John Mulgrave Martin (MC)

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Captain John Mulgrave Martin, MC
Life dates
10 Oct 1892 - 1978
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The National Archives HS9/996/6

Captain Martin MC was a decorated Tank Commander from the First World War. Unusually he came to Auxiliary Units from SOE. He had been recruited for his maritime skills, having brought his own boat, the Norwegian-built Risor. Originally planned to be taken to West Africa, instead he took her to the West Coast of Scotland and became a para-naval instructor. Eventually SOE decided his services were no longer required, too old for overseas service with SOE and reluctant to return to the Wiltshire Regiment, where the men he had trained in 1939 were now senior to him in rank. Appealing to Gubbins, he was found a posting as an Auxiliary Units Intelligence Officer.

Unit or location Role Posted from until
Bishops Lydeard, Somerset Intelligence Officer 01 Apr 1944 22 Sep 1944
Somerset Intelligence Officer 01 Apr 1944 22 Sep 1944

Rugby School

The Wiltshire Regiment
Military number
Commissioned or Enlisted
10 May 1912

Civilian farmer


Rugby School Officer Training Corps. Commissioned Probationary Lieutenant 5th Battalion, The Royal Irish Rifles, 10 May 1912, cancelled 14 June 1912.

18 June 1917 Military Cross. Lieutenant, Wiltshire Regiment and Machine Gun Corps.    

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He rendered most valuable service when commanding a Tank. He gained all his objectives and cleared up several enemy strong points, which were holding up the infantry advance.

4 Sept 1917 The citation reads; Lieutenant Martin, John Mulgrave, D Battalion. Awarded M.C. During the action on Hindenburg Line on April 9th 1917, did excellent work with his tank, gaining all his objectives, and again on April 13th cleared up several strong points which were holding the infantry up. On April 23rd whilst acting as a section commander, he guided his tanks personally under a severe barrage to within a few feet of our front line to ensure their success.

1939 Company Commander Wiltshire Regiment Infantry Training Centre, Devizes,

August 1941 – 30 September 1943 SOE Arisaig, Paranaval Instructor. His SOE file is in The National Archives reference HS9/996/6

1944 Auxiliary Units leaving Somerset 22 Sept 1944.

24 January 1947 Relinquishes commission having exceeded the age limit of liability to recall.

Shimpling Thorne, Hartest, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Other information

Born in Killoskehane Castle Templemore near Dublin in Ireland  to Edward Downes Martin and his wife Ellen (nee Irwin) his full surname was Downes-Martin and he married Margaret Ramsey Stein 7 April 1926 in Cannes. He is buried in Hadleigh in Suffolk. 

His Grandson, Professor Stephen Downes-Martin of the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island contacted The Shetland Bus

The professor wrote: “I have a letter dated 3rd July 1942 ‘for’ [on behalf of] Commanding Officer H.M.S. St. Christopher to my Grandfather requesting that any assistance required by my Grandfather be provided by Naval Officers in charge of Naval Ports. The letter refers to his Yacht Risor.  At the time my Grandfather was smuggling people into and out of Nazi held Norway. Family tradition has it that he would attach himself to the Norwegian fishing fleet under darkness or fog and slide into Norway to pick up or drop off people, and then home the same way. His full name was John Mulgrave Martin although he was also known as John Mulgrave Downes-Martin.”

The confidential letter was written by the Commanding Officer of HMS St Christopher certifying that any assistance should be given to Mr J M Martin and his yacht which was flying the civilian red ensign even though it was ‘on Admiralty Service’. 

Other pictures
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1915 Commission Ground Forces 2 Lt John Mulgrave Martin (from Prof Stephen Downes-Martin)
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1915 France John Mulgrave Martin Campaign Medal Card (from Prof Stephen Downes-Martin)
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Capt J M Martin MC medals Tank Museum, Dorset
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1920 Commission Ground Forces Capt John Mulgrave Martin (from Prof Stephen Downes-Martin)
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1925 France Honeymoon John Mulgrave Martin (from Prof Stephen Downes-Martin)
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1942 Risor (from Prof Stephen Downes-Martin)
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1942 Risor Letter from Admiralty to John Mulgrave Martin (from Prof Stephen Downes-Martin)
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IO Captain Martin stand down letter to Baird

London Gazette 1947

TNA HS9/996/6

Shetland Bus

Grandson Professor Stephen Downes-Martin

The Tank Museum, Bovingdon, Dorset