George Johnson

Mary Norris

George was born in Lewes in 1892, the son of Harry and Eliza Johnson, nee Roser. George was the third of six children born to the couple, although his only sister died shortly after her birth. Harry Johnson was a steam sawyer working for a timber merchant and the family lived at 16 Brook Street.

Badge of the Royal Field Artillery
as depicted on a CWGC headstone

By 1911 George had already joined the army. Numbered gunner 61729, he joined the Royal Field Artillery. The 1911 census lists him at Shorncliffe Camp, Sandgate near Hythe in Kent.
The RFA was responsible for the medium calibre guns and howitzers used on the front line which were, during WW1, mainly horse drawn.

The RFA was subdivided into brigades and George joined the 38th Brigade which formed part of the 6th Division until January 1917. The 38th Brigade was further subdivided into 24, 34 and 72 Batteries, each with 198 men and officers and 172 horses. George was a member of 72 Battery.
As they set off for France George was included on the intercessions list at St John sub Castro.

The RFA arrived in France at St Nazaire on 9th September 1914 but with the horses to unload it took two days to fully disembark. Their first engagement was at the Battle of the Aisne which took place just a few days later between 12th – 15th September 1914. The RFA were used to reinforce the British Expeditionary Force.

There is some doubt whether George arrived with the rest of his brigade as his medal roll suggests he did not land in France until 22/10/1914. Regimental records also suggest that following the battle further reinforcements of larger guns were sent over from Britain. This might suggest that George was part of this later reinforcement.

After the fighting at Aisne the RFA moved North towards Flanders and saw action at Hooge in mid 1915. The following year they were involved in the battles of Flers-Courcelette, 15th – 22nd September; Morval, 25th – 28th September and Le Transloy Ridges, 1st – 18th October. Flers-Courcelette saw the first use of tank warfare but their effectiveness was debatable at this early stage. All three battles formed part of the Somme Offensive and although considered a British Victory, casualties were very high on both sides.

From early 1916 the Royal Engineers had begun tunnelling under the German positions on the ridges near Messines and by June 1917 had created at least nineteen mined positions which were filled with explosives.
In the week leading to the start of the Battle of Messine Ridge a continuous artillery bombardment had kept the German forces pinned down in their trenches so that when the nineteen mines were simultaneously detonated in the early hours of 7th June the German forces were decimated. Many of the battle objectives were achieved in those first few hours but sadly George was killed in the later fighting on that first day.

George is buried in the Strand Military Cemetery in the Hainaut region of Belgium in plot V C 5. He is remembered on the St John sub Castro Memorial as well as on the Lewes War Memorial. He was entitled to the War and Victory medals and the 1914 Star, which were sent to his parents.

This page was added on 02/11/2020.

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