Display 3 – Puller Memorial WW1 Archives
Puller Memorial Primary school kindly leant us their school registers and letters relating to WW1, for our Ware and Thundridge events. They had previously held their own WW1 memorial relating to Lt Col Arthur Martin-Leake. The details below are taken from The Reserve Forces and Cadets Association for East Anglia website .
Hertfordshire WW1 Soldier honoured with Victoria Cross commemoration – 06.11.2014
A soldier whose extreme bravery saw him awarded two Victoria Crosses has been honoured with a VC commemorative paving stone in the parish where he was born.
Lt Col Arthur Martin-Leake is one of only three soldiers to be honoured twice. Born in 1874 in High Cross, near Ware, Hertfordshire, he was educated at Westminster School before going onto study medicine at University College Hospital. He worked at the Hemel Hempstead District Hospital prior to joining the Imperial Yeomanry in 1899 and went on to serve in the Boer War.
He was awarded his first Victoria Cross in 1902 when he risked his life at Vlakfontein to treat a wounded man whilst coming under heavy gunfire. He then moved to treat an injured Officer and was shot three times.
While recovering from his injuries he studied for and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. He then took the post as Chief Medical Officer in Calcutta, employed by the Bengal-Nagput Railway Company to care for its employers.
At the outbreak of the Great War Lt Col Martin-Leake, then aged 40, became concerned he would be considered too old to volunteer for military service so he left for France and enlisted into the Royal Army Medical Corps.
He was attached to the 5th Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps and was awarded a Bar to his Victoria Cross for “most conscious bravery and devotion to duty,” during the First Battle of Ypres, especially during the period 29 Oct to 3 Nov 1914 near Zonnebeke, Belgium. Exposed to constant gunfire he rescued a large number of wounded who were lying close to the enemy trenches.
His Commanding Officer wrote: “By his devotion many lives have been saved that would have otherwise undoubtedly have been lost. His behaviour on three occasions when the dressing station was heavily shelled was such as to inspire confidence both with the wounded and the staff. It is not possible to quote any one specific act performed because his gallant conduct was continual.”
He returned to India after the war, but eventually retired and returned to Marshalls, High Cross, in 1937. He served in the Home Guard during the Second World War. He died in 1953 aged 79.
Thundridge Parish Council held a ceremony to commemorate his actions, laying the stone at the entrance gate to St John the Evangelist Church, High Cross. Attending the ceremony were current serving members of 254 Medical Regiment, Haileybury Combined Cadet Force and the Commander of 49 (East) Brigade, Brigadier Harry Nickerson.
The ceremony saw school children from Puller Memorial School read out letters sent to soldiers and sailors from children attending the school during World War One. After words of remembrance and prayers a bugler played the Last Post. The paving stone was unveiled by Mrs Helen Martin-Leake and Lucas Hyde.
Cadets from the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Army Cadet Force assisted in car parking duties and were part of the marching contingent.
Catherine is a pupil listed in the registers of Puller Memorial school in the period during WW1. She left Puller Memorial and went to Ware Grammar school (now Presdales school) in 1918. We were fortunate to have several of her letters and stories on display at our Ware and Thundridge events. Two of these are attached.