His Medals, worn at the Court Martial, at this early stage in WW2 would have been those awarded to him for his Service in WW1.

Snippet: The last court martial at which swords were worn was on the 10th March 2004. The first without swords was at HMS Drake on the 15th March 2004.

For this page to make sense, it has to be read in conjunction with THIS PAGE.

Before we begin this story, just what is a TEMPORARY LIEUTENANT/ACTING TEMPORARY LIEUTENANT COMMANDER RNVR?  There is a short answer to that question which is to say that they were HO's [Hostilities Only] and when the war finished, they would relinquish their commissions.  However, to get a better understanding of the training and subsequent employment of these officers have a look at this very informative link:   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_King_Alfred_(shore_establishment_1939) Unlike the RNR, which consisted of men who made their living at sea, the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve (RNVR) was formed in 1903 as a voluntary reserve force for men from all walks of life. During both the First and the Second World Wars, it served as the chief means by which individuals became temporary Royal Navy officers. Additionally, a requisitioned ship sometimes kept key members of its peace time crew.  When this happened, the merchant navy personnel signed a T124 agreement with the Admiralty to become RNVR men, agreeing that they would take orders from Naval officers and in return they would still be paid at Merchant Navy rates and not at Royal Navy rates.  This meant that doing the same job, taking the same risks, they were better paid than most other crew members and because of this, they were not very popular. The T124 Agreement is so involved, so "desperate" to Britain to make sure we have a Navy to fight our aggressive Nazi enemy, that it would fill a book of its own with endless back to back cover pages.  Here, I give you just a few of the Rules and Regulations governing that agreement. If you have the want, time and interest, have a look at the National Archive pages, specifically the ADM 1/10372; 1/10483; 1/10532 and 1/10533 for an introduction, followed by an unlisted list of many more ADM files which "dot the i's and cross the t's" on this subject.

Incidentally, there are references to "skippers" on this page.  All too often in the RN we use this word as a euphemism for our captain or commanding officer. It is a derogatory word when used in this sense which should be avoided at all costs because it is not a word appropriate to the Royal Navy. It is a word which belongs [in the naval sense] to the RNR and only to it. There are several types of Skipper's, but whatever type, it is always superior to RNVR but inferior to RN.  Most commonly there were four types and their tomb stones in the several CWGC maintained cemeteries are regularly seen - they were 'skipper RNR', 'skipper warrant officer RNR', 'skipper lieutenant RNR' and 'skipper lieutenant commander RNR'.  The following picture illustrates the RNR rank and the stripes worn by these officers.  However, in 1951, the title was withdrawn and replaced with Sub Lieutenant.

Next a series of pictures.

The first shows the general area of the events of the explosion caused by the British sea mine and where the Mercury sank. Note the relatively shallow water [the minefield was called a "British shallow mining"].  Mercury sank in 38 fathoms of water which is 228 feet

Next comes a pdf file showing the title of the sea chart actually used at the court martial.  Note the court officers' signature's vouching for its correctness and certification for trial purposes. MERCURY SINKING CHART USED.pdf

Then the actual chart positions of the explosion and the sinking MERCURY MINE EXPLOSION AND SINKING POSITIONS.pdf.  Use the adobe zooming tool to enhance detail.  Mercury's explosion took place at 1632 Christmas Day when she was almost due south of the most southern tip of the Island of South Saltee {known as Great Saltee}- she was reported as being 184˚ 6.3 miles from South {Great}Saltee.  She sank at 2115 on Wednesday 25th December 1940 {4 hours 43 minutes after the explosion] in 38 fathoms in position 51˚58' 3" N  06˚24' 2" W. The orientation of the section of chart shown is Latitude 52˚N expanding to 53˚N.  The longitudinal scale {not shown} is 6˚ expanding to 7˚W.  The Court Martial document tells us that "she sank vertically, stern first, illuminated by the searchlights of escorting ships."

