Is this our bravest soldier Extraordinary story of medic who won TWO Victoria Crosses in two wars 12 years apart
Lieutenant Colonel Martin-Leake one of just three soldiers to win two VCs Surgeon saved the lives of wounded comrades in Boer War with enemy riflemen just 100 yards awayAged 40, he feared he was too old to volunteer for the Western Front and travelled to Paris to enlist
22:05 GMT, 7 December 2012
10:12 GMT, 8 December 2012
He was a medical man who tended to the sick and injured at a local hospital in the shires.
But Arthur Martin-Leake became one of Britain's greatest war heroes — earning the Victoria Cross for extreme bravery not once, but twice.
On the battlefields of the Second Boer War in South Africa he ignored the risk of death from heavy rifle fire to save the lives of wounded comrades.
Lieutenant Colonel Martin-Leake, left, is one of only three soldiers to win two VCs, right – the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy – since it was instituted in 1856
A decade on, he displayed the same selfless heroism when confronted by mortal danger amid the carnage and chaos of the First World War.
Lieutenant Colonel Martin-Leake is one of only three soldiers to win two VCs — the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy — since it was instituted in 1856.
Now his little-known exploits have been revealed as his military records are published online for the first time.
Lieutenant Colonel Martin-Leake’s details are among 540,000 pages of mostly handwritten military service documents placed on the family tree website findmypast.co.uk.
Even though his military career was one of the most distinguished in the history of the Army, his story has not been widely told.
Born near Ware, Hertfordshire, in April 1874, he was educated at the exclusive Westminster School before studying medicine at University College Hospital.
He worked at Hemel Hempstead District Hospital before joining the Imperial Yeomanry in 1899 to serve in the Second Boer War.
Following a stint as a civilian surgeon, he then joined the South Africa Constabulary and returned to the frontline.
He won his first VC in February 1902 when, as a Surgeon Captain, he risked his life at Vlakfontein in the Transvaal to treat a wounded man under intense fire from 40 Boer riflemen just 100 yards away.
He then dashed to help an injured officer. Despite being shot three times, Lt Col Martin-Leake continued to dress the wounds of his comrades until he collapsed exhausted, having first ordered that his colleagues received water before he did.
At the outbreak of the First World War Lt Col Martin-Leake, then aged 40, feared he would be considered too old to volunteer for the Western Front.
To avoid being rejected he travelled to Paris and enlisted at the British Consulate before attaching himself to the first medical unit he could find — the 5th Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps.
During the First World War, Lt Col Martin-Leake braved constant machinegun, sniper and shellfire to rescued a large number of wounded comrades lying close to the enemy's trenches
Only two other men have ever won two VCs. Captain Noel Chavasse, left, received his VC and Bar for acts of heroism in the First World War. Second Lieutenant Charles Upham, right, from New Zealand, was awarded his VCs for outstanding leadership and courage in the battle of Crete in May 1941 and in North Africa in July 1942
He was awarded his second VC for the ‘most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty’ during ferocious fighting near Zonnebeke, Belgium, in October and November 1914.
Braving constant machinegun, sniper and shellfire, he rescued a large number of wounded comrades lying close to the enemy's trenches.
Recommending him for a Bar to his VC, his commanding officer wrote: ‘By his devotion many lives have been saved that would otherwise undoubtedly have been lost.
‘His behaviour on three occasions when the dressing station was heavily shelled was such as to inspire confidence both with the wounded and the staff. It is not possible to quote any one specific act performed because his gallant conduct was continual.’
Lt Col Martin-Leake was the first man to be honoured with two VCs.
Captain Noel Chavasse, of the Royal Army Medical Corps, received his VC and Bar for acts of heroism in the First World War. He died of his wounds in August 1917 being tended by Lt Col Martin-Leake.
Second Lieutenant Charles Upham, from New Zealand, was awarded his VCs for outstanding leadership and courage in the battle of Crete in May 1941 and then in North Africa in July 1942.
Lt Col Martin-Leake later commanded a mobile Air Raid Precaution post in the Second World War. He died aged 79 in 1953.
Debra Chatfield, a family historian from findmypast.co.uk said: ‘Arthur Martin-Leake was a real war hero who was awarded the VC twice for his valour, and it is wonderful that these records of his early military career as a reservist in the Imperial Yeomanry have survived and can now be seen online.’