Thursday, 5 January 2017

Alfred Palin 1918-1940

War is not pretty.  It never has been and it never will be.  We have lost too many people on both sides due to the ravages of war. 

I have wondered if I could do it – I mean kill a person.  We have been raised as Christian people and the 7 commandment is “Thou shall not kill”.  In boot camp they advise the young soldiers not to think of this because the other side will shoot you first if they have the opportunity, so better them, than you.  But what happens to that young soldier after the battle, after the killing is over? 

Thanet Advertiser October 25, 1940

Young Soldiers Death
On the day on which an order came through for his examination by a nerve specialist, a young soldier, who had been kept under observation in the guard room for 18 days, shot himself.
 The young soldier was Pte. Alfred Palin, aged 21, of Lewis Street, Crewe and he had not been on leave since returning from France with the B.E.F.
A verdict of “Suicide while the balance of mind was disturbed” was returned by Ramsgate Borough Coroner (Mr. J.H. Robinson) at the adjourned inquest on Tuesday.
When the Coroner opened the proceedings three days previously, Capt. C. S. Clover said on 29th September it was reported to him that Palin had attempted to take his life.  He saw Palin, and being unable to find out what prompted his action, arranged for him to be seen by the Medical Officer, who expressed the view that he should be kept in the guard room until he could be seen by a nerve specialist.
Fairly Contented
The officer said he saw Palin in the guard room and although in a nervous state he appeared to be fairly contented.  Two or three times he expressed a wish to return to duties.  On Friday it was reported to him that Palin shot himself, and he died later the same day in Ramsgate General Hospital.
Dr. G. Gillett, who carried out a post-mortem examination, said Palin died as a result of the bullet which entered the left side of the chest.
When the proceedings were resumed on Tuesday, Company Sergt.-Major William Tower said that on 29th September Palin was brought to him by the Colour Sergt., as he wanted to make out his will.  He stated that he wanted some poison to do away with himself as he said he was no good in this world.  He was crying and his body was shaking.  Witness spoke to him in private in his office but he would give no direct answer to questions.
Continuing, witness said Capt. Clover then saw Palin and gave instructions that he was to be kept under observation in the guard room and was to go on sick parade when the medical officer came.  Palin went on parade at the medical officer’s next visit on October 1st and witness saw him subsequently every day until October 17.  Palin’s condition was changeable.  Sometimes he was like a normal man and at others he would cry and tremble and ask for a pistol to shoot himself or ask a witness to shoot him.
No Army Complaints
Questioned by the Coroner, witness said Palin had made no complaints about Army life.  He said that he had betrayed Christ and Christ was repaying him for what he had done.
C.S.M. Tower said he gave instructions to the N.C.O. in charge of the company police and the guard commanders that Palin was not to be left alone and was to be watched in all his actions.
When witness saw Palin at 10 p.m. on 17th October he was crying.  At 6.55 the next morning he was told Palin had shot himself.  Going to the guard room, he found Palin lying on his back on the floor in the lavatory.  A rifle, covered in plaster dust, was standing against the wall.   The breech of the rifle was closed and the cocking piece was forward.  There was a mark on the wall, about seven feet from the floor, as though made by a bullet, and another mark on the ceiling suggesting that the bullet ricocheted.  Witness made arrangements for Palin to be removed to hospital.
Continuing, C.S.M. Tower said he found that the rifle with which Palin shot himself belonged to a soldier who was under detention.  This man was confined in a room away from the guard room, but the rifle was kept in the guard room.  Normally the rifle would not be kept loaded.  When he found the rifle beside Palin he opened the breach and extracted a discharged cartridge.  There were no cartridges in the magazine.  Some equipment belonging to a member of the guard room was hanging in the guard room and on examining the pouches he found one clip of cartridges contained four rounds instead of five.  No trace was found of the missing bullet.
Mentally Depressed
Capt. Izett Walker, Medical Officer in charge of the unit, said when he examined Palin on 1st October he found his physical condition good but he was mentally depressed.  He concurred in the arrangements for keeping him under observation and on 5th October sent a report to the acting director of medical services.  On the morning of 18th October – the day of Palin’s death, he received a copy of the directions for the man’s examination by a medical specialist.
