Martin War legacy

THE World War I medal of Percy Martin will be carried with care and pride in the hands of Kristian Martin on Anzac Day.

He is only six-years-old and just beginning to learn the military legacy of his family. His father Nik, mother Sarah and sister, Kianah will watch Kristian march in Taree with students of Cundletown Public School and in coming years, Nik and Sarah will teach their children about the military contribution of men in the Martin clan to various theatres of war.

Nik is proud of the military history of his family and in recent years has worked to collate and to bring to life the stories of his three great uncles who served in World War I. In the lead-up to Anzac Day Nik is keen to share that contribution with Manning Valley residents.

The Ode of Remembrance was merely the fourth stanza of a poem in 1914 when Stephen and Jane Martin of Taree learned their first son had enlisted to fight in World War I.

English poet Laurence Binyon penned the compelling verse, 'For The Fallen' in 1914 as heavy casualties devastated families and communities.

In the wake of the words, 'They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.' Stephen and Jane hoped their sons, Percy, Norman and Clarence Martin would not be counted among the thousands of fallen. Family history reveals Percy did not return home.

The names of the three Martin men appear on the panels on the memorial clock in Fotheringham Park in Taree, and for Nik and his family, the recitation of The Ode of Remembrance is a significant and emotional moment as they are proud of the contribution of the three men to World War I and the other 24 men, first and second cousins, who served. According to Nik seven of the cousins still lie in the soils of France, Belgium, Turkey and what is now known as Syria, including Harold Andrews of Wauchope who received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his heroism with another sergeant in capturing the town of Chippily, France at the head of the Somme Valley in 1918.

Percy was the first of the Martin sons to enlist and he became a private in the 10th Battalion, AIF at Keswick in South Australia in 1915.

He was one of thousands of men to sail on HMS Hororata to Mena Camp in Cairo. Aged just 21 years he arrived at Gallipoli on July 16, 1915 in a battalion that had been depleted with sickness such as enteric fever. According to Nik, "battalion history states that around 50 per cent of the men were out of the line with sickness in July."

Percy worked at Chathams Post above Anzac Cove, digging trenches for the Lone Pine attack on August 6, 1915.

"He was killed just two weeks after landing on August 1, 1915 when his battalion was in supports at what was to be known as the Battle of Leanes Trench," Nik said.

"Buried originally in Browns Dip Cemetery, his grave was moved to the new Lone Pine Cemetery in 1927 after heavy rains had cut a gorge through the old cemetery. He was just 21 years old."

A year later, with Percy lost to them, Stephen and Jane learnt that their son, Norman had joined the 3rd Battalion, AIF. He signed up in mid-1916 and at the time was working in Dubbo as a shoe salesman for Dalgety.

"He was badly wounded in the left leg and thigh by machine-gun fire at the Battle of Broodseinde Ridge in Belgium in 6 October 1917," Nik said.

"He was sent back to a casualty clearing station in one of the concrete pillboxes captured from the German's in the battle. That night the wounded were shelled as they lay in the open outside the blockhouse before being assessed and moved back further behind the Australian lines to various field hospitals.

"It must have been fightful to be wounded and lie in the open being shelled by German artillery."

Nik said that Norman survived the night and "his wounds were that bad that he was repatriated back to Australia in 1918."

"He managed a shoe store in Sydney for many years after the end of the war. He married, had two daughters and lived in Belmore in NSW until his death in 1981," Nik added.

Clarence enlisted in mid-1917 and trained as a signaller with the 54th Battalion. Nik said his connection to the Manning Valley also included briefly working at The Manning River Times in 1915 before moving to Sydney.

He was 24-years-old and saw his first action at Polygon Wood in France.

"Signallers would quite often be at the forefront of attacks, laying and fixing communication and telephone wires between the front lines and headquarters whilst in battle," Nik explained.

"Quite often they worked unarmed owing to the mass of equipment they had to carry with them and they were seen with huge rolls of wire coiled around big metal spools.

"Although not physically wounded, he served out the rest of 1918 until the end of the war. The sights and strains of war took their toll on Clarence. Once he returned home and like so many soldiers of the time he was deeply affected by what he had experienced and unable to put it all in perspective.

"Clarence spent long stints in the old Callan Park Psychiatric Hospital in Rozelle in Sydney. He married late in life but had no children and passed away in Sydney in 1976."

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