John Joseph MARTIN’s birth was registered in Q3, 1890 in Rugby. He was the son of John Joseph Martin, who was born in about 1851 in Ireland, and Ellen, née Oldham, Martin, who was born in Long Lawford, in about 1860. Their marriage was registered in Q4, 1888, in Rugby.
In 1891, the family was living at 18 Chapel Street, Rugby. John’s father was a ‘groom, domestic servant’. There were two children at that date – John, who was ‘10 months’ old, and had an elder brother George who was ‘23 months’ old. The apparent reason for this ‘precision’ can be found in the biography of their younger brother, Lawrence Alfred Martin, who died on 12 September 1916.
It seems they returned to Ireland between about 1896 and 1899, as three of the children were born there in that period, however, by 1901, the family had moved back to Rugby to live at 39 School Street, Hillmorton. John’s father was a ‘groom at a livery stable’.
By 1911, John, the eldest son, was 20, and already ‘In the army’ – his name had been crossed out by the enumerator as he wasn’t with the family that night! He was enumerated at the Aliwal Military Barracks, South Tidworth, Hampshire, and was in the 18th Queen Mary’s Own (QMO) Hussars.
Meanwhile in 1911, the rest of the family were now living at 12, Jubilee Street, New Bilton, Rugby. Also at home that night were John’s younger siblings: Lawrence Martin, 16, who was working in the lamp department at BTH, but who would later join up; Mary Ellen Martin, 14, a tailoress; and Christina A Martin, 12; and Wilfred E V Martin, 8, who were both still at school. Their father, now 60, was a ‘Groom’, and he and his wife had been married for 23 years and had had seven children of whom five were still living. They would live in Rugby for the rest of their lives. John’s father died there aged 78, in about mid 1932; and his mother died there, aged 79, in about early 1939.
Unfortunately no Service Records have survived for John, but it seems that he joined up in Rugby, prior to 1911, and he served as either No: 5275, (on later CWGC records), or more probably as No: 5276 (as recorded on most earlier CWGC records; soldiers who died in the War; and his Medal Card) in the 10th (Prince of Wales’s Own Royal) Hussars in the Household Cavalry and Cavalry of the Line. At some date he was promoted Sergeant.
The Regiment was based at Potchefstroom in South Africa at the start of the war, so John may have gone out to serve with them after being enumerated at Tidworth in 1911. They returned to the UK and joined up with the 6th Cavalry Brigade in the 3rd Cavalry Division at Ludgershall, then on 8 October 1914 landed at Ostende as part of the British Expeditionary Force for service on the Western Front. Soon afterwards, on 20 November 1914, in Belgium, they transferred to the 8th Cavalry Brigade in same Division, in order to bring that Brigade up to strength.
John’s Medal Card states that he went to France, on 6 October 1914, which fits with him serving in the 10th Hussars and going to France with them in 1914 – and he thus became eligible for the 1914 Star – and he would have then been involved in the various actions of the 8th Cavalry Brigade.
The 8th Cavalry Brigade served with the 3rd Cavalry Division on the Western Front until March 1918. It joined the division too late to take part in any of the 1914 actions, but in 1915 the Division saw action in the Second Battle of Ypres (Battle of Frezenberg Ridge, 11-13 May) and the Battle of Loos (26-28 September). 1916 saw no notable actions, but in 1917 the Division took part in the Battle of Arras (First Battle of the Scarpe, 9-12 April). At other times, the brigade formed a dismounted unit and served in the trenches (as a regiment under the command of the brigadier).
In March 1918, the Indian Cavalry elements were sent to Egypt. The British and Canadian units remained in France and most were transferred to the 3rd Cavalry Division causing it to be extensively reorganized. The yeomanry regiments were concentrated in the 8th Cavalry Brigade which left the 3rd Cavalry Division on the 12/14 March 1918 and transferred to the 6th Cavalry Brigade in same Division.
Whilst it was fairly quiet at the start of 1918, John would have continued to be involved in the daily routine of a Cavalry Regiment. The front was comparatively quiet prior to 21 March.
However, an attack by the Germans had been anticipated and on 21 March 1918, they launched a major offensive, Operation Michael, against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army. The German artillery targeted command and communications; then, the destruction of artillery; and then the front-line infantry. The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on 21 March 1918, and hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war. Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.
The War Diary of the 10th Hussars whilst serving with the 6th Cavalry Brigade is available and a summary of activities in the four months before John’s death is summarised below.