Pte. Richard James Young, a member of the Company Police, said he was in charge of Palin between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on 17th October.   About 6 o’clock he had Palin out for exercise.  Palin went into another part of the building and when witness asked him what he was looking for, he said he was searching for a gas-jet.  Palin then went onto the main building still looking for a gas-jet.  He tried to get Palin out but he refused to come and he found him difficult to manage. 
He sought the assistance of another man and took Palin to the guard room.  So far as he could make out Palin wanted to take his life.   Several times previously he had taken Palin for walks, and each time he wanted to find something with which to kill himself.  He said he wanted kill himself because he had sinned, and he talked about Christ.  He said he liked the Army and he never complained about not having leave.  About two days before he died Palin gave witness £2 and told him to send it to his mother if anything happened to him.
Picked up Rifle
Another member of the Company police Pte. Frank Phillips said he took over duty at the guard room at 6:15 am on 18th October.  There was no one else in the guard room from then on, except Palin and himself.  At about 6:30 Palin picked up the rifle which was standing in the corner.  Witness took the rifle away from him and opened the bolt to make sure it was unloaded.  About five minutes later Palin again picked up the rifle.   Witness again took the rifle away from him and told him to go and have a wash, to make his bed and not to be a fool.
Witness said Palin wandered round the guard room and at about ten minutes to seven said he wanted to go the lavatory.  He watched him go through the door and saw that he did not go through the door leading to the street.  As he left Palin was between witness and the door and as far as witness could see he had nothing in his hand.  A few seconds later witness heard a rifle being fired and running to the lavatory saw Palin stretched on the floor.  The rifle was lying parallel with his body on the left side and he saw that a bullet had entered the body on the left side.
In reply to the coroner witness said that he was sure Palin did not take the bullet from the equipment while he was on duty in the guard room.  So far as he knew the equipment had been in the guard all night.
Adequate Precautions
Summing up the Coroner said he was satisfied that Palin took his own life and that at the time the balance of his mind was disturbed.  It was a pity that Palin was so long under observation before he was examined by a mental specialist, but he supposed such matters has to go through routine and that it took some time.
Under the circumstances, he thought the precautions taken by Capt. Glover were adequate, and that the men from time to time in charge of the guard room recognised that it was necessary to keep Palin under observation, and to see that he did not possess himself of any lethal weapon or anything to end his life.
Mr. Robinson said that he could not quite see that Palin possessed himself of the cartridge and took the rifle in the presence of Pte. Phillips.  At some moment when something distracted Pte. Phillips attention he might have taken the cartridge, but he thought it was more likely that Palin took it sometime during the night. It was very fortunate that Palin was able under the circumstances to get hold of both cartridges and rifle in order to end his life but he was not there to pass harsh criticism on men for some purely accidental failure of observation if he was satisfied that they recognised that it was their duty to watch the man and they did it to the best of their ability.  He was sure no one was more sorry that it happened during his time of duty than Pte. Phillips.
Particularly Unlucky
The coroner said that when he opened the inquest the previous Saturday Palin’s mother was present, and she seemed to be under the impression that her son had been worried very much and got into a depressed condition because he was unable to get leave.  It was very unfortunate that Palin was one of the last men of the B.E.F. to get leave and rest, but Capt. Clover explained that the Company were particularly unlucky in the matter of leave and that Palin would have gone on leave had it not been necessary for him to be kept under observation pending and examination by a specialist.
Mr. Robinson said that he thought it very likely that the fact that he had not had rest or been able to go home and visit his people after his experiences with the forces in France, might have been one of the causes which made Palin depressed and affected his mind and caused him the think that he had committed some unpardonable sin.
Returning the verdict of “Suicide while the balance of mind was disturbed” the Coroner expressed his sympathy with the relatives.
Capt. Clover also expressed his sympathy on behalf of the Commanding Officer and all ranks of the regiment.


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