England v France, April 1914.
It is only a year ago that we were reading of England’s great victory at rugger over the French – now our allies – in a match that our dear old boy, Ronnie Poulton (now known as Ronald Poulton Palmer) captained the side to a 39-13 victory, scoring four tries himself – a record, surely, that will stand for a long time.
‘The Sphere’ reported the match in glowing terms, describing Ronnie as providing the moving spirit:
“It was a tremendously fast game, marred to some extent by roughness on the part of the French players, who do not yet seem to have learnt the true spirit in which to play the game. Poulton Palmer was again the moving spirit in the English attack and he has entirely confuted those critics who were for leaving him out of the English side this season on his poor showing in the trial games. Palmer is always worth playing in our international side as long as he is willing to do so, partly because of the fear he engenders in the opposition and partly because he is always likely to win a match off his own bat.”
‘The Field’ magazine commented that “Much has been said of his dodging, but his effectiveness has really lain more in his promptitude in discovering the right direction for his runs and the point at which he could best support his comrades.”
Ronnie is now a Lieutenant in the Royal Berkshire Regiment and we hope to follow his progress over the coming months and fervently hope that he will be returned to us safely when this war is over to resume his captaincy of the England team.
On crossing the Channel to go to the Front, he is keeping a journal and these are his first entries:
Tues 30th March. “We found ourselves boarding the ‘Onward’, the ordinary traffic steamer – Folkestone to Boulogne. I believe I crossed in it for the French match this time last year…
The embarkation was very well done, the men being quiet and orderly and our time of embarkation only just second to the Bucks, who easily beat the record for the port, which has seen 55,000 troops cross over. It was an eerie crossing, a full moon, a smooth sea, and a torpedo boat zigzagging about in front of us…
At Boulogne we disembarked and I found the Port Commandant was old Col. Eastwood of the Oxford OTC. We formed and marched up the hill to a camp. Here we fitted the men and got in ourselves and spent a very cold night (under canvas with only one blanket per man. They awoke to driving snow).”
Wed 31st March. “We marched off to the Pont des Briques , a matter of four miles. The men found the pack rode very heavy and two or three fell out. At the station the Battalion was divided into parties of 42 – each party to go in a goods van… There was a ghastly crush in the train, since we were one truck short and as many as 50 were in some. They could not sit down, but had to stand on the six hour journey. Off we went about 11pm and arrived at St. Omer via Calais; then on to Cassel which was our detraining point. A ghastly cold night and little sleep.”