Arthur John Johnson, Royal Army Medical Corps
Born on 4th November 1882 in Humbershoe, Bedfordshire
Died on 27th August 1953 in Battersea, London
Arthur John Johnson was born in Humbershoe, Bedfordshire, which later became part of the parish of Markyate, Herts. He was the eldest of the 8 children of Thomas Arthur Johnson and Jane Eliza, previously Smith, née Hembley. His father was a Wheelwright. He, together with his siblings William James Johnson, Jane and Annie, was baptised at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden on 1st May 1887.
His siblings were:
- William James Johnson, born 8th June 1884
- Jane (Jenny), born in 1886
- Annie (Ann), born in 1887
- Thomas Andrew Johnson, born 30th May 1888
- Esther, born in 1890
- Helen (Ellen), born 22nd March 1891
- Frank Johnson, born 17th July 1894
Arthur also had a step-brother, George Smith, born in 1874.
By 1886, when his sister Jane was born, the family lived at Ringshall; in the 1891 Census their address is given as 18 Ringshall. Arthur was then a 9 year old school boy living with his parents Thomas and Jane, step brother George Smith,17, a Wheelwright’s Apprentice and siblings William Johnson, 6, Jane, 5 and Ann, 4, who were all at school. The youngest members of the family were Thomas Johnson, 3, Esther, 1, and their unnamed, 14 day old baby sister, later named Helen (Ellen).
Arthur attended Little Gaddesden School where the School Log Book records him in Standard 1 in October 1889.
On 10th April 1893, Arthur received his Certificate of Proficiency, so he could leave and go to work, though he was only 10 years old. Then, on 18th July that year, he was re-admitted. However, on September 11th, “having been at work on the Estate during the last month” his name was moved from the School Registers.
In the 1901 Census, 18 year old Arthur was a Plumber living at 18 Ringshall with his parents and his step-brother George, 26, a Wheelwright. Also at home were his siblings William Johnson 16, a Stable Groom, Ann, 14, at home, and Thomas Johnson, 12, Esther, 11, Ellen, 10 and Frank Johnson, 6, who were all at school. 18 Ringshall was the only cottage to keep the same number when the row of cottages was re-numbered between 1891 and 1901.
The Little Gaddesden Brass Band 6
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.
The report included a photograph on which Arthur, aged about 20, is standing with his tuba, 3rd from the left in the middle row. His brother William Johnson, aged about 18, is the trombonist sitting 3rd from the right in the front row, while 16 year old Thomas Johnson is the cornet player 2nd from left in the back row. Life in the Johnson household must have been far from quiet.
Others in the Band with links to the Roll of Honour are:
- Back Row, L to R: 1. Archibald 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: 4. Sam Oakins; 6. Harry Wells (father of William Wells); 7. Walter Holland, 8. Herbert Fenn.
- Front Row, L to R: 1. Steve Oakins; 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.
Arthur’s mother, 51 year old Jane Eliza Johnson of 18 Ringshall died in August 1902. Her funeral took at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden on 21st August that year. Their father is last named on Electoral Registers for Ringshall in 1905, the year in which his step-brother George Smith died aged 31.
A Metropolitan Police Constable 10
Arthur’s brother Thomas’ British Army Service Record lists Arthur as PC 314P, Metropolitan Police, Camberwell. The record covers the period 1905 to 1916. However, as it lists his brother William Johnson at 15 Ringshall, while his brother Frank Johnson is still at 18 Ringshall, it is probable that the information refers to 1905. Arthur remained a Police Constable until at least 1909 when his son Arthur William was born. However, by the time his son Percy’s birth was registered on 5th March 1912, he had reverted to his original trade as a Plumber (Journeyman).
The Family Disperses 3
Only William Johnson is still shown at Ringshall in the 1911 Census, when he was a Plumber and Painter boarding in the household of Mrs Sarah Ann Janes at 15 Ringshall. Thomas Johnson was a Bandsman in the Royal Fusiliers in Ireland and 16 year old Frank Johnson an Under-Gardener, boarding at 17 Berkhamsted Common.
Arthur John Johnson, 29, married Dora Alice Reed, 32, at Wandsworth Register Office on 17th August 1912. His address is recorded as 68 Danbrook Road Streatham and Dora’s as 59 Danbrook Road. Dora Alice was the daughter of the late Spencer Reed, Gamekeeper. However, at birth, in childhood and in later life, her name is recorded as Alice Dora.
The family’s 1931 Electoral Register entry lists a William Arthur Johnson and research reveals that Arthur and Alice Dora had a son Arthur William, born on 1st August 1909 at 2 Ivy Villas, Goodrich Road, East Dulwich. On his Birth Certificate, his mother is identified by her second name, Dora Johnson formerly Reed, and his father as Arthur John Johnson, Police Constable. In the 1911 Census Arthur William was with his Grandmother, Mary Ann Reed, at 59 Danbrook Road, Streatham, while his mother was a General Domestic Servant at 9 Copley Park, Streatham. Arthur Johnson’s 1911 Census entry has not been found.
