Musician Albert J Martin 1895-1917

Service Number: RMB/1741

Served 1910-1917

Albert John Martin was born in Buckland Portsmouth on 7th May 1895 and was the youngest of three children of Eliza Ruth and Lieutenant William Martin RN, they lived at 104 Winchester Road, North End in Portsmouth.

When Albert was only five years old, the 1901 Census has them listed as living at 106 Invicta Road, Sheerness, Sheppey, Kent with siblings Ethel and William, a probable posting of his father. He was a Gunnery Officer in the Royal Navy who originated from Shepton Mallet and Eliza.. fourteen years younger than William was from Battersea in Middlesex.

The family later moved to 36 Devonshire Avenue, Southsea, Portsmouth, presumably as a result of another of his father’s postings in the Royal Navy.

Albert was fifteen when he joined the Royal Marines Band at Eastney as a Band Boy on 20th June 1910, he passed his swimming test on 31st January 1911 at Eastney.

He completed his training and was advanced to the rank of Musician, he subsequently joined the Royal Marines Band on HMS Vanguard on 28th March 1912. Albert was of very good character and was awarded his first Good Conduct Badge in 1915.

Shortly before midnight on 9th July 1917 while at anchor at Scapa Flow, HMS Vanguard suffered a series of magazine explosions. She sank almost instantly, killing 843 of the 845 men aboard. The Vanguard was a St Vincent class dreadnaught battleship.

Albert, aged only 21 was one of fifteen musicians killed in the disaster.

In terms of loss of life, the destruction of the Vanguard remains the most catastrophic accidental explosion in the history of the UK.

The wreck was heavily salvaged after the war, but was eventually protected as a war grave in 1984. It was designated as a controlled site under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 and diving on the wreck is generally forbidden.

Scapa Flow is a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. Its sheltered waters have played an important role in travel, trade and conflict throughout the centuries. It was the United Kingdom’s chief naval base during the First and Second World Wars but the facility was closed in 1954. A sheltered body of water in Scotland's Orkney Islands, Scapa Flow is calm on its surface, but underwater, the seabed is full of historic shipwrecks and war graves where hundreds of sailors were killed.

Albert J Martin is commemorated at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial 27 in Southsea. A total of one hundred and forty-three musicians and buglers are known to have lost their lives in the Great War.

The WWI medal was presented to the next-of-kin of all casualties, including those who were killed before the completion of this twenty-eight days qualifying period.


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