MARTINEAU Horace Robert
841, Sergeant in the Protectorate Regiment, South African Forces
8/1074, Lieutenant, Otago Regiment, NZEF
On the 26th December, 1899, during the fight at Game Tree, near Mafeking, when the order to retire had been given, Sergeant MARTINEAU stopped and picked up Corporal Le CAMP, who had been struck down about 10 yards from the Boer trenches, and half dragged, half carried, him towards a bush about 150 yards from the trenches. In doing this Sergeant MARTINEAU was wounded in the side, but paid no attention to it, and proceeded to stanch and bandage the wounds of his comrade, whom he, afterwards, assisted to retire. The firing while they were retiring was very heavy and Sergeant MARTINEAU was again wounded. When shot the second time he was absolutely exhausted from supporting his comrade, and sank down unable to proceed further. He received three wounds, one of which necessitated the amputation of his arm near the shoulder British South Africa Company Medal
Queen's South Africa Medal
Orange Free State, Defence of Mafeking, Transvaal
Natal Rebellion Medal
British War Medal
Born 31 October 1871, Bayswater, London, UK
Died 7 April 1916, Dunedin, NZ
Buried Anderson’s Bay Cemetery, Dunedin, NZ
Born and educated in London, Martineau enlisted in the 11th Hussars in 1891. He served in Natal and in India before buying his discharge and returning to South Africa in 1895. The next year he served in Colonel Sir Robert Baden-Powell's campaign against the Matebele, after which he joined the Cape Police
On the outbreak of the Second Boer War in 1899, Martineau joined the Protectorate Regiment (NW Cape Colony) as a sergeant. He was awarded the VC in an action near Mafeking on December 26, 1899
After the War Martineau took up employment with the African Boating Company in Durban, specialising in support to military forces. He joined the Durban Militia Reserve in 1903 attaining the rank of Captain before visiting New Zealand in 1914 when the First World War broke out. He immediately joined up as a territorial officer in the 14th (South Otago) Regiment, and enlisted as Lieutenant Martineau VC Battalion Transport Officer in the Otago Infantry Battalion, of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. He subsequently served in Suez and at Gallipoli with the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, New Zealand and Australian Division of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps ANZAC.
After falling ill in the Gallipoli area of operations Martineau was evacuated to Egypt. After recovering he was visiting the Kursaal (public area of the town) in Alexandria on the evening of 17 September 1915, where in a cafe called the Pallotta Court he met Captain Hunt and Lieutenant King of the Royal Army Medical Corps. Unfortunately he became involved in an altercation with Captain Hunt which involved Martineau's use of insubordinate language. After an investigation of the charge the Commandant of Base Headquarters Alexandria, Brigadier-General McGregor, sent a letter to General Headquarters at Mudros on 21 September 1915 recommending that as Martineau was in possession of the VC “his services be dispensed with without trial and that he be sent back to New Zealand”. While waiting for a verdict on his future Martineau once again fell ill and was admitted to No.2 Australian General Hospital at Ghezireh on 1 November with Colitis (inflammation of the gastrointestinal system). He was moved a week later to the New Zealand General Hospital at Pont de Kubba near Cairo and remained there until being discharged to board the Hospital Ship Maheno, which departed Suez for New Zealand on 29 November 1915. Martineau arrived back in New Zealand on New Year's Day 1916 and was granted sick leave. But the leave pass he was issued was worthless because he was no longer a member of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. On 24 February 1916 the New Zealand Gazette issued an order under the authority of James Allen the Minister for Defence:
Lieutenant Horace Robert Martineau, VC, attached to 14th (South Otago) Regiment is struck off the strength of the NZEF, under the provisions of paragraph 11, Expeditionary Force Act, 1915, with effect from 1st January, 1916. This was an ignominious end for a military hero whose enlistment in the New Zealand Army had been so broadly congratulated and publicised. As his health deteriorated Martineau remained in Dunedin instead of returning to South Africa. Serious stomach problems continued to afflict Martineau and contributed to his death just three months after returning from overseas service. He died in Dunedin Hospital on 7 April 1916 as a result of Gastritis and Haematemesis, and was subsequently buried in Anderson’s Bay Cemetery, Dunedin among other returned servicemen. As the illness was a continuation of the sickness he first contracted while on Gallipoli, Martineau was categorised as having died after discharge from the NZEF from disease contracted while on active service, and was included in the roll of honour listing New Zealand’s war dead
THE NEW ZEALAND ARMY’S FORGOTTEN VICTORIA CROSS
by Mark Brewer
In the Anderson’s Bay Cemetery near Dunedin lies the grave of a forgotten colonial soldier. He is commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission because his death in April 1916 was from the complications of an illness contracted whilst serving with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in Gallipoli and Egypt. This epitaph is not uncommon and is sadly repeated in numerous military cemeteries throughout New Zealand. However, what sets this grave apart from many others is the large Victoria Cross (VC) etched into the granite headstone below the inscription for Lieutenant Martineau VC. A military adventurer conspicuous in the New Zealand Army by his one arm, Horace Robert Martineau shares the cemetery with fellow Victoria Cross recipient Duncan Gordon Boyes. Yet both men are omitted from contemporary histories of New Zealand’s association with this highest of Commonwealth gallantry awards. Whilst Martineau’s omission seems astonishing given his service and New Zealand war casualty status, this obscurity owes much to the circumstances of his discharge in 1916 and the emergence of home-grown recipients.