Arthur’s second son, Percy Frank Johnson, was born at 59 Danbrook Road, Streatham on 26th January 1912. His birth was registered by both parents on 12th March that year: Arthur John Johnson, a Plumber (Journeyman) of 20 Colmer Road, Streatham and Dora Alice Reed, a Domestic Servant of 13 Craignish Avenue, Norbury.
Military Service 10
Although we know from the original Little Gaddesden Roll of Honour that Arthur served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, there is more than one man of that name who served in that Corps, so it is not possible to identify him specifically. However, on his son George’s Birth Certificate, dated 10th March 1919, Arthur is recorded as “Sergeant RWS”, with “Plumber Journeyman” added in brackets as his civilian trade. It therefore looks likely that he transferred from the Royal Army Medical Corps to the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, in which G/705 Sergeant Arthur John Johnson has been found serving in the 6th Battalion. That man first served in France as a Corporal on 1st June 1915 and was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal. He was demobilised to Class Z Reserve on 10th April 1919.
Brother Thomas taken Prisoner of War in 1915 12
Arthur’s brother 11619 Private Thomas Johnson, Royal Fusiliers, was reported missing at Ypres on 24th May 1915. He was named on a German prisoners’ list of 31st July. A Red Cross letter of 22nd September reported him to be suffering from gas poisoning and a broken thigh resulting from a gunshot wound. He was taken prisoner and then hospitalised at Reserve Lazarett, Iseghem, Belgium until 6th December 1915, when he was released through a prisoner of war exchange.
On his return to England, he was admitted to Queen Alexandra’s Hospital, Millbank. His notes showed that the gunshot wound had fractured the shaft of his left femur, which had shortened his left leg by 3 inches and caused 50% permanent disablement. Thomas Johnson was discharged from the Army on 14th February 1916 before receiving further hospital treatment in Dublin until at least 28th July that year.
Brother Frank Killed in Action in 1916 13
Arthur’s youngest brother 15603 Private Frank Johnson, 1st Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment, was killed in action on the Somme on 13th November 1916. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France, Pier and Face 11D.
29592 Private William Johnson, D Company, 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment was captured unwounded on the Western Front at Etreillers on 22nd March 1918. He was then held in Germany at Cassel, where he is recorded on 5th June 1918, at Zwickau, recorded on 12th June and at Chemnitz, recorded on 5th July 1918. His release date is not known but his Autumn 1918 Absent Voters’ List entry noted that he was a Prisoner of War. On his release and discharge he returned to Ringshall, living at 29 Ringshall until his death in 1960.
Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper”
Arthur Johnson is named on the Roll of Honour, which hangs in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden and lists 119 men from Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Hudnall who served in the 1914 – 1918 War. On the original Roll, his entry reads Johnson Arthur, R.A.M.C. On the Centenary Revision of the Roll, this is named in full: Royal Army Medical Corps. Arthur’s brothers Frank Johnson, Thomas Johnson and William Johnson are also named on both Rolls.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
Living in Streatham 15
Electoral Registers from 1915 show Arthur at 61 Danbrook Road, Streatham in the London Borough of Wandsworth. Records from 1918 include his wife Alice Dora, by then eligible to vote. Their son William Arthur (Arthur William) is registered to vote there in 1931 and 1932 and their son Percy Frank in 1933.
Arthur and Alice’s son George David Johnson was born at 61 Darnbrook Road on 13th February 1919 and their daughter Mary on 19th July 1923.
In the 1939 Register, Arthur and Alice are still living at 61 Danbrook Avenue, Streatham. Arthur is recorded as a Plumber and Glazier, Alice has “Unpaid Domestic Duties” and their 16 year old daughter Mary is a Shop Assistant in a Chain Store.
On 27th August 1953, 71 year old Arthur died in St James’ Hospital, Battersea as the result of a haemorrhage caused by carcinoma of the oesophagus. He is recorded as a “House Painter (Journeyman)” and his home address was still 61 Darnbrook Road. Alice, however, later joined by their son George, lived there until at least 1965; she died aged 95 in the first Quarter of 1976.
2. Little Gaddesden Baptism Register 1813 – 1947
5. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906
6. Report and Statement of Accounts of the Little Gaddesden Brass Band 1902 – 1903
8. Little Gaddesden Burial Register 1902
11. Copy of the Marriage Certificate of Arthur J Johnson and Dora A Reed (1912)
16. Copy (pdf) of the Death Certificate of Arthur John Johnson
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson