National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

Promising World War One Surgeon

A World War One memorial flag belonging to one of New Zealand’s most promising surgeons of his time, and Medical Corps war hero, Palmerston North’s Arthur Martin, was handed over into the care of the National Army Museum as part of a 5pm service on Sunday at All Saint’s Church, Palmerston North.

The flag has been housed at All Saints for many years, but as a result of the Church closing its doors for earthquake proofing, it was decided it would be a good time to pass on the custodianship to the National Army Museum.  The flag was accepted by the Director, Jeanette Richardson ONZM and Major David Ackroyd.

When World War One broke out Dr Martin was a renowned Palmerston North surgeon.  He had travelled to Britain for a medical conference and was there when war was declared.  He signed up the following day at the War Office in Whitehall. As a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps Dr Martin spent 8 months serving in France and Belgium.  After a stint back in New Zealand he later returned to France with the New Zealand Medical Corps serving in the front line on the Somme.

He showed exceptional bravery and frequently placed himself at risk while tending to the injured.  It was inevitable that he would be wounded and so it was at Flers on 17 September 1916.  Dr Martin died later that day in hospital.  He was posthumously awarded a Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his actions.

In his book “A Surgeon in Khaki” he says of the First World War “Romance! Adventure! Very soon we were up against cold facts and there was no romance or pomp and circumstance then”.  National Army Director, Jeanette Richardson ONZM says that “Dr Martin was a local and national hero in regard to both his ground-breaking medical work and his contribution during war-time.  It must be realised that many medical people paid the ultimate price while selflessly tending to the sick and wounded and Dr Martin was one of those.  We proudly accept the role of guardian of his flag as it is a special reminder of his work and sacrifice”.

It is believed his flag was flown out side the hospitals that Dr Martin was attached to whilst serving overseas.