William was on board with Edgar Twidle, master, and Robert MacBryde who was temporarily employed as Commodore’s Secretary. They sailed off from Cardiff in the S.S. Bayropea – a cargo transport ship built in 1905 – toward the Russian port of Archangel when a series of explosions occurred at Economia on the 26th January 1917. After Edgar Twidle had examined the rooms and found a Chinese sailor in a dazed condition, Martin and MacBryde went into the ship to rescue him, even though the chances of an imminent explosion were extraordinarily high given that the Bayropea’s cargo was largely munitions. The London Gazette published on the 7th September 1917 states that ‘this man was got over the ship’s side across the ice, and eventually to the Red Cross station. About four minutes after the seaman had been removed the vessel blew up.’

Instituted in 1866, the Albert Medal was given for only the most exceptional bravery, and consequently it was vary sparingly given. It was introduced largely to recognise great courage in preventing loss of life ‘by reason of shipwrecks and other perils of the sea’. The standard is such that the chances of death in the situation had to be greater than the chance of survival. Knowing that the ship was full of ammunition, this almost certainly would have been the situation that William would have faced when the Bayropea initially exploded. 

The medal is in overall excellent condition, with its original silk ribbon and case with all papers and some relevant newspaper clippings of the story in the London Gazette. It is estimated at £6,000 - £8,000 in Fellows’ auction of Coins & Medals on Thursday 21st November 2013.