Horace Martineau followed a path into military service that was not uncommon for young British men in the last decade of the Victorian era. The fifth child of William and Margaretta Martineau of Hornsey , he was born into an English middle-class family at Princes’ Square, Bayswater London on 24 October 1874. Attending University College School in Gower Street, Martineau was educated in an environment well known for its liberal approach and high academic standards. The school had been established to prepare students for higher education at the nearby University of London (now University College London). However, Martineau had been exposed to the possibilities of military service through his Uncle Edward who had served during the Indian Mutiny and Brother-in-law James Stansfield who would later rise to the rank of Colonel in the Royal Artillery. He consequently left school at the age of 16, choosing a career in the military with its promise of travel and adventure over the costs of further study.
Martineau’s military adventures commenced with his enlistment as a Trooper in the 11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars in 1891. The unit was nicknamed the Cherry Pickers because they were ambushed in a Spanish cherry orchard during the Peninsular War and distinguished by their crimson trousers which represent the Saxe Coburg Gotha house of Prince Albert. The 11th Hussars had been in England since returning from India in 1877 and Martineau joined them as their tour at home came to an end. In 1892 he deployed with the unit to India and during his time in garrison is noted as having assisted in the foundation of the regimental band. Martineau subsequently moved with the unit to Natal and after serving there for a period was discharged by purchase at Pietermaritzburg in 1895.
When Martineau took his discharge British desires for territorial expansion in Southern Africa were fuelling tension with the Boer republics and African natives, and he was soon drawn into the resulting conflicts. In an attempt to overthrow Kruger’s government in the Transvaal and bring all of Southern Africa under British control, the British South Africa Company’s managing director and Cape Colony Prime Minister Cecil Rhodes despatched an armed force in December 1895 to support an Uitlander (foreigner) uprising in Johannesburg. The 500 strong raid led by colonial administrator Doctor Jamieson was intercepted, defeated and imprisoned by the Boers. The loss of such a large force left a power vacuum in Matabeleland (now part of Zimbabwe) and suffering the effects of a severe drought the suppressed Matabele people rose up in revolt. As white inhabitants were slaughtered in their farms Martineau volunteered to join a force hastily gathered by the British South Africa Company to relieve the besieged townships of Bulawayo, Gwelo and Tuli.
The 1896 campaign against the Matabele in Rhodesia was Martineau’s first taste of combat. He enlisted as a Trooper in Lieutenant Colonel Plumer’s Matabele Relief Force which was raised in the towns of Kimberley and Mafeking. The Force moved quickly to reinforce the garrison at Bulawayo and in July Martineau’s unit began offensive operations against Matabele in the Matopo Hills to the south of the town. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Baden-Powell was placed in charge of the advance guard and the Force had some initial success in action against the natives. Martineau took part in an attack by the entire force against a hilltop stronghold on 5 August, but the assault failed with the loss of several officers and NCOs. The stalemate forced Cecil Rhodes to negotiate with the native chiefs and peace was declared on 13 October. At the end of hostilities Martineau stayed with the Matabele Relief Force Corps through into 1897 and when the force was disbanded he returned to Kimberley.
After the Matabele campaign Martineau joined the Bechuanaland Border Police. With its headquarters in Mafeking the unit was a mounted force that policed the region along the border of Rhodesia from within what is now Botswana. The unit had provided many of the men who joined Jamieson on his Raid into the Transvaal and was well known for containing a number of English gentlemen within its ranks. Martineau joined the unit in 1897 as it was in the process of transferring to the British South Africa Company, and becoming part of the British South Africa Police (BSAP). He was attached to Number One Division and posted to Francis Town on the Bechuana side of the Rhodesian border. Martineau continued to serve with the BSAP as the clouds of a war in Southern African began to gather.
