William Johnson

1955/24014 William Johnson
1/6th Battalion, the South Staffordshire Regiment

Bill was born on 26th January 1896.

Bill Attested on 4th March 1913, and had a medical on 1st April.
His details in 1913 were:
Born: St Giles Parish, Willenhall
Employer: Legge & Co, Willenhall
Height: 5′ 4 1/2″
Chest: 34″, expansion 2 1/2″
Good vision

His Grandson writes:

William (Bill) Johnson was my maternal grandfather.

As he was born in Willenhall, as I was; so it is likely that he was in D Company which I understand was based in Willenhall

I believe that he was a machine gunner, presumably a Lewis gun as I understand that Vickers gunners were members of the Machine Gun Corps.

He served in France from 19.8.15 to 3.7.16 and was gassed during 1915.

Family tales recount that he was in Egypt and I understand that the Battalion was in Egypt Dec 1915/January 1916. Rather ingloriously, he had tales of brawling with the locals and throwing Arabs into the Suez Canal. inexcusable but they were just young squaddies, fresh from the horrors of the trenches, not saints. He also had a tale of a dead German on, or in, the parapet of one of the trenches. They used to hang their equipment on him, and shake his hand, until his hand dropped off.

He was wounded by shrapnel on the first day of the Somme Offensive (Gommecourt) and lost his right hand. The story as I heard it, second-hand unfortunately, was that he was carrying a wounded comrade, (David Stewart or Stuart) when a shell landed and killed many members of his platoon. I can’t, however, see any record of David Stewart or Stuart. I don’t know which was his Company or Platoon.

Bill Johnson was invalided out of the Army 30 11 17. He lived in Willenhall and worked as a weighbridge clerk for the Gas Board all his working life.

During WW2 he had some atachment to the Home Guard. On one occasion in 1940, it was thought that German paratroops had landed. My grandfather and a comrade were sent, armed with broomsticks to to investigate. A one-armed man with a broomstick challenging the cream of the Wehrmacht!

Bill’s son, Jack Johnson, my mother’s brother, was in the Miltia, with the Royal Artillery. He was captured by the Japanese on Java, spent some time in Changi, and was lost at sea when the prison ship he was on, one of the hellships, was topedoed by an American submarine.

My grandfather never spoke to me about his wartime experiences, this is all second-hand from my mother and my brother, both now dead unfortunately. He was apalled when I wanted to join up; saying the Army had never done him any good. Having lost his hand in the First War and his son in the Second, that attitude was understandable. I did serve for 10 years in the Territorials, but fortunately my war was the Cold one.

Bill died in 1969.

Chris Garbett.

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