Historian’s work to make sure veteran is never forgotten
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.
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