b. 19/12/1891 Foochow, China. d. 14/08/1980 Woolwich, London.
Cyril Gordon Martin (1891-1980) was born at Foochow, China on 19th December 1891. His father was the Reverend John Martin, principal of the Church Missionary Society College in Foochow, China, later Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Fuh-Kien and became vicar of Grandborough, near Rugby, in November 1916. His mother was Sarah Eliza nee Goldie, who was born in India. She was the daughter of an Indian Civil Service judge. After his mother died in 1894, he was brought up by two aunts at 12 Somerset Place, Bath. He had two brothers and two sisters (though one sister died in 1894). His father re-married in 1910 in Hong Kong and went on to have two more sons.
Cyril was educated at Hamilton House at Bath, Bath College and Clifton College, before training at the Royal Military Academy Woolwich. He was commissioned on 23rd December 1911 and succeeded Lieutenant Philip Neame (later VC) in 56th Field Company at Bulford on Salisbury Plain. He was promoted to Lieutenant and arrived in France on 16th August 1914. For holding a post with his section at Le Cateau on 26th August, he was awarded the DSO (gazetted 9th November 1914). He was shot through the shoulder and bayoneted in the hand on this occasion and returned to England in October for more treatment.
Having recovered he returned to France on 21st February 1915, and less than a month later was involved in his VC action. On 12th March 1915 at Spanbroekmolen, Belgium, Lieutenant Martin volunteered to lead a small bombing party against a section of the enemy trenches which was holding up the advance. Before he started he was wounded, but, taking no notice, he carried on with the attack which was completely successful. He and his small party held the trench against all counter-attacks for two and a half hours until a general withdrawal was ordered.
He was gazetted for the VC on 19th April 1915, and received his VC from King George V at Buckingham Palace on 12th July 1915. While recuperating from his wounds, he was also presented with a sword of honour by the citizens of Bath in October 1915. He was then appointed Assistant Instructor, School of Military Engineering until May 1916. He then served with the Egyptian Army in various appointments until November 1925. He took part in operations in the Sudan against the Lau Nuer, in the Nyima Hills and in Nuba Mountains Province 1917-18. During Allenby’s Palestine campaign he served with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in 1918.
He married Mabel nee Hingston at Chatham on 20th August 1917. His father performed the service. Mabel was the daughter of Major Edward Hingston who was killed in action in France in 1915 commanding the 54th Field Company RE. Cyril and Mabel had three children.
Back in Egypt he was attached to the Sudan Defence Force from January to July 1925 as Assistant Director of the Works Department. He was awarded the Order of the Nile, 4th Class on 21st September 1923. After nine years in Egypt and Sudan, he returned to take up the appointment of Assistant Instructor Field Works and Bridging, School of Military Engineering, Chatham on 15th July 1925 until 1928. He was promoted to Major later that year.
Cyril moved to India, where he took part in operations on the Northwest Frontier 1930-1931, where he was mentioned in despatches. He was appointed GSO2 India between 1933 and 1936. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in March 1936 and took part in operations on the Northwest Frontier of India 1936-37 for which he was awarded the CBE. He then commanded the Royal Engineers India from 1937-39. On 23rd April 1941 he was promoted to Acting Brigadier and Chief Engineer British Troops Iraq until February 1942. He held several other appointments in India before becoming ADC to the King from 1945-1946.
He retired from the Army in December 1946 and on 26th March 1947 was appointed Honorary Brigadier. He was employed by the Forestry Commission, served as Lieutenant in the Devon Army Cadet Force between 1951 and 1955 and was on the Committeee of the VC and GC Association. He was also a Freemason – Khartoum Lodge No 2877, Jamrud Lodge No 4372, Stewart Lodge No 1960.
Cyril died at Morden College Hospital, Blackheath, London on 14th August 1980 and was cremated at Eltham Crematorium. His ashes were scattered on Pew Tor on Dartmoor. In addition to his VC, CBE and DSO, he was awarded the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf, India General Service Medal 1908-35 with clasp “North West Frontier 1930-31”, India General Service Medal 1936-39 with clasp “North West Frontier 1936-37”, 1939-45 Star, 1939-45 Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-45 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf, George V Silver Jubilee Medal 1935, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953, Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977, Order of the Nile, 4th Class (Egypt) and Khedive’s Sudan Medal 1910-22 with two clasps (Nyima and Lau Nuer). His medals are held by the Royal Engineers Museum, Chatham, Kent.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL ENGINEERS MUSEUM, CHATHAM, KENT.
BURIAL PLACE: ELTHAM CREMATORIUM, ELTHAM, SURREY.
ASHES SCATTERED ON PEW TOR, DEVON.
Cyril Martin's vast medal group including VC and DSO on display at Royal Engineers Museum, Chatham, Kent (April 2014).
National Memorial Arboretum
St Brigit's Church, Bridestow, Devon
Royal Engineers Roll of Honour Board, Chatham, Kent
Freemasons Memorial, London (Brian Drummond)