Henry William Bourne Palin (known to the family as Harry) is the Great Uncle of comedian, writer, actor and presenter Michael Palin.
Harry was a farmhand who at the outbreak of war in 1914 enlisted in the 1st battalion of the Canterbury Regiment of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. He rose to the rank of Lance Corporal and died in the Battle of the Somme two years later. He has no known grave and is commemorated on New Zealand Memorial at Caterpillar Valley.
Michael takes up the story:
“When I first saw the name ‘Palin H.W.B’, with 1,200 others on that wall, I was deeply moved. That there was so little about him affected me all the more. It was as if his memory had been saved by the skin of its teeth. From that time on, I knew I had a duty to find out more, to drag great-uncle Harry back from the brink of obscurity.
“Soon after arriving in Europe from New Zealand, Harry was deployed to the Dardanelles where he fought in and survived the Gallipoli campaign in 1915.
“I know he was one of the New Zealand Division who fought for 23 consecutive days in the Battle of the Somme, and I have stood at the spot where he died on that late September afternoon, between the villages of Flers and Guedecourt. It was hardly a case of closure, as they call it these days, but then the New Zealand Archive tracked down something that made my throat dry: a hand-written account of great-uncle Harry’s death, entered in the official report by a Sgt Gridley.
"On 27th Sept L/cpl Palin and myself were in the same shell hole just before the taking of Gird Trench. Palin was just getting up to fire when he was hit through the head. I was next to him and am sure he was killed outright".