14223 Acting Sergeant Archibald Stanley Johnson, Royal Engineers
Born on 2nd February 1890 in Hythe, Kent
Died on 13th August 1955 in Watford Peace Memorial Hospital
Archibald Stanley Johnson was born in Hythe, Kent, the sixth of the 10 children of Walter Johnson and Elizabeth (Bessie) née Hall. He was baptised at the Church of the Archangel Michael at Shorncliffe, Kent on 25th February 1890, at which time his father was a Company Sergeant Major in the Royal Engineers.
Archibald’s siblings were:
- Isabel Bessie, born in 1883
- Mabel Mary, born in 1884
- Walter Charles Patrick Johnson, born 24th June 1885
- Gordon Patrick, born 1st September 1886
- Alexander Frederick Johnson, born 8th December 1888
- Florence Gertrude (Girlie), born in 1894
- Edmund Henry Francis John Johnson, born 20th November 1896. Edmund was known as Frank or Francis and is recorded on the Rolls of Honour as Henry F Johnson
- Jessie Aileen, born in 1899
- Kathleen Rose, born 3rd March 1902
The 1891 Census shows the family living in Park Road, Hythe, Kent and, by 1901, they had moved to 20 Peacock Road, Milton, Gravesend, where his father was recorded as “Clerk of Works. Royal Engineer”. However, in September 1902, the family moved to Little Gaddesden as Walter, then retired from the Royal Engineers, became Ashridge Estate Clerk of Works. Archibald’s brother Alexander Johnson’s Service Record suggests that they first lived at 32 Little Gaddesden before moving to No 38.
On 24th September 1902 Stanley Johnson (St 5), Gertrude Johnson (St 2) & Francis Johnson (Inf) started at Little Gaddesden School. Archibald was commonly called by his second name, Stanley, during his childhood. The Log Book notes: “these young people have just come to live in the village”. A few days later it was also noted that the family was Roman Catholic and “do not wish for any Religious Teaching.” At that time, pupils at Little Gaddesden School progressed into their new Standards in March, but, at their previous school, Archibald and Gertrude had just moved up and Archibald initially found some of the work difficult; for example he could not “do compound division of any kind”.
Archibald remained in Standard 5 until he left school on his 14th Birthday to join the Army.
The Little Gaddesden Brass Band 8
The Little Gaddesden Brass Band was formed in 1902 and a report and statement of accounts for 1902 – 1903 has survived. To obtain funds, entertainments were performed and donations sought. Each band member paid 3d per week (1¼p today) toward the cost of tuition. The report noted:
Our balance in hand is very low, but we again rely on our many kind friends to give us their support and stick to our motto: Nil Desperandum.
Archibald, aged about 12, is the boy standing on the left hand end of the back row.
Others in the Band with links to the Roll of Honour are:
- Back Row, L to R: 2. Thomas Johnson; 3. Frederick Cutler; 5. John Wibden; 6. Edward Hing; 7. Edward Pinnock (father of George Pinnock and Arthur Pinnock).
- Middle Row, L to R: 3. Arthur Johnson; 4. Sam Oakins; 6. Harry Wells (father of William Wells); 7. Walter Holland, 8. Herbert Fenn.
- Front Row, L to R: 1. Steve Oakins; 4. William Johnson; 5. Sidney Rogers.
- Under the drum: Hubert Halsey
- Band members absent from the photo included William Fenn and Matthew Munden; the Band’s Secretary was Geoffrey Talbot.
Death of his brother Gordon 9
Archibald’s older brothers Walter Johnson, Gordon and Alexander Johnson all followed their father into the Royal Engineers, joining as Boy Soldiers aged 14. Sapper 7332 Gordon Patrick Johnson, 45th Company Royal Engineers, died of a very severe attack of enteric fever at Gibraltar on 12th August 1908, while serving with the regiment. He joined at Gibraltar on 3rd December 1900 aged 14, passed classes of instruction in swimming and engine driving (superior) and gained his 1st Class certificate of education. He was involved in the South Africa Campaign 1899 – 1902 (at St Helena). In October 1907, he was confined to barracks for 2 days for being ‘improperly dressed in town’.
The day after his 14th birthday, the Little Gaddesden School Log Book noted that Archibald had left school, adding “he is going to Bedford to join the Army”. In the 1911 Census, he is recorded as a 21 year old Sapper in the Royal Engineers.
The Johnson Family in 1911 4
Whilst Archibald was serving in the Royal Engineers in Singapore, his parents and siblings Isabella, 28, Gertrude, 17, Frank (Henry F) Johnson, 14, an Apprentice, Jessy, 11 and Kathleen, 9, both at School, were all at 38 Little Gaddesden.