Like many settlers in South Africa, Martineau had watched tensions between the Boers and the British increase since the failure of the Jamieson Raid. The catalyst for war was the refusal of citizenship and voting rights to British Uitlanders who flooded the Transvaal in the pursuit of gold. The Boer government did this to prevent de facto British control of the country, but the move was at odds with the imperialistic designs of new British High Commissioner Sir Alfred Milner. The failure of talks at Bloemfontein in May 1899 lead the Boer Republics to commence a military build up and the British despatched reinforcements to the region. When the British refused to withdraw their forces in October 1899 the Boers launched a rapid invasion of Cape Colony and Natal. As the Boers encircled the key strategic centres of Kimberley, Ladysmith and Mafeking, Martineau found himself at the centre of the conflict.
When the British were beginning their military build up Martineau had joined a colonial unit raised for the defence of Mafeking. A group of imperial officers under the command of Colonel Baden-Powell was despatched to the region in July 1899 with orders to raise local units to divert Boer commandos away from the main theatre of operations on the outbreak of hostilities. Lieutenant Colonel Hore began recruiting irregular troops as part of a Protectorate Regiment and Martineau enlisted from the BSAP on 5 September 1899. The new unit was assembled and trained at Ramathlabama in southern Bechuanaland, where Martineau was allocated the regimental number 75 and appointed to the rank of Sergeant in 'C' Squadron, under the command of Captain Ronald James Vernon. The unit moved quickly to garrison Mafeking, but was besieged in the town by the Boers on 14 October 1899.
The Protectorate Regiment was critical to holding the township of Mafeking as the Boers called on the British and colonial forces to surrender. With its control of the railway line to Rhodesia, and position at the junction of Bechuanaland, Cape Colony and Transvaal, the town was administratively and logistically important to the British. As part of this force, Martineau was one of approximately 1,600 men, who held out against up to 8,000 of the enemy for seven-and-a-half months. Staunch defence of the town against Boer attacks and bombardment would come to symbolise British patriotic resolve and the commander, Robert Baden-Powell, was praised as a national hero. But during this time the town suffered dreadfully from famine, disease and destruction under the cordon and bombardment. As the British and colonial forces were too small to man the full perimeter of the town they relied instead on constant lookout, sector defences and brief small scale raids against the Boers. These raids were initially conducted by A and D Squadrons of the Protectorate Regiment, but Martineau’s C Squadron was soon involved in one of these sorties.
Successive raids by the defenders were essential for convincing the enemy of the offensive strength and morale of the garrison. The Boers had made a major attack at Connon Kopje to the South of the town on 31 October 1899 and appeared to be massing in a new laager prior to an attack from the West. A force comprising Martineau’s C Squadron and a troop of Bechuanaland Rifles—supported by two-pounders and a Hotchkiss gun—moved out at 0230 hours on 7 November under the command of Protectorate Regiment Adjutant Major Alexander Godley. Martineau’s unit reached a point overlooking the laager and at dawn opened fire, achieving complete surprise and inflicting significant casualties on the Boers. When the enemy counterattacked they began to outflank the British, forcing a withdrawal. C Squadron began to take heavy fire as they covered the rear and retired by alternate troops. Five of Martineau’s unit were wounded, including Major Godley, but the Boer losses were heavy and the Mafeking defenders had successfully disrupted their planned attack. Unfortunately subsequent sorties by the Protectorate regiment were not as successful.
Game Tree Fort
In an effort to establish themselves farther to the North of the town the Mafeking defenders attacked the Boer defences at Game Tree Hill Fort on Boxing Day 1899. Baden-Powell hoped to copy the successes of earlier raids and set out with a large force to take the Boer fort before it was strengthened. A bombardment commenced at 0430 hours and the force, once again commanded by Major Godley, moved on the Fort. Martineau’s C Squadron Protectorate Regiment led the attack with Captain FitzClarence’s D Squadron and an armoured train in support. Martineau’s unit advanced ‘in rushes until about 200 yards from their objective when, led by their officers, they charged in the face of the heavy fire from the Boers’. When they reached the fort they found an impregnable blockhouse and took significant casualties as they gallantly tried to fire in through the loopholes. As Boer reinforcements arrived they were forced to retire. When Godley moved forward in the armoured train he was unable to get close enough and found that Captain ‘Vernon and a great many of his men had been killed’. Many others were wounded, including Martineau.
