Former England captain Ronald Poulton Palmer was today honoured at Twickenham Stadium ahead of the Army v Navy match on the 103rd anniversary of his death.
Shot by a sniper while supervising engineering works in a trench near Ploegsteert Wood in Belgium in 1915, as he lay dying he said: “I shall never play at Twickenham again.” Today the Rugby Football Union (RFU) returned Ronnie to Twickenham.
Regarded as the best player of his day, he captained England to the 1914 Grand Slam before volunteering at the start of the Great War. He played his last game of rugby in Flanders.
This St George’s Day, and the 100th anniversary of the death at Zeebrugge of England rugby’s only Victoria Cross Arthur Leyland Harrison, a delegation from the RFU visited the Menin Gate to lay wreaths.
Thanks to the Twickenham ground staff and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), soil from the Twickenham pitch was also placed on Ronald Poulton Palmer’s grave by RFU Great War Ambassador Lewis Walton Moody.
Richard Nichol, the CWGC’s Director of Operations in Western Europe said: “The Commission was delighted to help with this unique request. When Ronnie was killed, his last thoughts were of his beloved Twickenham. A few days ago we were able to take a piece of this hallowed earth to his final resting place in our cemetery at Hyde Park Corner in Belgium. Today, earth from his grave, from the country he gave his life to defend, finds a permanent home here at Twickenham – a fitting tribute to a fine player and a reminder to us all, to always remember him and all those who gave their lives.”
A box of soil from Poulton Palmer’s grave was buried pitchside today at Twickenham before the Army v Navy match by Lewis, who has been passed down his great-grandfather and namesake Lewis Walton Moody’s World War 1 medals.
Lewis Moody said: “Like so many young sportsmen of his day, Ronnie made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. On the anniversary of his death at the front it is very important to remember him, the other 26 England players, and all in our sport who died for our sake. It is a real honour to welcome Ronnie home.”
Lewis buried the soil after the UK Armed Forces v Oxbridge U23 match. He was joined by Richard Nichol, James and Max Garnett (Poulton Palmer’s descendants), representatives of the RFU Great War Commemoration Committee and Captain James Marshall from the Band of the Household Cavalry. Corporal of Horse Stephen Martin from the Household Cavalry played the Last Post.