Trooper John Martin enlisted in the AIF seven months after his brother had been killed on the blood-soaked Belgian battlefields.
The son of Robert and Jean Tait Martin of Riemore, Tamborine, John was the younger brother of Robert Martin, whose name is listed not only on the Canungra memorial but also on the Menin Gate memorial to the missing at Ypres.
John was 22 years old when he enlisted in May1918, two years after his brother had embarked from Brisbane for service on the Western Front in Europe.
A stockman, John’s enlistment papers show he had expressed a preference for joining Australia’s Light Horse, which had distinguished itself fighting the Turks, firstly at Gallipoli where the troops fought as infantry, and then famously in the Middle East during what became known as the last great cavalry charge at Beersheba.
John could not have known that the war was in its final weeks when he left Sydney on the HMAT Port Darwin on September 14, 1918, as part of the 5th General Service Reinforcements, arriving at Suez on October 19.
There was some further training at Moascar in Egypt, but it was not until a week after the signing of the Armistice in November that John was allotted to the 2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance.
On 1 July 1919, two days before he boarded the HT Malta in Egypt to return to Australia, John’s thoughts were of his lost brother, Robert, as he wrote to the Secretary of the Australian Red Cross in London.
“Sir, I should be very grateful if you could obtain a photograph of my brother’s grave which is supposed to be in front of Zonnebeke. He was reported wounded on Oct 4th 1917 but two months later he was reported as having been wounded and missing on that date and finally he was reported as killed. I have made inquiries everywhere but without success. It was my intention to visit the spot myself after the war but I have been unable to obtain the necessary leave. If you could obtain this photograph for me, it would be a great relief to my people and self. He was No 5073 Pte RPW Martin, 13 rfts 26 Battalion AIF. As I expect to embark for Australia tomorrow, please forward reply to John Martin, “Riemore”, Tambourine via Brisbane, Australia. Thanking you in anticipation, I have the honour to be Sir, yours obediently, John Martin.”
There was no photograph forthcoming because Robert Martin had no known grave. Instead, his name was listed on the Menin Gate memorial along with those of some 55,000 British and Commonwealth troops lost in Belgium and whose remains were never recovered.
John Martin arrived home in Australia on August 11, 1919 and was discharged from the Army.