As the force withdrew Martineau gallantly tried to help a wounded comrade but was wounded himself. His friend Corporal Charles Le Camp had been shot and wounded just short of the Boer fort, but as the attacking force retired Martineau remained and partly carried and dragged Le Camp 140 yards to the shelter of a small bush. As he carried him there Martineau was shot in the side but ignored it and instead tended to Le Camp’s wounds. Aware of the danger posed by the Boer reinforcements he attempted to move Le Camp further back, but the intensity of the enemy fire was high and Martineau was again wounded. He continued until he was unable to go any further, having received a third wound and sank to the ground. At no time did Martineau attempt to leave Le Camp, and therefore ensure his own safety. Both soldiers were eventually recovered and carried back into Mafeking for medical treatment. A wound to Martineau’s left arm was so serious that it had to be amputated near the shoulder. Given the conditions in Mafeking’s Victoria Hospital at the time and the lack of medical supplies his ordeal is difficult to imagine. Unfortunately British losses had been high and Martineau was not alone.
The attack on Game Tree Fort had been a significant defeat for the Mafeking defenders. Casualties were high with 24 officers and men killed, 23 wounded and three missing, while Boer casualties had been light. The loss was blamed on an inability to maintain operational surprise and the defenders never again attempted to raid Boer positions. Major Godley would later raise a commendation detailing Martineau’s actions, along with those of Trooper Horace Ramsden who had rescued his wounded brother under fire during the battle. Captain FitzClarence would also be commended for his conduct in a number of actions before he was severely wounded at Game Tree Fort. Martineau remained in Mafeking until it was relieved by a British force in May 1900, resulting in a wave of patriotic hysteria sweeping the British Empire. Contemporary accounts of Martineau’s actions state that he had taken no further part in the hostilities, but a newspaper article reports that after having his arm amputated ‘he was back among fighting troops within a month’. Regardless, it is clear that for Martineau his part in the war was over after the relief of Mafeking.
Just seven weeks after the relief column had reached Mafeking Martineau was advised that he had been awarded the Victoria Cross. He was not alone as the London Gazette of 6 July 1900 also announced the award of VCs to Captain FitzClarence and Trooper Ramsden.
Martineau received his Victoria Cross from the Commander in Chief of British forces in South Africa, Lord Roberts, at Cape Town on 11 December 1900. The award brought Martineau instant prominence which helped ensure his future employment and led to a commission in the Colonial Forces.
After the war Martineau left the Army but continued to pursue military interests. Instead of returning to England as a war hero he chose to remain in Southern Africa and was married to Florence Isabella Bellson in 1900. The couple’s livelihood was assured when Martineau gained employment with the African Boating Company, a large and influential concern in Durban where he was responsible for all military transport work. In 1903 Natal reorganised its volunteer units into Militia Regiments and established a new defence system that included Militia Reserves. Despite his disability, Martineau enlisted in the Durban Militia Reserve unit, and as is the case with many VC recipients he was granted a commission. He subsequently attained the rank of Lieutenant and served in the reserves for over 10 years, including a period of active service.
The Natal Native Rebellion saw Martineau called up for active service for a short period in 1906. In January 1906 natives in the South of Natal revolted against hut and poll taxes resulting in the instigation of martial law. The initial rebellion was put down, but further uprisings in April necessitated a drive by colonial forces through the Nkandhia forest in Zululand to expel the rebels. Martineau’s unit was recalled to active duty and he served with the Durban Reserves at Stanger. The conflict was a brutal repression of the native population with between 3,000 and 4,000 Zulus killed—in comparison to 25 colonial soldiers—and contributed to the racially segregated structure of the future South African Union. However, when the campaign ended on 3 August 1906, Martineau and his fellow Reserves had served for less than fifty days of the overall conflict. It was not to be Martineau’s last military operation, but his family situation would change significantly before his next period of active service.
Martineau was widowed shortly after the Natal campaign when Florence, his wife of eight years, died in 1908. Martineau subsequently met Amy Werdmuller, a Boer and the second daughter of Charles Werdmuller, a Justice of the Peace in Hoopstad, Orange River Colony (now Orange Free State Province). They married at East London on 31 July 1909 in a ceremony officiated over by the Reverend Bernard Williams. This marriage between two former adversaries was representative of the conciliatory nature of South Africa at the time. The couple settled together in Durban and a year later Amy gave birth to their first and only child Daphne on 13 April 1910. Martineau continued his employment with the African Boating Company until the possibility of a major conflict in Europe began to transpire.
In 1914 the fragile security of European diplomacy failed, plunging the World into war and Martineau once again answered the call to arms. Tension caused by conflict in the Balkans had been kept in check for a number of years by international alliances, but Great Power politics, expansionist policies and arms races soon set the stage for a great confrontation in Europe. The dominoes of diplomacy began to fall when Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. As Austria and Serbia squared off, the continental powers found themselves coming down on opposing sides and vast conscript armies were mobilised. Germany made a conscious decision for war and enacted the Schlieffen Plan—an operation to invade and quickly defeat France and Belgium before Russia could fully mobilise and threaten Austria—on 2 August 1914. Great Britain and many of her colonies declared war on Germany two days later and in an air of patriotic fervour thousands rushed to enlist. Martineau was sweep up in this wave of jingoism.
