Arthur Martin-Leake - Double VC

Discussion in 'Military Biographies' started by liverpool annie, Jun 13, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Arthur Martin-Leake was a member of the Army Medical Department, later to be the Royal Army Medical Corps, the RAMC. He was born at Marshalls in High Cross, Hertfordshire on 4 April 1874. He was one of eight children born to Stephen and Isabel Martin-Leake. He had two sisters Georgina and Isabel and five brothers. Four of whom were officers in the army, Stephen, William, Richard and Theodore.

    One, (Frank), was in the Navy and was Captain of the first ship in WW1 to be torpedoed by the Germans. One of his brothers (Theodore, of the balloon section of the army) was killed in a ballooning accident in the English Channel. Arthur's life was interesting and varied.

    He came from wealthy ancestors, although his wealth had gone, he was comfortable at the end. The money had disappeared, mainly due to bad investments.

    He spent most of his career in India as Chief Medical Officer for an Indian Railway Company. He was the only one of the children who married, even though it was for a short time, his wife dying in 'unusual' circumstances in India. His first VC was won as a member of the South African Constabulary in the Boer War. His second was won in WW1.

    Arthur died alone of lung cancer on 23 June 1953 at Marshalls, where he was born. His ashes are buried at St. John the Evangelist, High Cross, Near Ware, Hertfordshire on the old A10, 3 miles from Ware going north.

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  2. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Lt. Col. Arthur Martin-Leake, Bar to the VC, FRCS

    Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Martin-Leake was born in Standon, Hertfordshire in England on 4 April, 1874. He qualified as a medical doctor in 1898 but joined Hertfordshire Company of the Imperial Yeomanry as a Trooper in 1899 as he could not find a job in his own profession. He was subsequently transferred to Baden Powell's Police and was commissioned in 1901 at the age of 27 years as a Surgeon Captain in the South African Constabulary, then Royal Army Medical Corps of the British Army. Later in 1903 he qualified as a F.R.C.S.

    There was a bitter war, known as the Boer war, during 1899-1902 between South African Republic (Transvaal) and Orange Free State on one side against Great Britain on the other. The Boers (South Africans of Dutch descent) had long resented the British advance into South African territories and the hostility was inflamed after the discovery of gold (1886) brought a influx of British prospectors.

    It was during the Boer War in a battle on 8 February, 1902 at Vlakfontein in South Africa, Martin-Leake as Surgeon Captain went out into the firing lane and attended a badly wounded soldier. There was a very heavy fire from about 40 Boers hardly 100 yards away. Then he went to the assistance of a wounded officer and while trying to place him in a comfortable position Martin- Leake was shot three times. He was wounded on the right arm and thigh with three wounds but did not give in till he rolled over thoroughly exhausted. Nearby on the veldt 8 wounded soldiers lay and when Martin-Leake was offered water to help him he flatly refused till these men were served first. For this conspicuous bravery in the face of heavy enemy action he was given the highest gallantry award, the Victoria Cross. The award was gazetted on13 May, 1902.

    Martin-Leake won his second Victoria cross as Surgeon Major - an extremely rare feat as till today only three have done this - for most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty throughout the Campaign during the period from 29October to 8 November, 1914 during the Great War (the First world War).The climax of his bravery reached at Zonnebeke in Belgium during the War when he rescued a large number of wounded soldiers who were lying close to the enemy trenches. This award was gazetted on 18 February, 1915.

    Since a twice winner of the same award (medal) is not given the same medal physically twice; as per military traditions only a clasp is awarded to the medal. It is called Bar to the medal as it is in the shape of a horizontal bar that is worn horizontally across the suspension ribbon on which the first medal is hung on the award-winner's left chest on his uniform.

    Martin-Leake later rose to the rank of a Lieutenant Colonel in Royal Army Corps and today after winning the Victoria Cross twice, we must remember him in military parlance as Major General Arthur Martin-Leake, Bar to VC, F.R.C.S.

    As regards Martin-Leake's railway connection, after being demobbed from the Army, he came to India and joined the Bengal Nagpur Company Ltd.(B.N.R.) in Calcutta as its Chief Medical Officer (CMO).Unfortunately because of lack of preservation of Indian Railways historical records and our indifference to the railway heritage we could not have any material to know of Martin-Leake's work as a medical railway man. However, a 27-page pamphlet, dated 17 August, 1917, published by B.N.R. Hqrs Office entitled War Record of Officers & Men of the B.N.R. inter alia proudly details the citation for award of Bar to VC to the then Surgeon - Major A. M. Leake, V.C., F.R.C.S. The only other reference to him that one can find is in an article in July 1947 issue of the BNR's in-house magazine.

    Martin-Leake, a young tall and very handsome man comes out as a swashbuckling, fun-loving, colorful and a very adventurous man. Unassuming and self-less he was untouched and unruffled by the rarest aura and glory that was inevitably bestowed on him because of his winning not one but two Victoria Crosses. The story goes that when the second Victoria Cross (clasp) was to be awarded to him he was not available for the ceremony as he had escaped to the jungles to track the wild elephants. On another occasion the elite Bengal Club of Calcutta, of which he was a very distinguished member, had an oil painting made of him which was to be unveiled and at which ceremony he had been invited to be present. To escape that, he disappeared once again; this time, preferring to hunt a man-eating tiger in Bengal's jungles!

    Martin-Leake had two brothers also employed on the B.N.R. They were Sammy Leake (the elder), the Superintending Engineer, and Dicky Leak, the District Engineer. These brother engineers had supervised one of the most difficult and interesting bridges over the Roop Narain River at Kolaghat about 52 kms from Calcutta. Martin-Leake, whenever he could find time, would go to his these two brothers to relax in their bungalow on a bit high ground overlooking the river and the bridge. They would sit together in the evening on their verandah facing out to the bridge enjoying themselves with smoking and chhota pegs, comparing notes of the day in quite tones and watch the sun set and the natural scenery. Martin Leake sometimes took time off from his job in Calcutta to join them at their work site too. He would find a diversion discussing his brothers trials and tribulations of the difficult task on their hands of the construction of the great bridge.

    Martin-Leake, true to his nature and mission of alleviating human suffering, also volunteered his services in the Second World War and worked as a surgeon in a mobile medical unit.

    His Victoria Cross medal is displayed in the Army Medical Services Museum, at Aldershot in England.

    He died on 22 June, 1953 at the age of 79 years, and was buried in St. John's Church, High Cross, Hertfordshire in England. His grave was refurbished a few years ago by his siblings accompanied by ceremonial military honours at the site on this solemn occasion.

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