The Last Call

Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence T. Martin
257th (Ottawa Railway Construction) BattalionMartin

Ordered to Stop Recruiting

…Make your application without day’s delay. Battalion goes DIRECT to France to railroads. Physical test easier. Age limit 18 to 48. This is a hurry call. It is your last chance to join the 257th. If you don’t join immediately you will lose your chance to get in. Cooks and rockmen especially wanted. Last chance to go to France with Lt-Col. Lawrence Martin.

(Ottawa Journal, 8 Feb 1917)

Born on 11 June 1884 in Arnprior, Ontario, Lawrence Thomas Martin was a Renfrew County railway contractor. In December 1916, he was selected to recruit for the 257th Railway Construction Battalion, was one of the last numbered volunteer units. The 257th sailed for England in February 1917. It was re-designated the 7th Battalion in the Canadian Railway Troops once deployed to France.

During the December 1917 federal election, Martin was nominated by the Union Government to run in the riding of Renfrew South. At a rally for the Liberal candidate, Isaac Ellis Pedlow, Opposition Leader Wilfrid Laurier called Martin “a good boy, a very good boy in bad company.” Another Liberal speaker added, “he has left his men at the front to sink or swim.”

In the result on 17 December, Pedlow, narrowly defeated Martin by 63 votes. Despite receiving 505 soldier votes compared to only 51 for his opponent, Martin was unable to over come the civilian totals.

Once in the House of Commons, Pedlow charged the Borden Government with interfering in the election by ordering Martin’s return from France to participate in the contest. The Prime Minister denied the allegation, asserting, “I know of no reason why men who have served their country at the front should not be elected to this Parliament”

Colonel John A. Currie, former commander of the 15th Battalion, interjected:

And if Colonel Martin happened to be so unfortunate as to run against the hon. member, and be defeated, I am sorry for him, and also that the people of South Renfrew did not know enough to send a soldier from the trenches to represent them here.

Over the heckling and taunting voices in the House, Pedlow countered that Martin had been overseas for less than four months before returning to Canada, allegedly at the behest of the Militia Department. From across the aisle, Currie gruffly retorted, “That is more than you were.”

“I was not of age.” Pedlow replied. “I assure the hon. member that I have done as much for the cause of Empire and our Allies in the present war as he [Martin] has done.”

After the war, Martin became the commissioner of the Ontario Northland Railway. He died on 11 December 1949.

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