At the outbreak of hostilities Martineau found himself outside his home country and enlisted into the New Zealand Army. He had left his wife and family in Hoopstad in the Orange Free State to holiday in New Zealand and was in Waihola when the Dominion was called to war in August 1914. In order to deploy overseas volunteers had to first join their local Territorial Unit and Martineau quickly enlisted in the 14th (South Otago) Regiment in his South African rank of Captain. Like other Territorial forces the unit was ordered to gather at a provincial concentration point and so began to assemble at Tahuna Park, Dunedin from 7 August. Because of his considerable experience in military supply Martineau was initially appointed Quartermaster of the Otago contingent and much fuss was made of the presence of a VC winner amongst the force. On 21 August 1914 Martineau was reunited with Alexander Godley—his former commander and the man who had recommended him for the Victoria Cross. Godley, now a Major General commanding New Zealand’s Defence Forces, arrived at Tahuna to inspect the men from Otago who would form part of an 8,000 strong expeditionary force. Despite being nearly 40 and having only one arm Martineau volunteered for overseas service.
Martineau enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) in order to play a part in the war in Europe. The day after Godley’s inspection Martineau attested as a member of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force where he was issued the service number 8/1074 and assigned to the Otago Infantry Battalion of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade. In order to enlist Martineau needed to reduce in rank and was subsequently gazetted as a Lieutenant and Regimental Transport Officer for the Battalion. It is interesting that the medical examination sheet in Martineau’s military file is blank indicating that his status as a VC recipient may have helped him gain medical clearance despite having only one arm. The real reason is difficult to ascertain and Martineau wasn’t the only man in the force with this disability. After enlistment Martineau helped provide logistics support to the Otago Mounted Rifles training at Seatoun Park, Dunedin in late September. He then travelled to Wellington and left New Zealand from there as part of the Expeditionary Force Main Body on 15 October 1914. The Force was told that their intended destination was the war in Europe.
The military convoy sailed under escort to Hobart where they joined with ships of the Australian Expeditionary Force, but both groups were subsequently redirected to Suez and joined British Forces in Egypt. On route to Colombo the German raider Emden was engaged and destroyed by escort HMAS Sydney near the Cocos Islands and prisoners distributed amongst the troopships. After leaving Aden the convoy was advised that they would disembark at Suez on 3 December 1914 instead of proceeding to England. The New Zealander’s set up camp at Zeitoun, near Cairo and started field training in preparation for the war with Turkey. The New Zealand Infantry Brigade formed the nucleus of a mixed New Zealand and Australian Division led by Major General Sir Alexander Godley, within an Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) commanded by Lieutenant General Sir William Birdwood. ANZAC units did not wait long before facing the Turks.
Egypt and Gallipoli
The New Zealand Infantry Brigade had its first exposure to combat when it was deployed to the Canal Zone to counter a Turkish advance. In his role as Battalion Transport Officer Martineau assisted his unit to entrain on 26 January 1915 and travel to Kubri, just north of Suez. The campaign which resulted in New Zealand’s first battle casualty was quickly concluded when a Turkish attack was repulsed on 4 February, although the Otagos were in reserve and saw no part of the action. With the Turkish threat now countered the New Zealander’s returned to their Camp at Zeitoun where the Division was inspected by General Sir Ian Hamilton and preparations began for major offensive operations. Martineau was again busy as the Otago Infantry Battalion entrained for an advanced base at Mustafa, Alexandria on 9 April 1915 and boarded the transport ship Annaberg the following day. After three days at sea the transport convoy arrived at Mudros harbour in the Island of Lemnos, where the ANZACs began practising disembarkation operations in preparation for an attack on the Turkish mainland.
Martineau was present at Gallipoli as the New Zealand contingent of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) landed, but did not immediately go ashore. The transport fleet carrying the ANZAC Corps left Mudros on 24 April 1915 and was to land at Z Beach north of Gaba Tepe before dawn the following morning in order to cut the enemy line of retreat caused by British and French landings at the southern end of the peninsular. Unfortunately a navigation error by the Royal Navy put the force ashore on a narrow beach at the foot of steep hills near Ari Burnu, instead of at the entrance to plains a mile to the south. Sitting on board the Annaberg Martineau and his fellow officers watched the Division land at what is now called ANZAC Cove. At 1430 hours the Otago Infantry Battalion began to disembark and was rushed quickly into action on the feature subsequently known as Plugge’s Plateau. Due to the steep landscape and crowded beach it was impossible to land the horse transport which would have been crucial to operations in open terrain. Consequently Martineau, Captain Eggleston the Quartermaster and some support staff did not disembark, but stayed on board the Annaberg as it left the Gallipoli coast. With the Otagos in the line, the ANZACs hung on to their meagre foothold and soon attempted to push inland.
