Sunday, 8 April 2018

Helen Grace Palin

I always knew at some point I would write about Helen Grace Palin.  Then this past week I found a new database of a British newspaper called the Daily Sketch .  To my wondrous surprise there was a picture of Helen dated 1915 after being mentioned in Sir John French's dispatch from the front.
Daily Sketch Wednesday June 23 1915

Helen Grace was born in Satara India in Jan 24 1871 to Charles Thomas Palin and Helen Hawker White.  Her baptism was recorded in Satara on March 5 1871 by the Chaplain C S Wilson.


We next find Helen in the 1881 census in England at 16 Vyvyan Terrace in Clifton,  Her mother, Brother Philip age 16, sister Ethel age 14, sister Mildred age 12, younger brother Randle age 8, her mother's married sister, Aunt Adela J. Mackenzie and 3 servants.  All the children are listed as scholars.

For all intent and purposes it would seem like any normal well to do family, but this family was a little different.   This was an Army family and each child would be giving their life in one way or another to the Army.  Each person having their own story to tell of joys and sorrows and of course the Army, but we will focus on Helen Grace.

In the 1891 census Helen father had come home and they are now living at 23 Sion Hill, Clifton.  The father's occupation is listed as Lieutenant General Bombay Staff Corp.  Her sister Mildred and brother Randle are the only other two siblings at home.  There are still three servants listed  and two of them, Rebecca Prince age 42 and Elizabeth Lloyd age 39 are both from Denbigshire and both were in service with the family in 1881 census.   Imagine what stories they could tell about the family!

Helen's father died in 1892 in Clifton.  The first of many deaths that Helen would endure.

In the 1901 census Helen is now living in the housing quarters for the Chichester Hospital and her occupation is listed as nurse.

In 1909, Helen's older brother, Hugh Fletcher Palin dies in Punjab, India.  According to his obituary he was chatting with friends at a party one minute then dropped dead the next.  He was Deputy Inspector-General of Police and left a widow and three young children.

In the 1911 census Helen is now living at Heathfield Hotel, West Park Road, Southampton with her widowed mother.  Helen's occupation is listed as Hospital sister.

According to her brother's Military History book written in 1924 
The Territorial Force Nursing Service (TFNS) was established in 1909 as a sister organisation to the QAIMNS (Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service). Its purpose was to supplement the regular service in emergencies and all its members worked as nurses in civilian life. It was renamed the Territorial Army Nursing Service (TANS) in 1920, when the Territorial Force was renamed the Territorial Army. It existed until 1949, when it became the Territorial Army branch of QARANC (Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps)

I was able to download her complete 163 page military file that has documents from her enlisting to her retiring from nursing.   Here are a few examples.




Her mother Helen Hawker Palin passed away on 18 October 1923 in Sandgate, Kent, at the age of 93.

Her brother Major General Sir Philip Charles Palin died on 22 January 1937 in Hove, Sussex.  He had an quite the career with the army and was recognized for his report about Palestine.

Her sister Mildred Adelaide died on 18 May 1942 in London.  This sister married the only man who ever went through the ranks from private to Field Marshall,  William Robertson.

Her sister Ethel Frances died on 11 November 1943 in London.  This sister first husband was Herbert Christopher Impey Birdwood, brother to General Birdwood and Herbert was killed in 1894 in India.  Ethel's second husband was a navy man, Carlton Valentine de Mornay Cowper and he died in battle in 1918.

Her brother Colonel Gilbert Walter Palin died on 31 December 1946 in Berkshire.  He gave so much of his life to the Army.   This is also the brother that we are indebted to for writing the Military History books of the Palin family in 1909 and again in 1924.

Her brother Lieutenant-Colonel Randle Harry Palin died on 20 April 1950 in Weymouth, Dorset.  He was the first officer of Army headquarters to become a member of the first Parliament of India.

Helen Grace Palin died on 13 June 1952 in Putney, Surrey, when she was 81 years old and all of her siblings have passed.  Did she feel like she had an amazing life or did she have many regrets?  There were no children to leave anything to  and it saddens to me to find that her medals came up at auction so many years later.  Was it a distant family member who bought them?   I wish I could get a picture of them.  (hint-hint to who ever has them)


I wonder what her view points on the army would be and what the war was like.  She had certainly seen a lot in her life time.  The stories that she could tell!!!!

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