Archibald’s Medal Records and Absent Voters’ list entries are the only surviving records of his War Service. His Medal Roll Index Card shows that he first served overseas in France on 11th August 1915, at which time he held the rank of Lance Corporal. He was subsequently promoted to Acting Sergeant and was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal. Absent Voters’ lists for Autumn 1918 and Spring 1919 give his unit at that time as Royal Engineers Base Depot, 7th Company, B.E.F.
Death of his brother Alexander 12
Archibald’s brother, 12320 Corporal Alexander Frederick Johnson, Royal Engineers, had a promising early military career and, after serving eleven years, re-engaged for the Royal Engineers at Malta on 27th June 1914, “for such period as shall complete 21 years’ service.” He remained with the Expeditionary Force in Malta until 29th December 1914, although he was by that time in hospital seriously ill with neurasthenia. He then returned to England for the remainder of his service and was discharged on 31st July 1915, no longer physically fit for War Service. However, he died of neurasthenia on 6th September 1915 and is buried in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden.
The Little Gaddesden Roll of Honour 13
The original, pre-Second World War, wording on the left hand panel of the Little Gaddesden War Memorial on the village green, read:
This memorial is erected in honour of the one hundred and thirty six men who went from the villages of Little Gaddesden, Hudnall and Ringshall and served in the war of 1914 = 1918. The names of those who gave their lives for their country are cut on the stones here. The names of those who returned to England are preserved in the Church.
However, the Church Roll of Honour lists only 119 men; one of those omitted is Archibald Johnson. He was named on the original Roll but was exchanged for his brother Alexander Johnson, also in the Royal Engineers, when the original Roll was restored in 1989, so that all the names on the War Memorial were included on the Roll of Honour. At that time it was not realised that there were two A Johnson brothers, both in the Royal Engineers. Archibald’s name has been added to the 2018 Centenary Revision of the Roll of Honour. His brothers Alexander Johnson, Frank (Henry F) Johnson and Walter Johnson are named on both Rolls.
On 29th September 1919, Archibald Stanley Johnson married Cissie Mary Hall at Berkhamsted Register Office. Archibald, 29, of the York Hotel, George Street, Ryde was then a Lance Corporal in the Royal Engineers while Cissie, 26, was a Lady’s Companion. She was the daughter of Simon Hall, a Tailor and her address is given as 38 Little Gaddesden, the Johnson family address. Electoral Registers then show that Archibald and Cissie settled in Elson, Alverstoke, Hampshire. At that time, Archibald was stationed at Haslar Barracks, Alverstoke, Gosport. Their first daughter Yvonne Rosalind Mary was then born at 2 Aurora Cottages, Elson on 7th September 1920.
Archibald continued to serve in the Royal Engineers and the family had moved to 7 Cross Lane, Frimley Green near Aldershot by the time his second daughter Peggy was born at the Louise Margaret Hospital, Aldershot on 18th October 1922. She was followed by Eileen (Aileen) Teresa Ann, born on 13th August 1924 and their son Gordon Stanley Kevin, born on 6th January 1926. At that time, Archibald was still serving with the Royal Engineers and Gordon was born at sea aboard the “Derbyshire” while his parents were en route from Rangoon, Burma, to Gibraltar. He was subsequently baptised in the Catholic Cathedral, Gibraltar on 24th January 1926.
The 1930 Electoral Register shows Archibald and Mary living at 95 Deaconsfield Road, Hemel Hempstead and it is probable that they moved there when he retired from the Royal Engineers. However, by 1939, they had moved to 57 Park Road, Hemel Hempstead. Archibald was then a Maintenance Electrician at the Gas Works and a member of the Emergency Fire Brigade while Mary had “Unpaid Domestic Duties.” Also at home were their children Eileen (Aileen), a Shop Assistant in a Newsagent, and Gordon, who was at school. Two other entries, believed to be Yvonne and Peggy are still closed.
65 year old Archibald Stanley Johnson of 3 Hyde Lane, Pimlico, Hemel Hempstead died in the Peace Memorial Hospital, Watford on 13th August 1955. At that time he was working as an Engineer with the London Passenger Transport Board and his death was the result of complications following an oesophagectomy.
7. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906
8. Report and Statement of Accounts of the Little Gaddesden Brass Band 1902 – 1903
11. 1918-21 Absent Voters’ Lists Parliamentary County of Hertford, Hemel Hempstead Division, Little Gaddesden
13. Leonhardt, John (ed), 2002, A Century Remembered – a celebration of the Millennium in Little Gaddesden, Rural Heritage Society of Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Ashridge
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson