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Major MARTYN

Captain Martyn, who was promoted to Major early in 1916, is of great interest to us as he and Edie worked together for long periods in Etretat in 1916 and were in touch again in 1918. We would love to know more about him. See also research notes from Sue Light right at the bottom of this page.

In September we received an excellent photo of Medical Officers which was probably taken in Etretat in late 1915 or 1916. It includes Capt/Major Martyn amongst the group of 20 and the great bonus of the photo is that most of the names are handwritten along the edge. It is here.

Below are all the references to him in Edie’s diaries. It is not entirely clear that the references to Captain and Major Martyn are necessarily the same person. If anyone knows more about him please let us know via Edie’s Visitors Book.

1915
December 29th . We of the Roches – were “At Home” for tea – & gave a concert after it – we had a crowd to tea – Matron, C.O., Capt Martyn

1916
January 2nd. …. Capt Martyn has been promoted to Company Officer – in place of Major Franklin who has been made D.A.D.M.S. to the 3rd army. Have Capt Billing in the ward now.

May 24th. ….. I am to take over the Annexe today – & am pleased to. It is the one part of the hospital I do not know – but Major Martyn is in charge – a nice man to work for.

May 25th. …. I took over the 4 Annexes yesterday – which means 118 beds. At present have a V.A.D. only. We are a bit short of staff again. Major Martyn is M.O.

May 26th. … – many of them – poor old worn out things who had been out all through the war – & were going home for a rest. In one room I had a Q.M.S. aged 59 -, a C.Q.M.S. & a S. M. & another old thing all about the same age. Going round last night Major Martyn said, he thought the best thing to order for them was a stiff brandy & soda each & a good sleep – So they had the first & I hope by now have had the other.

May 30. ….. Major Martyn is sick of life out here & has written to the C.O. requesting to be transferred to the home service so that he can have his wife & children with him. It seems so comical, he & the C.O. mess together & see quite a lot of each other & yet he has to write such a very formal application & “begs to have the honour.”

June 18. …. The Bishop came to tea yesterday. He is a fine man & earns reverence for what he really is touring for. He told Major Martyn, who is an old friend, that he was visiting all the chaplains & telling them to pray as they never prayed before, for success in our grand Push.

June 22. …. Major Segundo left for Rouen – No. 6. Gen. Major Martyn is doing his duties of Secretary & Registrar.

June 26. In a mad hour yesterday – I beat up recruits for an early bathe today – asked Major Martyn to order the boat for 6:30 – & now! in one short hour – we must take the plunge – “orrid I call it.”

July 3. ….. Miss Wilton Smith is a fine Matron – & Major Martyn a fine M.O

July 8th. …..This is the sort of last straw! Yesterday afternoon we were doing dressings etc. as fast as we could – In came Major Martyn – & said – “If you can find 12 stretcher cases – who could sit as far as Havre – get them quick & I can put them on full cars going now.

August 12th. …. The last two days & nights have been sultry, & I have been glad of my morning dip to cool me down. This morning is beautifully calm. Poor old Maj. Martyn has to bathe all alone after us – he can’t get any of the others to come out! He is a married man – with a large family – I don’t see why he shouldn’t come with us.

August 15th. … Yesterday was a scampering busy day – for me – up early – did Matron for the day – when I was going to be off – had to be back in ward – for Maj. Martyn & Capt Scott to explore Lennox’s chest

August 22nd. … Maj. Martyn – has fixed a good map of the Western front – on the wall of my bunk – so now we shall know all about where we are!

August 28th. Quite a gap in my diary – since I last wrote – I have had a 1/2 day – & a long day – spent both of them fomenting my ear – yesterday morning Maj. Martyn opened it with a knife since when it has been vastly more comfortable, but I’m as deaf as an adder in both ears – One because I have wool in it – & the other – I have a cold. …. There is going to be a Board on Maj. Martyn today – to consider the advisability of giving him 3 weeks sick leave. His heart goes wrong at times.

September 9th. The Col. is away on urgent family affairs. Major Martyn on sick leave for 3 weeks – Matron off duty.

October 3rd. …Major Martyn has a long extension of leave, & I very much doubt if he ever will come back. I am very sorry.

