capable I got the job as Coxswain. Pay 2 14s per week. My job was to run liberty men to and from the ships in the harbour and outside in the Wey Bay back into the Dockyard, in between there was three launches to do shift work for patrol work in the harbour. It was a weeks wages coming in an at the time that was what mattered. All fishing was stopped because of the was closing in on us. Come June 4th the evacuation of Dunkirk, all harbours were closed, all fishing boats and small craft had to be taken out of the water and engines dismantled with the threat of enemy invasion. I was told to stay where I was by the Kings Harbour master at Naval Base Portland, and that's how I came to work in the Naval Dockyard for the next 24 years.

Well things were beginning to happen, fast motor boats coming and going. Naval ships moving at all hours of the night. Ships being sunk out in the Channel, warnings of enemy planes and so on at the Eastern End of the Harbour in line with the Southern entrance they had moored a large ship. She had once been a grain carrier and turned her into a guard ship with anti aircraft guns. Her name Foyle Bank. She used to fly a yellow flag when enemy planes were reported, a red flag when planes were approaching Portland. She also was the quarters of the Reserve Naval ratings. Well on June 4th I was proceeding down the inside harbour at about 08.30 in the morning, a lovely day, a normal day. I noticed the guard ship was flying the yellow flag, but did not take much notice, for she had been flying that on a number of days lately. When out of the sun they came, enemy dive bombers. Diving straight down onto the guard ship, machine gunning and bombing. Hell let loose, about 20 planes, they appeared to have caught us napping. I immediately told my crew that we were going in to pick up the hands and ratings who were jumping and being blown into the water alongside of her. There was a barge with work people alongside of Foyle Bank, a bomb dropped alongside the barge turning it upside down.

We got in alongside started to pick up the survivors and dive bombers kept coming, machine gunning and bombing, lifting the launch almost out of the water. Well we loaded the hands on board until we could not carry any more and made for the nearest jetty. Some of the poor fellows were in a sad mess. We landed as quickly as we could and went back for more. By this time the enemy dive bombers had done what they had come to do, the Foyle Bank was on fire and sinking. She went down later in the day. The Lord looked after us that day.

Well things were happening from that day on, more bombing in Portland and Weymouth. We lived at Chapelhay back in those days, and we got a bashing. Ask your father, he was there. Well on the 28th April 1941 I received a letter from Admiralty, Whitehall stating:

Sir,
I am commanded by My Lords Commissions of the Admiralty to inform you that they have learning with great satisfaction that on their recommendation the Prime Minister has obtained the Kings approval for the award to you of the Medal of the Order of the British Empire, Civil Division, for meritorious service in H M Dockyard, Portland, during enemy air attacks.

(Eddie Palmer would also like to acknowledge Mr.Palmer's shipmates - Messrs. A. V. Bailey (engineer), S. R. Felmingham (A.B.), J. Saunders (A.B.), and J.Pearce (stoker).)

Well on March 24 1942 I took your Grandmother to Buckingham Palace where she watched in the Music Room, to see myself and others that day, shake hands and receive the medal from King George VI. It made us both feel proud that day. Lots of things happened. Portland played a lot in the landings in France on D Day. I could write a book about that alone. But jumping to 1945 I decided to remain in this job. I passed my examinations to become a Master I/C, and had a small tug and also went in for Pilotage. In 1946 I passed my examinations for Master of tugs and Pilotage. I had a salvage and mooring vessel for two years. Then tug security for 5 years. Tug pilot the biggest tug at Portland for 7 years. I was senior Tug Master and Pilot at Portland when I took over the tug pilot. I must have piloted and shifted hundreds of ships in my time in the Naval Dockyard. My last ship was the ocean going Tug Restive. I had her for 3 years used for towing vessels up the coast and target towing out in the English Channel for Naval Gunnery practice. I retired in 1964. I had enough.

P.S. There is a lot I have not spoken of, such as ships being salvaged and running ashore to be towed off. A hundred and one things but that's other stories! By the way I never did remember seeing the red flag.

Mr Palmer's full story can be found at Eddie Palmer's Homepage

and an account of the award of his BEM in the "Weymouth Echo"

 

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revised 27/9/11