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Sergeant William Higgs MARTIN, DCM

5th Battalion Royal Irish Lancers 3161

William Higgs Martin 1892-1950
William Higgs Martin 1892-1950

William was born in Spratton on 9th April 1892 the son of Joseph Martin, a farm labourer, timber carter and later a milkman, and his wife, Elizabeth (née Bromwich).  The Martins were a long established family in Spratton who had lived in Manor Road and then Station Road (now Brixworth Road). Five brothers in Joseph and Elizabeth’s family served in the First World War – Harry, Joseph, George, William and Walter. In 1901 the family was living at Calendar Farm, Cottesbrooke and on leaving school William became a groom at Cottesbrooke Hall.  On 28 December 1910 aged 18 he joined the Royal Irish Lancers, known as the Lancers of the Line.  He was in the cavalry and spent time in Ireland before war was declared in August 1914 when he was posted immediately to France

He enjoyed life in the army and was promoted to Corporal in 1915 and then to Sergeant in April 1916. He took part in all the major battles the 5th Lancers were engaged in and was wounded at Ypres in 1915 and on the Somme in 1916.

On 31 January 1917, whilst home on leave, he married Mary Byrne at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Westminster.  Later that year, when he returned to the Front his bravery earned him the Distinguished Conduct Medal:

8 July 1917 Citation 3161 London Gazette:  Conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in rallying the remnants of his troop and encouraging them to continue fighting.  When ordered to retire, he remained to the last, and was for some time alone in the trench with the enemy but succeeded in getting away after covering the retirement of his men.

In March 1918 he was seriously wounded in the leg. A bullet through the thigh severed his sciatic nerve so that he had no use in his foot.  He was captured by the Germans on 26 March 1918 and was sent to Prison of War camps in Clogny, Guise and Laugensaiza in Saxony.  He wrote an interesting account of the treatment he received as a prisoner.  He was repatriated to hospital in England on 24 October 1918 but never fully recovered from his injuries.  He was discharged as permanently unfit on 20 January 1920. As well as the Distinguished Conduct Medal, William was awarded the 1914 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

William returned to Spratton to live with his wife and children and was active as a coach in the village boxing club, despite his wounded leg.  He died in 1950 aged 58 and is buried in the old parish cemetery in Spratton with his wife Mary.

An account of William Martin’s time as a Prisoner of War can be found in
‘The Harp and Crown – the History of the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers 1902-1922’ by Ciaran Byrne

MORE INFORMATION

Where he lived in Spratton

Genealogy Data

The grave of William Higgs Martin and his wife, Mary, in the old parish cemetery in Spratton
The grave of William Higgs Martin and his wife, Mary, in the old parish cemetery in Spratton
The grave of William Higgs Martin and his wife, Mary, in the old parish cemetery in Spratton
The grave of William Higgs Martin and his wife, Mary, in the old parish cemetery in Spratton
Distinguished Conduct Medal
Distinguished Conduct Medal
Distinguished Conduct Medal
Distinguished Conduct Medal

MEN WHO SERVED

ADNITT
ARCHER
ARTHUR
AUSTIN
BALDERSON
BALDWIN
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BLAKESLEY
BLUNDELL
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BROWN
BUCKBY
BUSWELL
CAPON
CATTELL
CLARKE
COOKE
COPSON
CRANE
DICKENS
DICKERSON
DUNKLEY
ELDRED
ELSDALE
ERSKINE
FOWLES
FRANKLIN
FRISBY
GAMMAGE
GIST
GOODEN
GOODWIN
GREEN
HAYTER
HIDER
HIGGS
HOBLEY
HODGE(S)
HODSON
HORNE
HUNT
JOHNSON
JUDD
KENCH
KNIGHT
KNIGHTALL
LEATHERLAND
LEESON
LEONARD
LETTS
LIVESEY
MAINS
MANNING
MANNINGHAM-BULLER
MARTIN
MASON
MIDDLETON (WYKES)
NORMAN
PAGE
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PAYNE
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POWELL
REEVE
RHODES-MOORHOUSE
RICHARDSON
SMITH
SNEDKER
SPEECHLEY
STEVENS
TARPLEY
TARRANT
TAYLOR
THORNTON
TIRRELL
TITE
TREDWELL
TURLAND
VINEY
VOKE
WADHAMS
WARD
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WHATTON
WOOD
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