On Saturday 5 May, prior to the Army vs Navy the RFU marked the anniversary of Ronald Poulton Palmer’s death-on 5 May 1915.
Poulton Palmer played 17 times for England, including against Wales in the first international at Twickenham in 1910, and was captain of the 1914 Grand Slam winning team. He volunteered as soon as war came and by the spring of 1915 was at the front in Flanders, where he managed to play his final game of rugby, captaining South Midland division (Forty-Eighth) v Fourth Division.
While supervising engineering works in a trench just north of Ploegsteert Wood in Belgium he was shot by a sniper. His last words were reputed to be “I shall never play at Twickenham again.”
Lieutenant Ronald William Poulton Palmer is buried in the Royal Berks Cemetery, Hyde Park Corner, in Belgium (Grave reference B.11).
This season, Twickenham ground staff kept soil from the stadium pitch to take to Ronnie’s grave and, with the help of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, this was scattered on the grave last month (April) by the RFU’s First World War Commemoration Ambassador and former England captain, Lewis Moody.
“Ronnie Poulton Palmer was generally regarded as the world’s best rugby player of his day,” said Moody.
“Like so many young sportsmen of his generation he made the ultimate sacrifice for his country and today, on the anniversary of his death at the front, it is important to remember him, the other 26 England players and all in our sport who died for our sake.”
Before the Army and Navy teams line up on Twickenham’s hallowed turf, Moody buried soil from Lieutenant Poulton Palmer’s grave beside the pitch, over which players will run out for every match at the Home of England Rugby.
The RFU is proud to welcome him home.
Ronald Poulton Palmer’s England cap, embroidered England rose and Royal Berkshire Regiment badge are on display in the Wartime Gallery of Twickenham’s World Rugby Museum.
For more information on the Rugby Football Union’s First World War commemorations visit: