Martin, Lawrence Alfred. Died 12th Sep 1916

Lawrence Alfred Martin’s birth was registered in the third quarter of 1894, although the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) records suggested that he was 33 when he was killed, which made searching for him somewhat more challenging! He was reported by CWGC to be the son of ‘John Martin, of 12 Jubilee Street, New Bilton, Rugby’.

Initial searches could not identify him in the censuses and it was thought possible that the family moved to Rugby after the 1911 census. However, examination of war memorial records, particularly for his father’s home village, New Bilton, and at St. Marie’s Catholic Church, suggested that he had a brother ‘J. Martin’ who was also killed in WWI, and that possibly some of the family worked at BTH, although again perhaps there was a discrepancy in the records – this time with initials!

At first there also seemed to be no obvious birth or other records for a Lawrence Alfred Martin!   However, having found both his parents’ and his brother’s names, it was possible to locate the census records.   It seemed that Lawrence [or Lawrance in one transcription!] had been born in Dublin, Ireland.

In 1891, the Martin family was living at 18 Chapel Street, Rugby. Lawrence’s father, John Martin, had also been born in Ireland.   Lawrence’s mother, Ellen née Oldham, was born in Long Lawford. They had married at St. Andrew’s Church, Rugby, on 11 November 1888. Their eldest child, George Henry had apparently been registered in Rugby in Q3 1888, before his parents’ marriage, however, the 1891 census return gave an unusually and unnecessarily ‘precise’ age of 23 months, which was presumably intended to suggest that his birth was later, after their marriage, in about May 1889! The next son, John Joseph jnr was registered in Q3 1890 – and he was ‘10 months’ old for the April 1891 census.

The family must then have moved back to Ireland, where three more children were born including Lawrence in 1894, and two daughters, Mary and Anne (or Christina Annie) in about 1886 and 1888.

They moved back to Hillmorton, and in 1901, Lawrence’s father, John Martin, was a groom at a Livery Stables, and the family was living at 39 School Street, Hillmorton. Their youngest son, Wilfred, was born in about 1902.

In 1911 Lawrence was still living with his family, now at 12 Jubilee Street, New Bilton, and was working in the Lamp Department at BTH in Rugby. However, the list of BTH employees who served in WWI included only: Martin J; Martin T; and Martin T E E; – there was no Martin L A. Had Lawrence moved on? – or was there another error?   The brother Martin J, and Martin T E E are known, although a Martin T is not obvious.

Searching the CWGC records for further Martins with Rugby connections found a Sergeant John Martin, Service No:5275, who died on 25 June 1918,[1] aged 28, who served with the 10th (Prince of Wales’s Own Royal) Hussars.   Most importantly, he was also the son of ‘John and Ellen Martin, of 12, Jubilee Street, New Bilton, Rugby’ – and thus Lawrence’s elder brother, born in about 1890.

Unfortunately Lawrence’s service records have also not survived so his date of enlistment and any personal details therein are not available. However, the ‘UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919’ record showed that Lawrence joined up at Rugby, as a Private, No:11109, in the 6th (Service) Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (‘Ox. and Bucks.’). In due course, he was promoted to Lance-Corporal.

In summary, the 6th (Service) Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry was formed at Oxford in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s New Army, K2 and then moved to Aldershot to be placed under the orders of 60th Brigade in 20th (Light) Division and in March 1915, moved to Larkhill, Salisbury Plain. On 22 July 1915 they mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne. Lawrence’s ‘Medal Card’ indicated that he went into the ‘France and Belgium’ theatre on that date, 22 July 1915, so he was with the main mobilisation.

After trench familiarisation and training, they were engaged in various actions on the Western Front.   This included periods in the trenches and periods behind the lines in reserve, when there was training, marches and various other fatigues. Then in 1916 they were involved in the Battle of Mount Sorrel near Ypres, Belgium, from 2 to 14 June 1916. They were also involved in various early actions in the Battle of the Somme, including the Battle of Delville Wood from 15 July to 3 September 1916; and the Battle of Guillemont, from 3 to 6 September 1916; and after Lawrence’s death, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette from 15 to 22 September 1916.

Whilst these are summary dates, there was on-going action associated with these ‘battles’ in the trenches and elsewhere. Exactly where Lawrence was on 12 September 1916 when he was ‘Killed in Action’, aged about 23, not 33, was unknown, indeed, his death was only ‘officially accepted as on or about 12.9.16 France’. His body was not recovered or identified, and he has no known grave, and is therefore remembered on Pier and Face 10 A and 10 D of the Thiepval Memorial.

The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932.

He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates, on the St. Marie’s Church Memorial and the New Bilton War Memorial. Also on all three, is ‘J Martin’, and the fact that they were both on St. Marie’s memorial and thus Roman Catholics, first supported the assumption that Lawrence and John were brothers. Lawrence is also remembered on ‘Ireland’s Memorial Records 1914 – 1918’.

Lawrence Alfred Martin was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, and the 1915 Star.

The Register of Soldiers’ Effects, showed that his father, John Martin, received £6-9-8d on 21 June 1917, and then a war gratuity of £8-10-0 on 10 October 1919.

His brother, John J Martin, had been a soldier from before 1911, but was, as noted, ‘Killed in Action’ on 25 June 1918. His story will be told in Rugby Remembers in due course.



[1]       He is buried in Grave Reference: B. 3. at the Wavans British Cemetery.


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