Waterford was the nearest harbour and the first choice of the Senior Officer of the Flotilla MERCURY EXPLOSION RELATIVE TO WATERFORD HARBOUR.pdf.........

but the Commanding Officer of HMS Mercury asked for Milford Haven MERCURY SINKING RELATIVE TO ST GEORGES CHANNEL.pdf .  Milford Haven is off chart, but you can see the easterly boundary of the chart at the time of the sinking,  At the time of the explosion Milford Haven was approximately 62 nm distance whilst Waterford, albeit in neutral Ireland, was only  approximately 21nm away.  Ireland [Eire] was a neutral country and this could have resulted in arrests and internment. The Senior Officer was pleased when his subordinate suggested that they should try for home and the safety of the UK.

The small islands of Saltee approximately 4-5 km off the south Wexford coast, were known and recorded by the Hydrographer of the Navy as North {N} Saltee and South {S} Saltee with the smaller of the two islands laying under the land, the larger being south of it to seaward and separated by a stretch of water known as the Saltee Sound. The Irish however, called them Little, instead of {N} and Great instead of {S} and by and large, that is what they are called today internationally. Today, they are uninhabited and have become a world renown bird sanctuary.  These pictures show a little bit of the Islands.

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Looking north from the northern tip of South [or Great] Saltee to North [or Little] Saltee with the mainland in the distance beyond

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The town of Kilmore and its harbour looking south to the Saltee Islands.

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Looking along the south coast of South [or Great] Saltee.  On a good day, if one had stood in the middle of  the picture and looked left [to the south] one might have seen or even heard the exploding sea mine hanging under the stern of HMS Mercury.

Click to enlarge

A general view of the geography of the Saltee islands relative to the south coast of Eire and County Wexford/County Waterford.

An Otter ?  What is this ? For an excellent description [text and graphics] of minesweeping have a look at this site http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/navy/nrtc/14160_ch8.pdf .  I recommend that you read this short and simple file to help you to understand Mercury's position and therefore to help you enjoy [if that is permissible !] the story.

You will have read on the page "The Story of HMS Mercury" that after the sinking, a Board of Inquiry was ordered,  and it more or less exonerated the Commanding Officer to such a degree that the Flag Officer in Charge Milford Haven recommended to C-in-C Western Approaches/Plymouth, that there was no need to go for a Court Martial.

We now turn our attention to the period after the Sinking [25th December 1940] to the end of the Board of Inquiry when the decision was taken by the C-in-C Western Approaches/Plymouth that there would be a Court Martial.

Important Note.

The documents used to create the following pdf files have been sourced and purchased by me from the National Archives. They are Crown Copyright material.  However, under Government Rules, I have sought and have been granted permission to use this Copyright material on this website;  the permission granted is unique to me and this website.  To copy it and to use it for other purposes [other websites or organisations etc] is an offence. 

Bookmarks have been created in some of these pdf files to help you navigate and differentiate between persons, appointments and events.  Please make sure that your Bookmarks are turned on in your Adobe Reader.  Thank you.

These are the documents involved and associated with that period:-
Letters concerning the SINKING and Loss of CB'S.pdf
FO in Charge Milford Haven Ordering a Board of Inquiry into the Sinking.pdf
Findings of the Board of Inquiry into sinking of HMS Mercury.pdf
Results of the Board of Inquiry to FO in Charge Milford Haven.pdf
The Admiral's decisions at the end of the Board of Inquiry.pdf

A Court Martial was convened at the Naval Base Milford Haven to take place on the 6th and 7th of February 1941, a year which HM The Queen might have called  "annus horriblis" for the Royal Navy.

These are the documents involved and associated with that period.  All pen and ink entries were made at the time of the Trial. There are some typing errors and a couple of misspelled words [e.g., their for there]. Don't forget your Bookmarks :-
Loose leaf documents associated with the subsequent administration of the court martial.pdf

In the next file you will find, inter alia, a list of the witnesses, so it will be useful to know the backgrounds of these men.
 

