His­to­rian’s work to make sure vet­eran is never for­got­ten

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - News - By Ai­dan Bar­low

A sol­dier who died at the Bat­tle of Pass­chen­daele with no known grave has been re­mem­bered 100 years on.

William Martin was 22 and a Lance Cor­po­ral in the Queen’s Own Royal West Reg­i­ment dur­ing the First World War.

He grew up in Faver­sham Road in Ken­ning­ton and his death has been recorded by au­thor and his­to­rian Robin Britcher, who has re­searched the lives of vil­lagers in his book Ken­ning­ton at War 1914-1918.

The com­mem­o­ra­tion co­in­cides with the cen­te­nary of the be­gin­ning of the bat­tle, with Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May, Prince Charles and the Duke and Duchess of Cam­bridge at­tend­ing a ser­vice in Ypres in Bel­gium on Mon­day this week.

Siegfried Sas­soon penned the poem Me­mo­rial Tablet af­ter the three-month bat­tle, in which he de­scribed the “bot­tom­less mud” which claimed the lives of sol­diers and an­i­mals through drown­ing.

It is be­lieved that more than 500,000 men on both sides died dur­ing the bat­tle. William Martin was among 50,000 men who are listed on the Menin Gate Me­mo­rial who have no known graves.

Mr Britcher wrote: “William Martin from Ken­ning­ton was killed on the first day of the Bat­tle of Pass­chen­daele. “He was 22 and was killed while try­ing to drag a com­rade to safety.”

He re­searched the com­mand- ing of­fi­cer’s let­ter to William Martin’s par­ents, who had lost their only son.

In the let­ter the of­fi­cer wrote: “Your son was killed ad­vanc­ing against the en­emy. I was not with him at the time as I have only just taken charge of the com­pany.

“But those that were, spoke very highly of him.

“He lost his life at­tempt­ing to get one of his com­rades un­der shel­ter from the bom­bard­ment that was go­ing on. You have got this sat­is­fac­tion: he died bravely as so many brave men have died be­fore him in this ter­ri­ble war.”

The Martins were sent a me­mo­rial plaque which stated he had died for free­dom and hope but William Martin’s plaque was found many years later among a pile of rub­bish.

Mr Britcher’s book is avail­able to read at Ashford Li­brary in Church Road and at Bock­hanger Li­brary in By­brook Road.

Pic­ture: Pass­chen­daele Mu­seum

Pass­chen­daele, a cen­tury ago

Robin Britcher has recorded the life of William Martin, top right, who died on the first day at the Bat­tle of Pass­chen­daele; be­low, right, the me­mo­rial plaque given to his par­ents, found many years later in a rub­bish pile

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