St Martin’s was always a fairly busy parish for weddings, but during the war there was an increase in numbers. Between the outbreak of war and 1920, 23 servicemen married at St Martin’s, many of them in a hurry because they were about to join up or because they were home on leave for a short time. Many (14) of the marriages were by special licence rather than after the banns were read in church on three consecutive Sundays, for obvious reasons.
The first of these was Harold Arthur Addison (1886-1966), a clothier, who married Ivy Florence Haycock (1888-1973) by licence on 6th August 1914 before joining the 1/1st Leicestershire Yeomanry as a private soldier. He immediately left for Norfolk, where his regiment carried out training and awaited orders. He landed in France on 3rd November 1914. In 1917 Harold and Ivy had a son, George. Harold demobilised in March 1919 and returned to Leicester where he lived out his days, working for himself as a pork butcher in St Nicholas Street.
Thomas Henry Hill (1894-) was the first serving member of the armed forces to marry at St Martin’s, by licence on 20th March 1915. He married Alice Olivia Hunt (1894-1946) who lived in Town Hall Lane (now Guildhall Lane), just round the corner from St Martin’s. Thomas had been a soldier since 1910 but returned to work as a tailor with Messrs Hart and Levy of Bruin Street before signing up again for the duration of the war in August 1914. He served in France with the Army Service Corps until April 1919 when he was awarded a small pension. After the war Thomas returned to Leicester before moving to Derbyshire to work as a labourer at an army depot. Thomas and Alice had one son, Moroni, who was born in 1928.
Of the men who married, 10 lived in the parish of St Martin’s. 15 of the women lived in the parish, which reflects the tradition of weddings taking place in the bride’s home church. Most men were private soldiers, with a smattering of lieutenants, airmen and a military policeman.
An article in The Leicester Daily Post, Monday 5th July 1915, describes one of the weddings:
An interesting wedding took place at St Martin’s Church on Saturday, when Sergt.-Major Shirley Templer [1881-1946], of the 3rd/4th Leicesters, was married to Miss Betty Warburton, daughter of the late Mr Alfred Warburton, of Leicester. The marriage, which was witnessed by a large number of the men of the Leicesters, among whom Sergt.-Major Templer is very popular. The best man was Mr Bert Fisher, cousin of the bridegroom, and the bridesmaids were Miss Marriott and Miss Freestone. The bride and bridesmaids all wore navy blue dresses of a military cut. On leaving the church the wedding party passed under a double row of crossed swords in the time-honoured manner. Among a large collection of presents was one from Lieut. Neale, and from the non-commissioned officers of the battalion, and another from the men of the 3rd 4ths.