During Martineau’s absence the Otago Infantry Battalion was involved in a number of costly operations. Delays during a night move meant the unit was one and a half hours late arriving at the jump-off point for the assault up Dead Man’s Ridge on 2 May. When the Otagos attacked it was without support and against deadly fire from Turkish machine-guns, resulting in a loss of almost half its strength—including a considerable number of its best officers. The disheartened battalion was placed in general reserve before being transported with the rest of the New Zealand Brigade to Cape Helles on 5 May. The unit formed part of a Composite Division which was tasked with capturing Krithia Village as part of a broad advance on 8 May 1915. The Otagos were again in reserve as the attack across open terrain stalled under accurate Turkish machine-gun fire. Ordered forward in support the Otago advance was checked after only a few hundred metres as successive waves of men were cut down by Turkish fire, in what is now remembered as the Daisy Patch. The unit suffered over a hundred casualties—losses so severe that the unit was demoralised and considered unfit for further operations. Despite its reduced capacity, the Battalion stayed in the line until 12 May when the entire Brigade was withdrawn and returned to ANZAC Cove on 19 May.
Martineau rejoined the Otagos on Gallipoli but in the appalling conditions soon suffered the effects of the environment and was evacuated. It is unclear exactly when Martineau rejoined his unit but it is likely that this was shortly after the massacre in the Daisy Patch when the Battalion Quartermaster Captain Egglestone also returned. By now the summer heat and the plague of flies attracted by unburied corpses made conditions on the peninsular difficult and dysentery became prevalent. These ‘physical trials were magnified by stress’ as everywhere on ANZAC was dangerous, including snipers targeting supply trains in gullies, and shrapnel and stray bullets causing casualties in support areas. The NZEF’s other Boer War VC holder Captain Hardham was wounded in the chest in fighting on 30 May and on the morning of 5 June Martineau’s companion Battalion Quartermaster Captain Egglestone ‘was killed while drawing rations at the Brigade Dump’. A few days later Martineau was struck down by acute gastritis and subsequently admitted to hospital in Alexandria on 15 June 1915. Unfortunately he would never rejoin his unit.
After recovering from his illness Martineau was attached to the Divisional Train operating in Egypt. Martineau’s ailment—acute gastritis—is the painful erosion of the stomach lining often caused by infection or as a result of stress or trauma. Because of the dangerous and unsanitary conditions at ANZAC the affliction was not uncommon. Once he was evacuated from the peninsular Martineau recovered quickly and after a week in hospital at Alexandria medical staff discharged him to duty on 23 June 1915. During this period transport units returning from Gallipoli were sent into camp at Sidi Bishr and Martineau joined elements of the New Zealand and Australian divisional transport there. Because of the summer heat transport work at the camp was generally confined to the early morning or late evening, with ‘the rest of the time spent at routine work, enlivened by occasional trips to town’.
During a trip to Alexandria on 7 September 1915 Martineau became involved in an altercation with two British Officers. Martineau visited the Kursaal (public area of the town), where in a cafe called the Pallotta Court he met Captain Hunt and Lieutenant King of the Royal Army Medical Corps―a corps containing a significantly high proportion of English gentlemen. Mutual dislike followed Martineau’s scorn of the Captain’s un-regimental white collar and the British officers’ abhorrence of his bearing and alleged use of offensive language. Martineau’s actions embodied an air of superiority arising from his colonial status—despite his roots being similar to those of the two Imperial officers. Captain Quinn, the Assistant Provost Marshall, approached Martineau shortly after the exchange and requested he leave the cafe, but in making reference to his one arm enflamed his temper. Martineau’s response was to refer to Captain Hunt as a “bloody bastard” after which he allegedly threatened to hit him. On Captain Quinn’s urging Martineau left the cafe and returned to camp, but the ramifications of his actions soon become apparent.
Serious charges were laid against Martineau as a result of the quarrel with the two gentlemen- officers. The morning after the incident in the Kursaal the Deputy Assistant Adjutant General of MEF Base Headquarters at Alexandria issued an order for Martineau to be placed under arrest for drunkenness. During an investigation by Martineau’s Officer Commanding, Australian Captain William Berry, the charge of drunkenness was disproved but Martineau admitted to using insubordinate language towards Captain Hunt. The Commandant of Base Headquarters, Brigadier-General McGregor, subsequently sent a letter to General Headquarters at Mudros on 21 September 1915 recommending that as Martineau was in possession of the VC “his services be dispensed with without trial and that he be sent back to New Zealand”. This recommendation was endorsed by the Commander-in-Chief MEF, General Sir Ian Hamilton who forwarded the matter to Birdwood and Godley. Unfortunately Godley’s staff then ordered that the man he had recommended for the Victoria Cross be struck off the strength of the NZEF and returned to New Zealand.
