Cyril Arthur Joseph Martin GC MC (Direct Recipient)

b. 23/07/1897 Derby. d. 29/11/1973 South Cadbury, Somerset.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 17-18/01/1943 London.

Cyril Arthur Joseph Martin (1897-1973) was born in Derby on 23rd July 1897, one of four children of Henry and Frances Ann Susannah Martin (nee Griffiths). He attended Berkdale Prep School in Sheffield before going to Trent College near Nottingham. In 1916, he joined the Territorial Army and was commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery as a second lieutenant. On 22nd June 1918, he was awarded the Military Cross after he and two other men extinguished a burning ammunition dump while under heavy enemy fire. After the end of the First World War, Martin attended Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1919, where he was awarded a BA in mechanical sciences in 1922. Later he worked as an electrical engineer. He married Jessie Marion Cooksey on 23rd June 1920, and they had two children, Howard and Jocelyne. Sadly, Howard was killed serving on HMS Fleur de Lys in October 1941. Jocelyne served in the WRENS for three years.

Cyril A J Martin GC MC

After the start of the Second World War, Martin was recommissioned on 17th August 1940 and joined the Royal Engineers. He was posted to the Ministry of Supply Directorate of Bomb Disposal in London. From the beginning of the Blitz, he dealt with countless numbers of unexploded bombs in 1940 and 1941. He was undoubtedly one of the most skilled and courageous bomb disposal experts in the country by the beginning of 1943, when he was called on the night of 17th-18th January to deal with a large bomb which had fallen on the warehouse of the Victoria Haulage Company in Battersea, south London. The warehouse was full of new, heavy and valuable tools from the USA and the bomb had come to rest on a lathe. Other unexploded bombs had fallen that night, but this was seen as a priority.

It quickly emerged that the 500kg bomb had been fitted with a deadly new fuse which was intended to be “safe” from any known disarming technique or equipment. Martin decided to remove the base plate of the bomb and extract the main explosive filling. Once he had done this, he found the bomb contained solid-cast TNT, which could only be removed by high pressure steam. Normal methods were deemed too risky so Martin applied the steam nozzle by hand, only using it in small bursts so that the TNT could be softened and then scraped away in tiny amounts. It was difficult work as Martin and his comrade, Lieutenant Deans, had to work in a cramped hole filled with steam and water. They tackled their task from the afternoon of 20th January to 8.30am the following morning. They succeeded in removing the TNT.In early February, he again had to deal with two similar bombs in the most difficult of circumstances. In the second incident, on 4th February, an officer working under Martin’s orders found his clothing to be on fire from flames from the liquid oxygen being applied to the bomb. Martin and another officer put out the flames before helping the injured man to hospital. Martin then went alone to the bottom of the shaft and disarmed the device. His George Cross was announced on 11th March 1943.

After the end of the War, Martin went back to work as an electrical engineer for Crompton Parkinson, whom he had first joined in 1929. He retired from the company in 1962 after 33 years’ service. After moving to South Cadbury, Somerset, he became a church warden, a member of the Royal British Legion and kept a cider orchard. He was the first holder of the George Cross to hold the position of an officer in the VC and GC Association, serving as honorary secretary from 1961 to 1970. He died on 29th November 1973 near Yeovil. He was buried in Thomas a Becket Churchyard in South Cadbury. His medals including his GC, MC, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, and 1953 QEII Coronation Medal are held proudly by the Martin family.