Christopher Palmer’s parents were Sir John Chance Palmer (1920-2003) and Mary Ellyat (1923-).John Chance Palmer was born on 21 March 1920 at Chancery Lane, London. His parents were Ernest Charles Palmer (1884-1954) and Claudine Pattie Sapey (1890). Sir John Chance Palmer died on 13th July 2003 at Exeter, Devon.
Mary W Ellyat was bon in Lewisham, London in 1923. her parents were Arthur Sidney Ellyat (1886-) and Winifred M East. Mary W Ellyat married John Chance Palmer in 1945 at Newton Abbot in Devon.In 2002, 12 months before his death, John Chance Palmer published a diary of his experiences as a wartime sailor between 1939 and 1945. As well as being a valuable and unassuming account of conditions in convoy escorts during the Second World War, the book provides the Palmer family history with a rich addition of insights into Sir John’s early life, his loves, intellect and character. The book also offers us many hints and clues of other family members.
He introduces the diary with clear hints as to his two great passions in life, political debate and sailing:"My father was sure in 1937 that war with Germany was inevitable. He said I should go to Oxford as soon as I could, although it would mean doing so at seventeen. He was right. In consequence I had two years there while most of my contemporaries had only one. They were academically undistinguished ears. Apart from the minimum of work, my time was spent at the Union, in politics and in sailing. In my first year Edward Heath was President of the Union and many others of those who spoke and survived the war later became national figures. My politics were then Liberal. I well remember speaking on street corners in Baldwin’s constituency of Bewdley where Liberalism could hardly have been more of a lost cause. I remember Heath as a most kind and considerate President who always managed to be encouraging to those of us who spoke. I have no record of debates except one, where I still have a copy of the Cherwell report of a debate when I had spoken but I am afraid it is not very flattering. ‘There then followed an amusing but totally irrelevant speech from Mr John Palmer.’
"It is refreshing to reflect on how unselfconscious one was and how seriously one took oneself in those days. Sailing we took even more seriously. There was just time to sail against Cambridge in 1939 at Falmouth. Thereafter for the next six years life became rather different."
Palmer, John. Luck on My Side: The Diaries and Reflections of a Young Wartime Sailor 1939-1945. Pen & Sword Books Ltd 2002.
Sir John sets a scene of the eve of the war with a personal account of an entirely innocent school-boy visit he had made to a German school in the late 1930s, recalling the procedures of Nazi indoctrination which were by that time well-embedded in German society:
“It is difficult now and even more difficult then to think of being at what was a very Nazi school. It was a tough regime, being woken at 6.30 in the morning and ordered to run round the grounds even in deep snow. That was followed by being given two sandwiches which was all you got for breakfast but only after the swastika had been hoisted and we had all stood to attention giving the Nazi salute”.
Ibid. Palmer, John 2002
He remarks “I did not know then how soon we would be killing each other.”