At start of March 1918, they were at Tertry where on 9 March one of the huts was bombed, six were killed, 35 wounded, six of whom died in hospital. On 13 March they moved to the Devise area, and from 18-20 March they found working parties and then on 21 March ‘Heavy enemy bombardment of the whole front line opposite started about 4.30am. The Regiment was ordered to stand to, and moved out at 5pm and marched to Beaumont near Ham, where the Brigade bivouacked in a field. The dismounted Brigade was ordered to be formed next morning.’ On 22 March ‘The dismounted Brigade left by bus early in the morning …’.
They moved to Pontoise and then Carlepont and later to Choisy where a bomb injured an officer on 28 March. On 30 March they were at Airion and moved to Sains-en-Amienois and the next day – 31 March – to bivouacs at Racineuse Farm. Another group had gone to Lagny and then on to Elincourt and Chevincourt in period 26 to 29 March, sustaining one killed, 15 wounded and four missing. A third group was in Naureuil on 23 March, and then dug in at Abbecourt and later went to Les Bruyers.
On 1 April the Brigade moved to Gentelles Wood. On 2 April they moved on to Fouilloy. Then on 4 April they came under heavy fire at Bois de Hamel and lost about 50 horses. They were shelled again on 5 April at Blagney-Tronville. On 6 April they moved to Camon where they ‘reorganised’ on 7 April. On 11 April they marched to Buire-au-Bois and then on 12 April to Hestrus and later to billets at Aumerval. From 14-30 April, they stood to and saddled up each day and were ready at short notice.
May started in the same way until on 5 May they moved to Rougefay and the next day to Villers l’ Hopital and then to Contay where they stood to until 16 May. On 17 May they moved to camp at Belloy-sur-Somme. They were then cleaning and training until the end of the month when they moved to Behencourt, and bivouacked half a mile south west of the chateau.
The Brigade stood to each day until 14 June when they were relieved by the 7th Cavalry Brigade and moved back to Belloy-sur-Somme. From 15 to 24 June there was training and a ‘scheme’ was carried out on 22 June, however, ‘owing to the large numbers of cases of influenza in the Brigade, it was decided to move the Brigade to another area.’ On 25 June the Brigade moved to the Soues area, and then billeted at Reincourt until the end of July.
It seems there was constant movement in response to the German advances, the Cavalry effectively being in place as a readily moved ‘backstop’. They moved, sometimes on a daily basis, from some 30kms south of Arras, to an area, similarly distant, to the west and south-west of the town. There was no obvious major enemy action in the period prior to John’s death, when he might have been wounded, however, the mention of the ‘large number of cases of influenza’ may suggest that John was affected badly and for that reason was evacuated to a Casualty Clearing Station.
Whether wounded in routine sniping or shelling, or suffering from influenza, John was evacuated for some considerable distance behind the lines, assuming that he was taken to the 21st Casualty Clearing Station at Wavens – some 50kms west of Arras – next to where he was later buried.
John Martin died, aged 28, on 25 June 1918. He was buried in the Wavans British Cemetery in Grave Ref: B. 3. This is a very small cemetery with only 44 graves and was made by the nearby 21st Casualty Clearing Station in May-September 1918. The cemetery contains 43 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and one German war grave. The flying ace Major J T B McCudden, VC, DSO and Bar, MC and Bar, MM, who died of wounds on 9 July 1918, some two weeks after John Martin, is buried in the same row as John Martin in Grave 10.
Later, when a gravestone replaced the temporary cross, probably in the 1920s, no additional family message was engraved upon it. His parents were still at 12, Jubilee Street, New Bilton, Rugby.
John Joseph Martin is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates and also on the New Bilton War Memorial, by the chapel in Croop Hill Cemetery, Addison Road, which states ‘In the Great War these died for England 1914-1919’. The family were Roman Catholic and John – and his brother, Lawrence – are remembered at St. Marie’s Church, Rugby, ‘To the Memory of the Men of this Congregation who Fell in the Great War 1914-1918 …’.
His Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1914 Star.
His mother received his outstanding pay of £13-15-2d on 13 March 1919 and his War Gratuity of £25-10s on 2 January 1920.
John Martin’s younger brother, Lawrence [or Lawrence] Alfred Martin, also served and was killed in action with the 6th Battalion, the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry. He died on 12 September 1916.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
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This article on John Joseph MARTIN was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, February 2018.
 WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-20, Household Cavalry and Cavalry of the Line, 3rd Cavalry Div., 6th Cavalry Brig., 10th Prince of Wales Hussars, March 1918 – March 1919, TNA ref: WO 95/1153.