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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 June, 2004, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
D-Day memories: veteran to vicar
Canon Martin with wife Joan (pic by Steve Guscott)
In 2004 Canon Martin marked 50 years since his ordination
From soldier to vicar does not seem a likely career move, but John Martin the teenager on Juno Beach in 1944 became the Reverend John Martin after the war.

I was 18 when I volunteered and trained in Devon.

I was in the Support Craft Regiment of the Royal Marines and was among the first to land. The idea was to support the troops, the Canadian 3rd Division.

We had a driver in our tank and I was the gunner, taking orders from someone in a forward position.

Our landing craft got near enough to the beach and the water was about three feet high when we got out.

We went along the beach but had to go back to the surf a little bit because it was so crowded.

I saw one sapper blown up while clearing the mines.


The main threat was mortar fire doing a lot of damage. We were protected a bit because we were in tanks, but many troops were killed.

We managed to clear things pretty quickly and we went to Langrune-Sur-Mer.

Nobody likes killing people but I felt it was a just cause to defend
On the way, we called into a house where French people were having a prayer meeting. One of them came out to show us the German positions and he got shot on the nose.

Just outside Langrune, our officer ordered us to dig a trench and after about a quarter of an hour, we saw a white flag come up and a party of Germans surrendered.

We could have made sitting targets because we didn't know they were there and they'd been watching us. But I think they knew we would have fired back.

After a week at Langrune, Monty wanted us to help the 6th Airborne near Caen and we spent about a fortnight there.

John Martin in 1943
John Martin was a teenager when he joined the marines
The battle had moved on a bit, but we were there to defend any breaches.

After the surrender I became a dispatch rider with a naval party in Flensburg in Germany.

I began training to be a vicar in 1946, then went to Bristol University for three years, then two years at theological college, and was ordained in 1952.

My first church was in Braintree, Essex, then later I spent 22 years in Congleton, Cheshire.

Nobody likes killing people but I felt it was a just cause to defend.

I'm not a pacifist. I favour jaw-jaw not war-war, but that's not possible with someone like Hitler.

Some people who served in the war were very well known in the church when they returned, such as the Bishop of Norwich.

The war was a national effort. Perhaps we were more for the war then, to get rid of Hitler, than the war now.


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