Edward Fowell Martin was born on 22 August 1875 at Launceston, Tasmania, the son of a pastoralist. The family moved to New South Wales where Edward was educated at King's College, Goulburn. He worked as an accountant in a bank before joining a woolbroking firm.
Martin joined the Army Service Corps as a private in 1898. He was commissioned in 1903 and promoted to major on 1 August 1913.
On 18 August 1914, Martin joined the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF) with the rank of major. The force sailed for New Guinea on the HMAT Berrima the very next day. On 14 September 1914, Martin led the advance on Toma, where the German acting governor had established his headquarters. After the German surrender, Martin landed at Madang with a half company of infantry and a half company of naval reservists for a garrison and took charge there. In December he accompanied the expedition down the Sepik River. He was District Administrator until February 1915, after which he returned to Australia where his appointment was terminated on 4 March 1915.
On 7 May 1915, Martin was appointed to the AIF with the rank of major in the 17th Infantry Battalion. The battalion embarked for Egypt on 12 May 1915, where Martin became second in command of the battalion on 2 June 1915. The battalion arrived at Anzac on 19 August 1915 where it was prematurely committed to battle at Hill 60 on 27 to 29 August, taking many casualties. In September the battalion took over at Quinn's Post. Martin was evacuated to Egypt with dysentery on 13 September 1915. He returned on 8 December 1915, in time to be evacuated.
The 17th Battalion, arrived at Lemnos on 20 November 1915 and back in Egypt on 4 January 1916. The 17th Battalion garrisoned the Suez Canal until ordered to France in March 1916. It departed Alexandria for Marseilles on 23 March 1916. Martin was appointed to command the 17th Battalion with the rank of lieutenant colonel on 19 April 1916 in place of Lieutenant Colonel H. A. Goddard, who had been evacuated to Australia sick. The 17th Battalion was committed to Pozieres in July, taking heavy casualties in a wild bomb fight at Munster Alley. The battalion remained in the line, participating in the capture of the Pozieres. In a fortnight at Pozieres under heavy shellfire from 25 July to 7 August 1916, the battalion lost 403 men. For his performance -- and that of his battalion -- at Pozieres, Martin was mentioned in dispatches and awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in the 1917 New Year's list.
Martin was evacuated with the flu on 23 December 1916, returning to the 17th Battalion on 17 February 1917. The battalion fought at Butte de Warlencourt in February and March 1917. During the German counterattack at Lagnicourt in April 1917, Martin's headquarters was caught up in the fighting. At Menin Road on 20 September 1917, he moved it into a shell hole in the front line so as to better supervise the defence effort. Martin was mentioned in dispatches twice more in 1917 and he was made a Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 1918 New Year's list. He was also made a brevet lieutenant colonel in the AMF on 24 September 1917.
On 9 March 1918, Martin took over temporary command of the 7th Infantry Brigade. On 29 March 1918 Martin became a temporary colonel. He relinquished command on Brigadier General E. A. Wisdom's return on 3 May 1915. He then immediately took over command of the 5th Infantry Brigade, replacing Brigadier General R. Smith, who was evacuated sick. On 28 June 1918, the position became permanent and Martin became a temporary brigadier general. He was promoted to colonel on 9 July 1918.
On 31 August 1918, the 5th Brigade took Mont St Quentin by storm. Though it was pushed off the summit by a German counterattack which was in turn defeated by the 6th Brigade, the capture of Mont St Quentin by the diggers of the 2nd Division was widely regarded as the finest fighting feat of the war. It unhinged the German line and forced a general withdrawal back to the Hindenburg Line. On 3 October 1918, the brigade breached the Beaurevoir Line, the Germans' last complete line of defence.
For his part in the 1918 fighting, Martin was mentioned in dispatches three more times and was made a Companion of the Bath (CB) on 3 June 1919. He embarked for Australia on 12 July 1919, arriving in Sydney on 26 August 1919. He appointment to the AIF was terminated on 8 December 1919.
In 1924 Martin moved to Perth where he became an accountant with the Western Australian newspapers. In 1932 he was appointed sergeant-at-arms of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly. He carried the mace for the next eighteen years. During World War II he helped organise the Volunteer Defence Corps in Perth. He died on 22 September 1950.
Sources: Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1899-1939, Vol 10, pp.426-427; Personnel File, NAA; C. E. W. Bean, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918. Volume II: The Story of Anzac, pp. 824-827; Mackenzie, S. S., Volume X: The Australians at Rabaul, pp. 88, 171-173
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Last update 8 June 2010