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William Martin was born in 1877 at 6 Bolton Street in Preston and was baptised at St. Peter`s Church on the 8th July 1877 the son of Richard and Isabella Martin (nee Webbe). His parents had married in the Parish Church of St. John on the 23rd August 1874 and they had several children including William although not all of them survived; Edward (1874-1876), Ellen (1876), Charles (1879-1909), Edward (1881-1882), Ann (1883), Jane (1887), Lilian (1889-1890), Frederick (1891) and Robert (1895-1899).

By 1891 William and his family had moved to 8 Byron Street where his father was working as a `metal planer` while William, his sister Ellen and brother Charles were all employed as cotton weavers in one of the local mills. On the 18th August 1900 at St. Peter`s Church in Preston William married Eleanor Howarth, a Blackburn girl. Their marriage record notes that at the time William`s home address was 67 Senior Street and Eleanor`s was at 9 Sizer Street and after their marriage the couple set up home in Sizer Street living at number 25. William and Eleanor`s first child, a son named Fred was born in the first quarter of 1901 but sadly by the time the 1901 Census was recorded on the 31st March 1901 baby Fred had died and Eleanor was back in the mill working as a cotton weaver.

William and Eleanor had moved to 3 Cambridge Street in Preston by 1911 which was not far away from their previous home in Sizer Street. They also had four more children, a daughter and three sons; Ada (1902), Harry (1904), Arthur (1909) and Charlie (1910).

At the outbreak of war William left his job as a weaver at Liver`s Moorbrook Mill and attested into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. He was allocated the service number 3003 and posted into the 4th (Reserve) Battalion. Unfortunately his service papers have not survived so any further information about his enlistment is not available. After several months of training in England the 1/4th Battalion received orders to prepare for embarkation and on the 2nd May 1915, Major Foley, Second Lieutenant Harris (Transport Officer), Machine Gun Officer and 104 other ranks together with the whole of the Battalion Transport, entrained at Ballast Pit Siding in Bedford at one o`clock in the morning, arriving at Southampton at 1.30am, where they embarked on the SS Rossetti, sailing at 4.30am and arriving in Le Havre at 3am on the morning of the 3rd May. On the evening of the 3rd May, William, together with the main body of the Battalion entrained at Ballast Pit Sidings in two trains, and travelled down to Folkestone, arriving around midnight and marching straight down to the boat, the SS Onward, casting off at 1.30am.

Battalion War History; Observations of an unnamed soldier;

“At last we were really on our way, after all the delays and waitings, we were going overseas like all the rest! And it had all been done so quickly, that only now, as we stood on the darkened boat and watched the lights of England receding, did we begin to realise what it meant – this stealthy journey of nearly a thousand souls across the Channel, which many of us had never seen before, and which many were never to see again”.

The 1/4th Battalion`s first experience of the trenches and their first casualties came just three weeks after landing in France when they went into the line on the 25th May 1915. After being relieved the Battalion spent a brief rest period in billets before being sent up to the trenches around Festubert. Orders were then received for an attack which was scheduled to take place on the evening of the 15th June 1915, the attack often later being described as `the great bayonet charge`.

To read details of the attack and some of the personal stories connected with it please click here

After the Battalion had been relieved and had reached Le Touret only 243 men answered the roll call. During their first major action a total of 431 men had been killed, wounded or were missing. Sadly, one of the names on the missing list was that of 37 year old Private William Martin from Preston. Eleanor would have been notified that her husband was missing and she had the following article published in the local paper;


In May 1916, almost twelve months after he died, the Military Authorities finally confirmed that for official purposes William was presumed to have died on or since the 15th June 1915, the official confirmation would also mean that Eleanor Martin would finally receive a small pension for herself and their four children. After being officially informed, Eleanor posted the news in the Preston Guardian;


As William has no known grave his name was later inscribed on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing.

After the war Eleanor would receive her late husband`s 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals to which he was entitled, she would also have received his Bronze Plaque and Memorial Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice for his country.

Private William Martin is remembered on the Roll of Honour in the Harris Museum and Library in his hometown of Preston and his name is also on the Roll of Honour in St. Peter`s Church in Preston, (pictured below), the Church where he and Eleanor married;


Memorial Plaque St. Peter`s Church, Preston

Memorial Plaque St. Peter`s Church, Preston

Rank: Private
Service No: 3003
Date of Death: 15/06/1915
Age: 38
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.

Janet Davis
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