Waiting for a verdict on his future placed considerable strain on Martineau and he once again fell ill. He had been relieved of his command when arrested and was required to wait until a decision came through in mid October 1915. Once the verdict was known Martineau had to await available transport but fell ill and was admitted to No.2 Australian General Hospital at Ghezireh on 1 November with Colitis (inflammation of the gastrointestinal system). He was moved a week later to the New Zealand General Hospital at Pont de Kubba near Cairo and remained there until being discharged to board the Hospital Ship Maheno, which departed Suez for New Zealand on 29 November 1915. The four week journey provided Martineau with plenty of time to reflect on his sudden fall from grace. When he arrived back in New Zealand on New Year’s Day 1916 he was granted a week’s sick-leave in Dunedin. Little did he know that the Sick-Leave Certificate issued to him was worthless.
Martineau was released from military service with effect the day he arrived back in New Zealand. Despite the granting of sick-leave he was in fact no longer subject to military authority. The correspondence advising of Martineau’s punishment had preceded him and was acted on swiftly by the New Zealand General Staff. He had already been gazetted out of the deployed force by Godley on 14 October 1915 and the New Zealand Defence Force Adjutant General prepared a further gazette notice for his return. On 24 February 1916 the New Zealand Gazette issued an order under the authority of James Allen the Minister for Defence:
Lieutenant Horace Robert Martineau, V.C., attached to 14th (South Otago) Regiment is struck off the strength of the N.Z. Expeditionary Force, under the provisions of paragraph 11 (1), Expeditionary Force Act, 1915, with effect from 1st January, 1916
This was an ignominious end for a military hero whose enlistment in the New Zealand Army had been so broadly congratulated and publicised. As his health deteriorated Martineau remained in Dunedin instead of returning to South Africa.
Serious stomach problems continued to afflict Martineau and contributed to his death just three months after returning from overseas service. He died in Dunedin Hospital on 7 April 1916 as a result of Gastritis and Haematemesis (the vomiting of blood due to prolonged erosion of the stomach lining) and was subsequently buried in Anderson’s Bay Cemetery among other returned servicemen. Reports and obituaries at the time made no reference to the circumstances of Martineau’s release except to say that he had been invalided back from Egypt. As the illness was a continuation of the sickness he first contracted while on Gallipoli, Martineau was categorised as having died after discharge from the NZEF from disease contracted while on active service, and was included in the roll of honour listing New Zealand’s war dead. This distinction was of little comfort to his family.
Martineau’s family received continual reminders of his wartime service. After hearing of her husband’s death the now widowed Amy Martineau left South Africa with her daughter Daphne and settled in Queenstown, County Cork, Ireland. In March 1918 she was sent her husband’s commissioning parchment, but an application for his War Pension was declined by the New Zealand Commissioner of Pensions. Martineau’s medals for the Great War were forwarded in August 1922 and in December 1923 his death plaque and memorial scroll were despatched. Martineau’s daughter Daphne married Naval Commander Denis Pack-Beresford, a divorcee, in November 1933 and started a family. Martineau’s Victoria Cross medal group remained in the Pack-Beresford family until 2002 when it was sold at auction by Spink and Sons Limited―less the 1914-15 Star which was missing from the group―for £90,000 to the Michael A. Ashcroft Trust. The Trust owns the world’s largest collection of VCs and Martineau’s group will be placed on display, with the rest of the collection, in the Imperial War Museum, London from 2010. This medal group and the headstone at Anderson’s Bay appear to be two of the few lasting memorials to Martineau’s gallantry.
It is difficult to pinpoint the root cause of Martineau’s fall from grace. While his return to New Zealand for a single―and somewhat disputed―lapse in discipline may appear heavy handed it was not uncommon during the early stages of the War. As historian Christopher Pugsley identifies, several New Zealand officers were returned to New Zealand on ‘medical grounds’ (a euphemism for unsuitability) instead of facing court-martial. However, in Martineau’s case the return was purely administrative until he fell ill on 1 November 1915. If his general performance was lacking it is certainly not mentioned in his file and no supplementary evidence has arisen which would point to this. Martineau’s conduct in the Kursaal therefore appears to be the key factor, although the root causes of this outburst are unclear. The investigation by Captain Berry discounted alcohol as a cause, and the true source of Martineau’s irritability is not explicitly stated in Berry’s findings. Martineau’s service file does however give clues as to potential causes: his illness and a growing feeling of egalitarianism.
