The Old Man

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Palmer, D.S.O.
49th (Edmonton Regiment) Battalion

Soldier of the old school, fearless, straightforward, a fighter and a sportsman, sincere with an independency of opinion which frequently got him into trouble with the Staff, especially if it were upon some question that had to do with the welfare of his men—such was the character of the second C.O. of our Battalion.

(The Forty-Niner, Jan 1934, 19)

 Robert Henry Palmer was chief fire ranger and Indian agent in Alberta. Born in Glamorganshire, Wales on 19 February 1868, he immigrated to western Canada as a young man. He was an original member of Lord Strathcona’s Horse and fought in the Boer War. In January 1915, he joined Lieutenant Colonel Griesbach’s 49th Battalion as a company commander. Admired for his toughness and fearlessness on the battlefield, Palmer—who had lowered his age by seven years on enlistment—was affectionately known by his men as “The Old Man.”

49thPalmerWhen Griesbach was promoted to brigadier general, Palmer assumed command of the 49th on 14 February 1917. He led the battalion through the Vimy Ridge offensive, Hill 70 and Passchendaele until temporarily relieved by Major C. Y. Weaver in summer 1918. In October, Palmer returned to France to retake command until demobilization.

After the war, he became an Indian agent at Hobbema, near a Cree reservation. On 5 July 1933, he was made an honorary chief, Okeymow Peeswowasis (Chief Thunderchild). Palmer retired to Victoria, British Columbia where he died on 5 September 1947.

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