No. 4225 Private William George Johnson
William Johnson was born in Hindolveston, Norfolk, England in 1888 to William and Fanny Johnston. He was the youngest of six children, his siblings were:
After joining the A.I.F. in Melbourne on 16 September 1915, William was sent to 'A' Company 20th Castlemaine Depot Battalion Camp until 25 November 1915. He was then transferred to the 13th Infantry Reinforcements, 5th Battalion at Williamstown, Victoria.
The 5th Battalion, 13th Reinforcements embarked from Melbourne on board HMAT A64 Demosthenes on 29 December 1915.
William was taken on strength by the 5th Battalion at Serapeum in Egypt on 17 March 1916. After one week in the desert he embarked from Alexandria as part of the 5th Battalion, to join the B.E.F. He travelled per Briton on 25 March 1916 and they disembarked at Marseilles on 30 March 1916.
The 5th Battalion's first major action in France was at Pozières in the Somme Valley in July 1916. It was here, on 14 July 1916, that William was awarded 14 days loss of pay by his Commanding Officer, for using obscene language to an N.C.O. [Not what one would have thought of a former butler?]
After Pozières the battalion fought at Ypres in Flanders and then returned to the Somme for the winter. William went absent without leave "In the Field" on the 24 August 1916 and was awarded 3 days forfeit pay by his Commanding Officer.
Private Johnson suffered from from trench foot,* a common affliction of the troops, and was admitted to hospital on 2 March 1817. He was treated by the 1st Field Ambulance, and then the 1st D.R.S. and after five days of treatment, was discharged back to duty.
In 1917, the 5th Battalion participated in the operations that followed-up the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line. It was at this time that his war ended on 25 April 1917, when he was killed in action. He was buried on the same day at the small Military Cemetery at Morchies ** in France.
Medals & Entitlements:
- British War Medal: issued in England
- Victory Medal: issued in England
- Memorial Scroll: issued in England
- Memorial Plaque: issued in England
No obituary appeared in the Werribee Shire Banner, other than “K” being added to their published local Roll of Honor in July 1917.
A trunk containing personal effects of William Johnson was reported as being in the custody of Mr H. Barnes, head Gardener of Mr G. T. Chirnside, Werribee Park, Victoria. It was forwarded to his sister, Miss Ida Johnson, at Staveley Corner, Eastbourne, England.
He is recorded on the Werribee Cenotaph as “JOHNSON, W.G.”
* Trench Foot
Some 20,000 casualties resulting from trench foot were reputed to have been suffered by the British Army alone during the close of 1914. Patients sometimes had to have toes amputated (following gangrene) such were the effects of the condition.
Improved trench drainage and conditions in general led to a rapid diminishment of cases; local commanders were also held accountable for such outbreaks, which consequently encouraged the provision of better trench conditions, along with regular feet inspections, greasing of toes and changes of socks. Waterproof footwear also greatly helped.
The only remedy for trench foot was for the soldiers to dry their feet and change their socks several times a day. By the end of 1915 British soldiers in the trenches had to have three pairs of socks with them and were under orders to change their socks at least twice a day. As well as drying their feet, soldiers were told to cover their feet with a grease made from whale-oil. It has been estimated that a battalion at the front would use ten gallons of whale-oil every day.
** Morchies Cemetery contains the graves of 163 casualties of the First World War, 74 of which are unidentified and special memorials are erected to eight soldiers from the United Kingdom who are known to be buried among them. Other special memorials record the names of nine soldiers from the United Kingdom and one sailor of the Royal Naval Division, buried by the enemy at Morchies, whose graves were destroyed by shell fire. This cemetery also contains the graves of 13 German casualties of the First World War.
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