Acting Commander RN L.C. Windsor The Senior Officer of the 11th Minesweeping Flotilla embarked in HMS Jeanie Deans but at the time of the Mercury incident, embarked in HMS Helvellyn.
Temporary Lieutenant RNVR R.E. Blows The XO [First Lieutenant] of HMS Mercury
Leading Seaman RFR R.H. Cope Released from RN in 1933.  Rejoined in 1939 for the war.
Leading Seaman  RFR E.A. Eastman Released from RN in 1938.  Rejoined in 1939 for the war,
Temporary Lieutenant [E] RNR A. Henderson Engineering officer who had been the Second Engineer of the vessel as a civilian prior to requisition.
Temporary Lieutenant RNR A. Campbell Seaman officer who had been the Master of the vessel as a civilian prior to requisition.
Acting Temporary Lieutenant Commander RNVR B.A. Palmer The Commanding Officer of HMS Mercury. Served in the navy in both world wars.  On rejoining the navy in 1939 he had been immediately appointed to seagoing ships although he had not attending any formal courses of training or re-training. This lack of formal training ashore was not in any way a contributory factor in the sinking of his ship for his knowledge was sound and empiric, gained chiefly from on-job training especially when the XO of HMS Mercury.
Acting Temporary Lieutenant Commander RNR J. McLinden The Commanding Officer of HMS Scawfell.
Shipwright Lieutenant RN [Rtd] A.J. Cole On staff of Flag Officer in Charge Milford Haven.

The preliminaries to the Court Martial.pdf

The case for the prosecution has been split into individual files just to make them more manageable in terms of size.  There is no logical reason as to where the overall file is split but there is of course continuity from file to file. I have not re-produced Exhibits 'A' and 'B', respectively the Flotilla Orders for the 11th Minesweeping Flotilla and the Signals.
Prosecution Part One.pdf
Prosecution Part Two.pdf
Prosecution Part Three.pdf
Prosecution Part Four.pdf
Prosecution Part Five.pdf
Prosecution Part Six.pdf

The next files cover the Statement of Defence for the Accused to the time when the Court adjourned at 1825 on the 6th February 1941.
Defence Part One.pdf
Defence Part Two.pdf

The Court re-convened at 1000 on the 7th February 1941 at which time both the defence and the prosecution asked for extra time to prepare their cases.  The Court granted this request and re-convened at 1040.
The summing up for the Defence.pdf
Prosecution summing up.pdf

"The Court was reopened at 1125. the Accused brought in........."
The Court Findings.pdf
Accused Character.pdf

The next pdf file should be printed to see the certificate therein properly presented. Put the half certificates side by side:-
Abstract of the Certificate of Acting Temporary Lieutenant Commander B A Palmer RNVR.pdf

Finally, the Sentence Document and subsequent administrative documents circulated to higher authorities:-
The Sentence Document and other Final Administrative Documents.pdf

The Naval Discipline Act [NDA] covers every conceivable wrong-doing possible both in the face of the enemy and otherwise.  It covers everything from cowardice, not engaging the enemy, desertion, theft, fraud, assault, sleeping on watch, arguing and fighting, absent without leave, insubordination etc etc,  and the punishments associated with the NDA, if found guilty of an offence, are as follows.  The list includes both officer and rating  punishments,:-

Punishments

43. Subject to the provisions of this ACT the following are the punishments which may be awarded to persons convicted of offences under this Act, that is to say :-

(a) death; [officer and rating]

(b) imprisonment for a term exceeding two years; [officer and rating]

(c) dismissal with disgrace from Her Majesty's service; [officer and rating]

(d) imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; [officer and rating]

(e) dismissal from Her Majesty's service; [officer and rating]

(f) detention; [rating]

(g) forfeiture of seniority for a specified time or otherwise; [officer]

(h) dismissal from the ship or naval establishment to which the offender belongs; [officer]

(i)  fine; [officer and rating]

(j) severe reprimand; [officer]

(k) disrating; [rating]

(1)  reprimand; [officer]

So, it can be seen that the Commanding Officer of HMS Mercury received the least severe punishment.