1931367 Gunner William John MARTIN, DCM, Royal Artillery & Royal Engineers

Discussion in '1940' started by John West, Sep 1, 2020.

  1. John West

    John West Active Member

    William John Martin was born in 1918 in the village of Loddiswell, Devon where he was known as ‘John’ and worked as a butcher. Gunner Martin served in 367 Battery, 140 (5th London) Field Regiment during 1939-40 as Driver to Major E.A. Milton, officer commanding 367 battery.

    He was captured with Major Milton during the breakout from Cassel in the small hours of the morning of 30th May 1940, his small group having been surrounded by German tanks. Major Milton was seriously injured and taken by the Germans to the Field Hospital in St Omer.


    Major E.A. Milton

    Edward Milton had been a schoolteacher pre-war at Enfield Grammar School. Major Milton later died of his wounds at the age of 47 years and is buried at Longueness Souvenir Cemetery in St Omer, alongside six other members of the 140 Regiment.

    The background is described in The Breakout (part 1 of 2) – 140th (5th London) Army Field Regiment, Royal Artillery


    Gunner William John Martin

    After capture, Gunner Martin was marched in a POW column through Doullens, St Pol and Cambrai. At Cambrai the POWs were put on a train, from which he escaped while stationary at the French border at Hirson. Martin put on civilian clothes but two days later was re-captured. He was handed on to the French authorities, having masqueraded as an escaped prisoner, and was detained in a camp with 300 other Frenchmen.

    Five weeks later, Martin manged to escape for a second time. He was recaptured and taken to Epernay, from where three weeks later, he escaped for a third time.

    Martin then reached Marseilles and was re-arrested by the French authorities, but after ten days managed to escape again, living on stolen fruit. He smuggled himself on board a boat bound for Oran in Vichy French-controlled Algeria.


    Gunner Martin’s account of his escapes in France

    In Oran, Gunner Martin was again arrested and imprisoned (for a 5th time) but managed yet another escape, this time onto a boat to Casablanca. There he contacted the American Consul who assisted him onto a Portuguese boat bound for the Strait of Gibraltar. From there, Martin boarded a Royal Naval vessel and arrived back in England on 14th December 1940.

    William Martin reported back to the 140 Regiment’s Woolwich Depot in December 1940 and, after a recommendation by Lt Col Graham Brooks, was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery and initiative in March 1941.



    DCM Citation written by Lt Col Graham Brooks

    After his DCM award, it appears that Martin transferred to the 50th Mechanical Equipment Company, Royal Engineers.

    His new Regiment was involved in the D-Day landings and, sadly, on the 8th June 1944, he was killed on Sword beach in Normandy, at the age of 26 years.
    Cemetery Details | CWGC

    St Andrews Church, Aveton-Gifford

    Driver William Martin DCM is buried in a Commonwealth War Grave at St Andrews Churchyard, Aveton-Gifford, near to his home in Devon.


    Martin’s CWGC Registration Report

    As far as I can see, Gunner Martin's full story hasn't been fully told elsewhere (there is a brief mention in Graham Brooks' book Grand Party, censored as written in wartime) and so I've posted this excerpt from the website as a recognition of his determination and bravery.
    4jonboy, PackRat, dbf and 3 others like this.

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