November 4th. Chief event of yesterday, Maj. Martyn returned to the great joy of all of us. And brought me the most beautiful pair of black silk stockings that I have ever possessed – Great care must be taken of them.

November] 10th ….. We spent a pleasant evening at the Officers’ Mess last night – music & Bridge – all very pleasant – Maj Nicholins [? Nicholson] & Maxey played – Maj Martyn & me.

November 15th. …. Maj. Martyn announces that he would like to come & see you – & stay for a few days – after the War – I said – I was quite sure you would welcome him.

1918
June 29th. …Letter from Major Martyn – he has broke[n] loose from his moorings & is to report to D.D.M.S. [Deputy Director of Medical Services] Etaples for a fresh job – I wonder – what & where it will be – hope somewhere nearer than his last one.

July 5th. … Major Martyn is working at Etaples now – No 24. He likes the work by day – but does not like spending hours in a dug out at night.

Aug 14th. …We have a great number of very badly wounded Germans – & I hear from Major Martyn that 24 Gen. is full of them.

Dec. 6th Boulogne – What a life! I was just starting dressings in the ward this morning when Matron came in & told me to go at once to 42 Ambulance Train for temporary duty so I had to take off my rubber gloves & fly to my room to pack up all my worldly belongings (that were not astray) & join this train taking with me hand luggage only. …..Major Martyn came to tea on Tuesday. It was nice to see him again. He was coming over again tomorrow but I have sent him word that I shall not be there.

Dec 7th We got to Etaples at 11 last night …. We unloaded at Calais straight on to the boat at 10 a.m. I dashed out & did a little shopping & we started back to Fontainette near Calais before lunch. ….. Where we are now – [crossed out: I don’t know] [added:] we are at Fontainette but our tanks are being filled which takes about 2 hours.
Major Martyn came on the train to see me. His hut is right by the ambulance train siding & how he gets any sleep al all I do not know.

Dec 23rd….. We off loaded at Wimereux – waited there an hour or two – just time for us to scuttle off & do a little shopping – then came to Étaples where we still are. We have just got orders to go to Tréport to take an evacuation load either to Havre or Boulogne. Sister & I have been for a good walk & blow this afternoon – such a treat after being cooped up so long. We looked at 24 Gen & saw Maj. Martyn’s little hut – a dreary awful place to live.

Information from Sue Light

We would love to pin down more information about the much-mentioned Captain/Major Martyn. Once again, it has been the indefatigable Sue Light who has done the important homework on this so all credit to her. Here’s what she says:

Now, I’ve just sat down and done an hour and a half trying to trace any Martyns I can find. I’ve just looked at medal index cards for all the Martyns who were officers in the RAMC and served overseas during the war. All the RAMC files were destroyed, so no hope of any information there.

So there were six of them, all originally Lieutenants and Captains. Many men who were called ‘Major’ only had acting rank, and not substantive rank, so officially were captains.
I’ve scoured the British Medical Journal, and one by one have been able to eliminate most of them. Two had later obituaries, which didn’t mention them working in the vicinity – one was in India during the war, and the other worked at No.10 and No.12 General Hospitals.

Then there were four. One was appointed to the Egyptian Army in April 1916, so it couldn’t be him.

Then there were three. The next one was awarded the Military Cross for his actions on the Somme in the summer of 1916, so he’s out.

Down to two. One of those two, Robert Godfrey Martyn was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre and Order of Leopold in April 1918 for his work for the Belgians, and later went on to be a regular officer in the RAMC. He qualified as a doctor in 1911. He seems to fail on two counts, firstly I can’t see how Edie’s Martyn could have been decorated in that manner, and secondly in 1916 he had a ‘very large family.’ Robert G. Martyn seems too young for that.

Finally all that is left is Samuel Martyn. Born 1875 in Scotland, and qualified as a doctor in 1897. In 1901 he was still living with his parents and siblings, though working as a doctor, and plenty of time over the next fourteen years for that large family. His address in 1920 (on the medal index card) was Fullarton House, Victoria Place, Airdrie, Scotland.

If anyone can come up with more information we would, as ever, very much like to hear from you. Please use the Visitors’ Book.

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