Private Henry Frederick JOHNSON
  

Regiment/Service:
Sherwood Foresters
(Notts and Derby Regiment)
Unit:
1st Battalion, 'C' Company
Service Number:
52858
Date of Death:
12 November 1917 - Killed in Action
Age:
39
Cemetery / Memorial:
Cemetery Reference:
III. A. 19.


Personal History:

Henry was born in Ripon, Yorkshire in the June quarter 1878, the son of Henry (Coachmaker) and Elizabeth Johnson. In 1881 (Census RG11/3349) they were living at 25 Parliament Street, Nottingham. Henry had an older sister, Ada M.
In the December quarter 1903 Henry married Florence Smith, in Whitby, Yorkshire. They moved to Buxton soon afterwards, where they had two children, Bessie and Hilda. The 1911 Census (RG 14/21243) shows Henry working as a "Porter" in the St Anne's Hotel, Buxton. Henry's wife, Florence, and the two children, were living with his father, at 81 Queen's Road, Fairfield. (Census RG14/21243).

Military History:
Henry enlisted in the 1st Battalion in Buxton. Unfortunately, his Service Papers have not survived, but his Service Number would suggest  he enlisted mid-June 1916, probably within a few days of the 17th. The 1st Battalion was in India at the outbreak of War, at Bombay, in the Bombay Brigade, 6th (Indian) Division.  The Battalion returned to England, landing at Plymouth on the 2nd October 1914, moving to Hursley Park and coming under the orders of 24th Brigade in the 8th Division.

On the 5th November 1914 it landed at Le Havre, but without any chance to adjust to European conditions after the climate in India. As a result it suffered badly in its first four winter months of the 'Trench War'.

After Henry joined his Battalion later as a reinforcement/replacement a year or so later, his first major action would have been The Battle of Albert, 1st - 13th July 1916, part of the overall Battle of the Somme. In March 1917 he took part in the "Action Of Bouchavesnes" which was carried out on 4th March 1917.

The 8th Division History says that later in the year (1917) Henry's Battalion fought at The Battle of Pilckem Ridge, 31st July - 2nd August, and The Battle of Langemarck, 16th - 18th August, phases in The Third Battle of Ypres, (31st July - 10th November 1917). On the day he died, however, the 8th Division history seems to point to them being in the throes of handing over to the Australians in the Ploegsteert sector.

The 1st/2nd Battalion History says only: "The month of November had hardly opened and the battalion was up in the line, when several officers of the American Army, now arriving in Europe, were attached to the 8th division...........". It seems that the Battalion was in the Bailleul area and holding the front line. They moved up to Brandheok on the 17th.

The War Diary for the period shows that it was a period of little activity:

"10th November the Battalion moved from Red Lodge.
11th November the Battalion was holding the line.
12th November the Battalion holding the line. An advanced party of the of the 38th Australian Infantry Battalion arrived and commenced taking over the stores, and at 7 p.m. 'B' Company relieved 'C' Company in the right half front. 'C' Company moved into support.        
13th November Battalion holding the line.
14th November Battalion at 2am relieved in the line by the 38th Australian Battalion and proceeded to Waterlands Camp by train from Canpac to De Seule and then by foot.
15th November Battalion marched to billets in the Bleu area."

Henry was the only man from his Battalion killed on the 12th, so possibly he died from
random shelling or sniping. In fact he was the only man to lose his life in November 1917
before the 20th. He is now buried in Berks Cemetery Extension. However, Plot III was
added in 1930 when graves were brought in from Rosenberg Chateau Military Cemetery
and Extension, about 1 kilometre to the north-west, so this is where he was likely buried
initially.


Sources:
· I am grateful to Franz Sohier for the photo of Frank's grave
· I am also grateful to 'Steve' and 'Bronno', via The Great War Forum, for the information from the Battalion
  History and War Diary
· "1st and 2nd Battalions the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment)
   in the Great War" - H.C. Wylly (ISBN-10: 1845744241) pps. 42-43

Link to CWGC Record
Pt Henry Johnson's grave
Rosenberg Chateau
Rosenberg Chateau (from postcard)
poppy