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Biographical entry Martin-Leake, Arthur (1874 - 1953)

VC 1902 and 1915; MRCS 10 November 1898; FRCS 11 June 1903; LRCP 1898.

4 April 1874
Ware, Hertford
22 June 1953
Ware, Hereford
Military surgeon


Born at Marshalls, Ware, Hertford on 4 April 1874, he was educated at Westminster School and University College, London. On the outbreak of the South African war soon after he had qualified, he joined the Imperial Yeomanry as a trooper and was attached to the newly formed South African Constabulary. He earned his citation by dressing a wounded man within a hundred yards of heavy fire from forty Boers and then going to the aid of a badly wounded officer and, while so engaged, he was shot three times, in spite of which he carried on until exhausted. He was decorated with the VC by King Edward VII at Buckingham Palace on 2 June 1902.

After being admitted as a Fellow he took up an appointment as administrative officer of the Bengal-Nagpur Railway and in this capacity had charge of an excellent hospital and was, in addition, medical officer to two battalions of infantry volunteers recruited from the railway staff. He retained this appointment for thirty years although he was given periodic leave of absence to proceed on active service.

In 1912 he was on leave in England when war broke out between Turkey and Montenegro and immediately he volunteered to join a Red Cross unit for service with the Montenegrin army. In 1914 he was in Calcutta but, on hearing of the outbreak of war, he again volunteered and, arriving in Paris on 30 August, he was posted to the 5th Field Ambulance with the rank of Lieutenant. During the first Battle of Ypres and during the period from 29 October to 8 November 1914 near Zonnebeke he was responsible for rescuing, while exposed to constant fire, a large number of wounded lying close to the enemy's trenches. He was presented with a bar to his VC by King George V at Windsor on 24 July 1915. After this he was sent with the "Adriatic Mission" to assist the retreating Serbian army until this was no longer of any service, when he returned to England on 6 March 1916 and was posted to the Western front in command of a field ambulance with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. In 1915 the British Medical Association awarded him their gold medal. He retired from India in 1937, and then went on a shooting trip to Nyasaland and Portuguese East Africa.

He spent his retirement managing a considerable estate and garden at Marshalls, near Ware, and by writing and illustrating a book on hunting in India. He had many hobbies, which included motoring, gardening, and cooking, and he was no mean artist. At one time he held a pilot's licence and flew his own plane. Even one year before his death he was riding a motor-bicycle and was most resentful at the insurance company's request for a medical certificate. He was the youngest of six brothers all distingushed in their careers, one of whom was a pioneer balloonist, an activity which led to an early death.

In 1930 he married Winifred Frances, widow of C W A Carroll, and she died only two years after their marriage. There were no children. He died on 22 June 1953 at Marshalls, Ware, aged 79. On 27 June 1955, RAMC day, his cousin Dr H Martin-Leake handed over his medals and decorations to the Corps.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 24 June 1953, 27 June p 10 b funeral, 27 May 1954 p 8 g will, and 27 June 1955 p 13 b presentation of decorations to RAMC; Brit med J 1953, 2, 46 with portrait and appreciation by Dr Aubrey Barker, and p 101 by Dr Ernest Jones, 1956, 1, 226-228 account of medical VCs at centenary of the award; UCH Mag 1953, 38, 63 with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England