1. Grave:St. Pierre CemeteryV. A. 4. Amiens
2. Memorial:The (1940) Scroll - WW1 Roll of Honour28D GQS

Awards & Titles:

Distinguished Service Order

Early Life :

Arthur Anderson Martin was born in Milton, Otago, New Zealand, on 26th March, 1876, the son of Thomas Martin, a labourer, and his wife, Jessie Anderson. Educated at Lumsden School and Lawrence District High School, in 1893 he was highly placed in civil service examinations. In 1894 he began a medical degree at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He was described by his contemporaries as brilliant, and supported himself largely on scholarships and prizes. Graduating MB, ChB in 1900, he left for South Africa as a civil surgeon in the South African Field Force. His surgical cases from field hospitals in Transvaal and Natal were presented in British Medical Journal articles and in his successful MD thesis of 1903. He gained his FRCSE the same year.

In 1903 he returned to New Zealand and began general practice in Palmerston North, being appointed surgeon at the hospital in 1904. On 8 December 1906 in Sydney, Australia, he married English-born Constance Margaret Harley. There were no children of the marriage. During the next eight years he was based in Palmerston North, but his wide medical interests and surgical dexterity won him a reputation usually only accorded to specialists in large city hospitals. Locally, he did much to foster scientific interest, with lectures, writing, and the development of an astronomical observatory. He was active in the Anglican church, Masonic lodges, and many musical, athletic and sporting clubs. Among his special medical interests were the treatment and surgery of cancer. By 1911 he had gained considerable financial support for his scheme for the development in Palmerston North of the only radium institute in the North Island, despite fears among his colleagues of the dangers of radium in eye surgery and other delicate operations. In 1914 he visited major clinics in the United States and Britain, seeking clinical information and financial support, and was New Zealand delegate to the annual general meeting of the British Medical Association in Aberdeen.

Service Life:


Unit / Ship / Est.: New Zealand Medical Corps 

Mike: BEAN FieldAntbulance, 357, 358, 376

Action : The Battles of the Somme 1916 

The Battle of the Somme 1st July - 18th November 1916 is inevitably characterised by the appalling casualties (60,000) on the first day, July 1st 1916. Having failed to break through the German lines in force, and also failed to maximise opportunities where success was achieved, the battle became a series of attritional assaults on well defended defence in depth. The battle continued officially until 18th November 1916 costing almost 500,000 British casualties. German casualties were about the same, and French about 200,000. The Somme could not be counted a success in terms of ground gained or the cost, but it had a strategic impact as it marked the start of the decline of the German Army. Never again would it be as effective whilst the British Army, learning from its experience eventually grew stronger to become a war winning army. The German High Command recognised that it could never again fight another Somme, a view that advanced the decision to invoke unrestricted submarine warfare in an attempt to starve Britain of food and material, and in doing so accelerated the United States declaration of war thus guaranteeing the eventual outcome. 287 Brethren were killed on the Somme in 1916.

Detail :

When war broke out that year he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving in France and Belgium. His advocacy and practice of immediate specialist surgery – even under fire – for wounds to abdomen, chest, and upper femur, won acclaim in the British Medical Journal. He frequently placed himself at risk while tending the injured and was mentioned in dispatches by General John French in 1915 and General Douglas Haig in 1916. His book, A Surgeon in Khaki, was considered by critics to be a well-judged account of front-line medical conditions:

"It was now eleven o'clock of a pitch black night with threatening rain... We were in for a busy night, for all the stretcher parties from the various ambulances were out in the field collecting the wounded, whose arrival was expected now at any moment. An operating tent had been pitched in the field near by, and was brilliantly lit up with a huge acetylene lamp. The operating table was fixed in the centre of the tent and along each side were the instruments, basins, and dressings lying on the lids of the panniers, which made excellent side-tables. Very soon the ambulances lumbered up with the men picked up from the fields close at hand. The stretchers, each holding a wounded man, were taken out of the waggons and laid on a heap of straw near the door of the operating tent. Sixteen men were taken out and laid side by side. New Stretchers were put in the waggons, which again set out to bring in more wounded. One surgeon stood on one side of the operating table, another stood opposite him, and a third surgeon was ready to assist or give an anaesthetic if necessary. Quietly and quickly one wounded man after another was lifted on to the table, his wounds were speedily dressed, and he was again carried out and laid on the straw with a blanket below and another above him. Those with painful wounds were given hypodermics of morphia. All who were fit to take nourishment had hot soup, tea, bread and jam. Stimulants were given freely to those requiring it. The wounds were mostly from shrapnel, and only one case required an anaesthetic. He had a bad compound fracture of the thigh and was in terrible pain. We made some good splints and fixed up the limb comfortably and in good position. One poor devil had a bad abdominal wound for which we could do nothing. He was given a good dose of morphia and slept quietly till five a.m., when he ceased to breathe. At one o'clock in the morning wounded were still coming in, and the surgeon on duty was relieved by myself. So with coat off, bare arms and covered with an operating apron, I did my spell of surgical duty during that night on the banks of the Marne. Our stretcher parties at last were finished, and had all come in with the report that all wounded had been brought in...... At six o'clock our large list of wounded were sent off the railhead at Coulommiers on returning-empty supply waggons and under the charge of a medical officer. The operating tent was struck and all the panniers and equipment were packed. The Field Ambulance had done its 'job'." [Lt. Arthur Anderson Martin R.A.M.C. 'A Surgeon in Khaki']

After eight months' duty in the field he returned to New Zealand for rehabilitative rest. However, he was immediately appointed to a commission investigating accommodation and hospitalisation at Trentham camp after severe outbreaks of measles, pneumonia and cerebrospinal meningitis. It was thought by leading politicians that his reputation would give medical weight to the findings of the commission. Even during his brief return to civilian practice in Palmerston North he was active in training the Rifle Brigade Field Ambulance at Awapuni. He returned with them to France, and was soon back in front-line service on the Somme.

He was wounded at Flers on 17 September 1916, and died in Amiens base hospital the same night. The loss of two of New Zealand's most promising surgeons, Gilbert Bogle and Martin, on the same day led to the issue of orders for much more caution by doctors under fire than Martin had advocated. The death of a gifted surgeon was mourned in newspapers throughout New Zealand. On 1 January he was posthumously appointed a DSO. In July 1920, at Palmerston North Public Hospital, a memorial wing to Martin was opened with facilities for X-ray and bacteriological research. Much of the finance came from subscriptions from the people of New Zealand. There is a memorial tablet from the Palmerston North division of the British Medical Association in the hospital and tablets and a flag to the memory of Martin in All Saints' Church, Palmerston North.

Masonic :

TypeLodge Name and No.Province/District :
Mother : Prince Alfred No. 956 E.C.Natal
Joined : United Manawatu No. 1721 E.C. New Zealand (North Island)

11th March 1902
21st October 1902
4th November 1902

Initiated into Prince Alfred Lodge No. 956 in 1902, but passed and raised in Doornfontein Lodge No.2585. He was resident at Pretoria and employed as a surgeon, aged 25 years. He joined United Manawata Lodge No. 1721 at Palmerston North, New Zealand in 1905. Past Master.

Source :

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Last Updated: 2020-06-05 13:53:04