John Herbert MARTIN (4257)
5 Battalion KIA 2/3/17
John Herbert Martin was born at Richmond and grew up in Melbourne (Abbotsford). He attended Melbourne High School and then trained as a teacher. In early 1913, he was appointed as the teacher at Hiawatha. His tenure at this local state school in the Shire of Alberton was only a few months. When he enlisted 2 years later, in August 1915, he was teaching at Warrnambool High School.
J H Martin is recorded on the honor roll for Hiawatha SS, and when this roll was unveiled in November 1917 – commonly, the school honor rolls were created during the War and names added progressively – mention was made of the ‘supreme price’ that he had paid (Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative, 7/11/17). While he was obviously known in the local area, his name is not included on either the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor or the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. His mother gave Warrnambool as the location with which he was ‘chiefly connected’. Both students and staff at Warrnambool High School placed in memoriams in the local paper – Warrnambool Standard (5/4/17) – when news of his death reached the town. The former teacher was described as a ‘highly respected and beloved teacher’ who ‘did his duty as a teacher faithfully, and died doing just as faithfully his duty as a loyal subject and brave soldier.’
Private Martin enlisted in Melbourne on 3/8/15 and he was taken on reinforcements for 5 Battalion. At the time, he was 24 yo and single. His enlistment form shows that he had had some military experience as an instructor with the cadets and he left Australia with the rank of acting corporal. However, with one exception, all the records in his file indicate that his substantive rank throughout his service was private. The exception was that the inventory for his personal kit, returned after his death, referred to him as Sgt. Martin. Presumably, at some point in his service he reached the rank of acting sergeant.
He gave his father – Richard Martin of Abbotsford – as his next-of-kin. His religion was Presbyterian.
His group of reinforcements left Melbourne on 28/12/15 and, after some additional training in Egypt, reached Marseilles on 4/4/16. He was taken on strength with 5 Battalion on 17/5/16.
He was wounded twice in the second half of 1916. On the first occasion, 25/7/16, he remained on duty but he was hospitalised for nearly a month after the second (6/11/16) – GSW L hand. He rejoined his unit after convalescence on 2/1/17 and was killed in action on 2/3/17.
The war diary for 5 Battalion shows that at Ligny-Thilloy on 2/3/17 there was a German attack on the front line trenches held by the battalion. The raid was repulsed and the German casualties were given as 19 killed and 19 taken prisoner. The casualties for 5 Battalion were 8 killed, 3 wounded and 9 missing. Later that day 5 Battalion was relieved by 7 Battalion.
There is a Red Cross report for Private Martin. Presumably, his parents wrote to the Red Cross seeking more information on the circumstances of his death. The statements in the file indicate that he was shot through the head, possibly by a sniper, while manning his Lewis gun during the German raid. The most detailed statement was provided by J G Leslie on 26/9/17, nearly 7 months after the death.
Re your enquiry about the death of Pte. J. H. Martin No 4257, I was not on the same post that he met his death in, but was just alongside. His friend Pte J. H. Knox 4845 A. Coy 5th Battn was with him and he wrote to Pte Martin’s people explaining his death. Pte Martin was a man about 5 ft 8″ in height and dark. His occupation in civil life was that of a School Teacher. One of the schools he had taught in was down at Warrnambool. He was also fond of motor bikes and shortly before enlisting had been for a trip on his bike through Tasmania. He left Australia as a Sergeant in the 13 Reinforcements of the 5th Battalion. Early in the morning of the 2nd of March we were in the line in front of a village on the Somme, named Thilloy and the Germans came over and while my friend was defending his post with his Lewis gun one of the enemy shot him. The bullet hit him just above the right eye and death was instantaneous. He was buried just where he was killed and a cross was put up to mark his grave. Since then the Military Authorities have fixed up his grave. It is on the right of the main Albert to Bapaume Road just in front of the village. He was a great friend with all the boys and we were all very sorry when he was killed. The Officer that was there at the time collected all his things and sent them home.
The statement describes how Private Martin was buried where he fell. Such ‘isolated’ graves were identified at the time and then after the War the remains were transferred – with every measure of care and reverence in the presence of a Chaplain – to formal cemeteries. Private Martin’s remains were transferred to the Beaulencourt British Cemetery shortly after October 1919.
In February 1918, the family received the following personal kite:
9 Books, Scarf, Balaclava Cap, Pr Mittens, 10 Handkerchiefs, 2 Brushes, Goggles, Pack Playing Cards, Razor, Kit bag handle [?], Fly veil, Metal pencil case, Arabic Book, Chevrons.
National Archives file for MARTIN John Herbert 4257
Roll of Honour: John Herbert Martin
First World War Embarkation Rolls: John Herbert Martin
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: John Herbert Martin
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
Appleyard, D 1999, Hiawatha: From Pioneers to Pines, Dumbalk South Gippsland