Second Lieutenant William Holmes Martin


William Holmes Martin was born on 11 March 1888 at Ballyboley, Larne, County Antrim, the first of five children of railway clerk Joseph Martin and his wife Mary Anne (nee Holmes). Educated at the Belfast Model School, by 1911 he was living with two aunts at Ballycronan More, Islandmagee, County Antrim, and working as a railway clerk.

Martin enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim on 16 November 1915 (No.1890 – later Corps of Hussars No.71620). He remained at the regimental reserve camp at Antrim through 1916.

On 14 March 1917 he married Jane McCalmont (sister of North Irish Horseman William George McCalmont of Islandmagee) at the First Presbyterian Church, Carrickfergus. Five days later at Antrim he was confined to camp for three days and fined a day's pay for being absent without leave for eight hours that day. He embarked for France on 15 April 1917, but it was not until 7 July that he was posted to C Squadron, part of the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment.

The following month the 2nd NIH Regiment received orders to disband, the men to be transferred to the infantry. Martin applied for a commission in the infantry, with a preference for a regiment of the Ulster Division. He left for the UK on 1 September where, after a period of leave, on 9 November reported for duty at No.7 Officer Cadet Battalion. After a period of training he was assessed as having a 'very fair' level of education, military knowledge, and  power of command and leadership, with special qualifications in signalling. He was "a slow type, but has plenty of backbone, with experience in handling men, should do well." "Will improve with more experience."

On 1 May 1918 Martin was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the 5th Battalion (Extra Reserve), Prince of Wales's Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians). Whether he saw any further service overseas is not known at present. One document appears to indicate that he was attached to the Royal Air Force.

On 14 February 1919 Martin joined the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the Leinsters. Four days later he fell ill with influenza and was admitted to the 5th Southern General Hospital at Portsmouth. It was not until April that he was fit enough to return to duty with his battalion at Victoria Barracks.

Martin was demobilised and relinquished his commission on 1 May 1919. After the war he returned to Islandmagee and to his work with the railways.