Martin, William James (Willie)
No. 1475556, 5 Battery, 2 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery
Killed in action on Saturday 25 April 1942 (aged 32)
Tobruk War Cemetery, Libya (Grave 2. E. 27)
Bangor and District War Memorial
Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Comgall’s)
First Bangor Presbyterian Church
William James (Willie) Martin was born on 8 September 1909 in Argyll Cottages, Bangor and he was the eldest son of Samuel and Mary Martin (nee McFarlane) who later lived at 4 West Place, Bangor. They were married on 1 March 1909 in Ballygilbert Presbyterian Church.
Samuel Martin worked in Scott’s fishmonger’s shop in Main Street, Bangor and he and Mary had seven children:
William James (Willie, born 8 September 1909 in Argyll Cottages, Bangor)
Mary Jane (born 20 October 1911 in West Place, Bangor)
Alice (born 8 November 1914 in West Place, Bangor)
Samuel (Sam, born 31 August 1917 in West Place, Bangor; served with the Merchant Navy during the Second World War)
Francis (Frank, born 2 June 1920; served in India with the Royal Air Force)
Martha (born 15 October 1922)
William James, Mary Jane, and Martha were baptised in First Bangor Presbyterian Church.
Their father Samuel died on 22 December 1947 (aged 63) and their mother Mary died in 1966.
Willie Martin was educated at Ward School and he worked for the Tonic Bus Service, later as a salesman in R.J. Hooke’s Garage in Upper Main Street, Bangor.
Willie Martin and Patricia Isabel Campbell Crozier were married on 4 June 1935 in Bangor Abbey Church of Ireland Church. Patricia was a daughter of Thomas Crozier who worked as a railway porter and lived at 18 Beatrice Road, Bangor. Willie Martin’s wife Patricia was always known as Jean because of her striking resemblance to the film actress Jean Kent. At their wedding, 10-year old Dorothy Adair from Stanley Road, Bangor presented the bride with a horseshoe entwined with silver ribbon and knots of white heather in recognition of Willie Martin’s gallantry a few years earlier when he saved Dorothy from drowning. The incident happened on the beach at Queen’s Parade, Bangor.
Willie and Jean Martin had one child, a son named William Robert Cochrane (Billy) Martin, who was born on 4 May 1936 and baptised in Bangor Abbey on 10 June 1936. Post-Second World War, Billy Martin served with the Royal Air Force Regiment.
Willie Martin was in the Territorial Army and shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War he was called up for active service with the Royal Artillery. Initially he was posted to Egypt to bolster defence of the Suez Canal against attack by the Italians from Italian-occupied Libya. Gunner Willie Martin saw extensive service in the Middle East, including the siege of Tobruk from 10 April 1941 to 27 November 1941, and he was killed in action on 25 April 1942.
Willie Martin’s Sergeant was Alexander Davidson (No. 7007149) who died of wounds about two months later, on 21 June 1942.
In a letter dated 27 April 1942 to Willie’s wife the Rev David L. Rutherford outlined the circumstances of Willie’s death. Because of Army regulations the letter could not be posted until a month later. Around 11.00 am on 25 April 1942 Willie and two comrades were travelling between two gun-sites. A raid began and they took shelter in a small stone building which took a direct hit. Willie Martin and one of his comrades, Gunner William Souffham Sands from Fosdyke in Lincolnshire, were killed outright and they were buried side by side in the local cemetery. For security reasons the Rev Rutherford could not divulge the precise location of the cemetery.
Willie Martin’s wife and son lived at 4 Shrewsbury Drive in Bangor and in the death notices his brother Sam (serving with the Merchant Navy), his brother Frank (serving with the Royal Air Force), his sister Alice (married to Robert Dobbin) and his sister Mary (married to Joe Miller) were all mentioned. There was also a notice from Mr and Mrs Bruce who lived at 18 Beatrice Road, Bangor.
Gunner Willie Martin (No. 1475556) was 32 when he died and one of the tributes paid by his widow was:
He died as he lived, loved by all
Gunner Willie Martin (No. 1475556) is commemorated on Bangor and District War Memorial; in Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Comgall’s) and in First Bangor Presbyterian Church (see William Martin).
In the years after his death, his family placed Roll of Honour and In Memoriam notices in the County Down Spectator and they contained the following verses:
Tonight the stars are gleaming
On a lonely desert grave,
Where lies, in slumber, one we
Loved but could not save.
Peaceful be thy rest, dear Willie,
Tis sweet to breathe thy name,
In life we loved you dearly,
In death we do the same.
Your grave, too far away to see,
But not too far to think of thee.
Too good in life to be forgotten.
Rest, calmly rest, for thou thy part hast played.
Remembered in death as he was in life.
Two years have passed since that sad day
When our great sorrow fell.
The shock that we received that day,
We still remember well.
Your end came suddenly Willie dear,
You made us weep and cry,
Bot, oh, the saddest part of all,
You never said goodbye.
In memory’s garden we meet every day.
Not just today but every day,
In silence we remember.
The voice that sounded in our home,
Has gone to Heaven above.
His toil is past, his work is done.
He had a smile for everyone,
And died beloved by all.
Deep in our hearts a memory is kept
Of the one we loved and will never forget.
I often sit and think of you
When I am all alone,
For memory is the only friend
That grief can call its own.
Through smiles and tears
And passing years,
You are still remembered.