Martineau’s behaviour may have been the manifestation of combat related or personal stress. Acute gastritis of the type contracted by Martineau is caused by infection, stress or a combination of the two. If he was suffering from combat stress this may not have fully abated after his release from hospital, as the symptoms of post-traumatic stress can arise at any time. An adverse reaction to the rigours of combat, with its constant and indiscriminate shelling is certainly understandable, but this aspect of the human condition was not well comprehended or tolerated during the early stages of the War. Other factors may also have been at play as the publicity surrounding Martineau’s enlistment in the NZEF placed considerable expectations on him as a Victoria Cross holder. The pressure of these expectations would have been compounded by his experience on Gallipoli and frustrations in needing to continually display a stereotypical example of bravery and resilience. However, while the stress relating to the stigma of his forced return to New Zealand is likely to have contributed to the recurrence of his illness and possibly his death, there is limited evidence to conclusively confirm stress as a root course of Martineau’s actions.
Martineau’s colonial status and mounting contempt for the British class system are likely to have been the major contributing factors in his altercation with the two medical officers. While the evidence of Martineau, Hunt and King is conflicting and contradictory, it agrees on the British officers’ concern over Martineau’s bearing and his taunt about Hunt’s white collar. Martineau’s comments are indicative of a growing disdain for those who saw themselves as naturally superior to these men from the Colonies. Similarly Martineau’s demeanour―borne of two decades in Southern Africa and a year with the New Zealanders―would have drawn the disapproval of many British officers who were the product of a socially stratified and highly conformist Edwardian society. Martineau’s clash with Captain Hunt was therefore representative of a man fiercely proud of his colonial status and voicing his growing contempt for the British class system. It is no surprise that a broad wave of nationalist sentiment in the antipodes is claimed to have originated in the trenches, billets, and rear areas of the Great War.
An emerging ANZAC spirit was evident amongst soldiers from Australasia and is likely to have significantly influenced Martineau’s views and behaviour. While historian Michael King refers to the notion of New Zealand coming of age on the slopes of Gallipoli as a ‘necessary myth’, there is considerable evidence of a growing self awareness amongst Kiwi soldiers during the War. This is not to perpetuate the legend of the ANZACs as naturally superior soldiers, a myth which has largely been discredited. However, a growing disdain for British troops and commanders resulting from the bungled nature of the Gallipoli campaign is evident in the diaries and letters of many New Zealanders ―including senior officers such as Lieutenant Colonels Malone and Bowler. Historian Nicholas Boyack argues that although little of this sentiment filtered through to the general pro-British New Zealand public, there is no denying the growing scepticism of British superiority and authority amongst ANZAC troops. Martineau could not have escaped this mood and it is highly likely that he was influenced by it. It is also likely that this air of colonial superiority and propensity for larrikinism influenced Hart and King’s interaction with the New Zealand officer. Within this context Martineau’s discharge seems ill-considered, and the associated dishonour unfair.
Despite his dismissal from our Army Horace Robert Martineau is a military hero deserving of greater acknowledgement for his service to New Zealand. His obscurity is similar to that of VC recipients Charles Pye, Timothy O’Hea and the disgraced Edward St John Daniel, who also served in our Armed Forces and for whom little recognition is given today. Martineau’s anonymity unfortunately conceals the significant part he played in getting the Otago contingent of the NZEF away to war in 1914. Martineau’s return from Egypt was certainly unfortunate, but it should not be allowed to overshadow his previous exemplary service and gallant conduct. He remains a hero for which the award of the Victoria Cross bares witness. As a VC recipient, Martineau is a member of a very exclusive fellowship and his status as a VC holder in New Zealand’s Army places him amongst an even rarer group of heroes. Unfortunately, it was the emergence of this slowly increasing number of home-grown VC recipients which contributed to his obscurity here. Regardless of the circumstances of his discharge Martineau deserves greater recognition as a New Zealand Army Victoria Cross holder and NZEF casualty. This paper is an attempt to right that injustice.
Mark Brewer has served for 24 years as a Regular Force member of the New Zealand Defence Force, and has a long interest in the study of military history, particularly the medallic recognition of individuals. This paper is an expanded and revised version of an article published in the New Zealand Military Historical Society Journal in 2009. He would like to thank Phil Beattie, Barrie Dunbar, Darryl Lundy and Jack Langley for their assistance in researching this paper.
Brewer, M.E., NZ Army’s Forgotten VC, The Volunteers: The Journal of the New Zealand Military Historical Society, 34(3), March 2009, pp 195-229. I’ll add a reference to Wikipedia in due course.