Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Martin-Leake VC & Bar (4 April 1874 – 22 June 1953) was a British double recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Martin-Leake was the first of only three men to be awarded the VC twice.
Arthur, the fifth son of Stephen Martin-Leake of Thorpe Hall, Essex, was born at Standon, near Ware, Hertfordshire, and was educated at Westminster School before studying medicine at University College Hospital, qualifying in 1893. He was employed at Hemel Hempstead District Hospital before enlisting in the Imperial Yeomanry, to serve in the Boer War in 1899.
Monument commemorating Martin-Leake, farm Syferfontein, South Africa
Martin-Leake first served in the Second Boer War as a trooper in the Imperial Yeomanry. After his year service was completed he stayed on in South Africa as a civil surgeon. He then joined the South African Constabulary until he was forced to return home due to his wounds.
He was 27 years old, and a surgeon captain in the South African Constabulary attached to the 5th Field Ambulance during the Second Boer War on 8 February 1902, at Vlakfontein when he won his first VC.
During the action at Vlakfontein, on the 8th February, 1902, Surgeon-Captain Martin-Leake went up to a wounded man, and attended to him under a heavy fire from about 40 Boers at 100 yards range. He then went to the assistance of a wounded Officer, and, whilst trying to place him in a comfortable position, was shot three times, but would not give in till he rolled over thoroughly exhausted. All the eight men at this point were wounded, and while they were lying on the Veldt, Surgeon-Captain Martin-Leake refused water till every one else had been served.
He received the decoration from King Edward VII at St James’s Palace on 2 June 1902.
Martin-Leake qualified as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1903 after studying while convalescing from wounds. He then took up an appointment in India as Chief Medical Officer with the Bengal-Nagpur Railway.
In 1912 he volunteered to serve with the British Red Cross during the Balkan Wars, attached to the Montenegran army, and was present during the Siege of Scutari (1912–13) and at Tarabosh Mountain. He was awarded the Order of the Montenegran Red Cross.
On the outbreak of the First World War Martin-Leake returned to service, as a lieutenant with the 5th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps, on the Western Front.
He won his second VC, aged 40 years, during the period 29 October to 8 November 1914 near Zonnebeke, Belgium whilst serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps, British Army.
His award citation reads:
Lieutenant Arthur Martin Leake, Royal Army Medical Corps, who was awarded the Victoria Cross on 13th May, 1902, is granted a Clasp for conspicuous bravery in the present campaign.