1580, later 105144 Private Francis Edmund Henry John Johnson, Hertfordshire Yeomanry
Born on 20th November 1896 in Winchester
Date of Death unknown
Henry F Johnson was born at 2 Victoria Road, Winchester. He was the eighth of the 10 children of Walter Johnson and Elizabeth (Bessie) née Hall. His father was a Sergeant Major in the Royal Engineers. His name at birth was Edmund Henry Francis Johnson; in childhood he was known as Frank, or occasionally Francis.
Despite his childhood name of Frank, Henry F Johnson should not be confused with 15603 Private Frank Johnson of Ringshall. Frank Johnson of Ringshall, who is commemorated on Little Gaddesden’s War Memorials and Roll of Honour, was born on 17th July 1894 and killed in action on 13th November 1916 in France.
Frank’s siblings were:
- Sister: Isabel Bessie, born in 1883
- Sister: Mabel Mary, born in 1884
- Brother: Walter Charles Patrick Johnson, born 24th June 1885
- Brother: Gordon Patrick, born 1st September 1886
- Brother: Alexander Frederick Johnson, born 8th December 1888
- Brother: Archibald Stanley Johnson, born 2nd February 1890
- Sister: Florence Gertrude (Girlie), born in 1894
- Sister: Jessie Aileen, born in 1899
- Sister: Kathleen Rose, born 3rd March 1902
By 1901, the family lived at 20 Peacock Road, Milton, Gravesend, where his father was recorded as “Clerk of Works. Royal Engineer”. However, in September 1902, they moved to Little Gaddesden as Walter, retired from the Royal Engineers, became Ashridge Estate Clerk of Works. Henry F Johnson’s brother Alexander Johnson’s Service Record suggests that they lived at 32 Little Gaddesden before moving to No 38.
On 24th September 1902, Henry Francis Johnson, aged 5 years 10 months, joined the Infant Department at Little Gaddesden School. His brother Archibald Johnson (known as Stanley) joined Standard 5 and their sister Gertrude, Standard 2. 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.”
Death of his brother Gordon 7
Henry F Johnson’s older brothers Walter Johnson, Gordon and Alexander Johnson all followed their father into the Royal Engineers; they all joined 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 1911 Census shows that, unlike his four older brothers, Henry F Johnson did not join the Royal Engineers; instead he became a Carpenter’s Apprentice on the Ashridge Estate. In 1911, aged 14, he lived at home, 38 Little Gaddesden, with his parents and siblings Isabella, 28, Gertrude, 17 and Jessy, 11 and Kathleen, 9, who were both at School. However, his World War One Pension Record records that later, like his father, he became a Clerk of Works.
Joining the Little Gaddesden Scout Troop 9
Henry F Johnson joined the Little Gaddesden Scout Troop at its start, October 26th 1911, and was appointed Patrol Leader of the Lion Patrol. The Scouts first met in the Reading Room at John o’Gaddesden’s House but meetings soon moved to the Armoury, at 27 Little Gaddesden, the home of their Scout Master, Harry Temple, who was assisted by 17 year old Bernard Phillips. Miss Bridget Talbot was the Scouts’ President and Mr Humphrey Talbot their Treasurer.
Henry F Johnson was always known as Frank in the Scouts. That could cause confusion, as there was another Frank Johnson who lived at Ringshall, was killed on the Somme and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
However, evidence that the Frank Johnson in the Scouts is Henry F Johnson of 38 Little Gaddesden is found in the Scout Diary list of visitors to Scout Camp in 1913; these include B Johnson (his mother) and his 3 youngest sisters Girlie (Gertrude), Jessie and Kathleen. The Scout Diary also notes Frank’s service in the Hertfordshire Yeomanry.
“Bright Boy Scouts – Clever Performance at Little Gaddesden – High Approval” 9
According to the hand written ‘Little Gaddesden Scout Diary 1912 – 1922’ kept by their President, Miss Bridget Talbot, the Little Gaddesden Scouts gave a concert/variety entertainment at the school in early February 1912, assisted by Scoutmaster Temple and other supporters. The extract below is from a press cutting reporting the event, pasted into the Scout Diary. The cutting is undated and unattributed but is probably from the local “Gazette”.
Perhaps the one item in the programme which overtopped the others for novelty and excellence of execution was the Kirkby Malzeard sword dance by six members of the Troop (B. Phillips, F. Johnson, A. Whitman, J. Whitman, A. Halsey and A. Basford) with Scoutmaster H Temple as the singer of the introductory verses and violin-player for the dance itself. Its intricate movements were performed with admirable precision and, at the end of the dance, the holding up of the “nut” or star formed by the interlaced swords was greeted with the most enthusiastic applause by the spectators, who would gladly have seen the whole performance again.
Boy Scouts’ Cook’s Badge – First skin your Rabbit 9
The Little Gaddesden Scout Diary records that, in Autumn 1912:
14 boys of the LG Troop were examined in the Park at Ashridge for their cook’s badges. Lord Brownlow presented a rabbit apiece to each boy. Fourteen fires were then lit, made up on some bricks + each boy proceeded to skin and boil his rabbit, adding vegetables + dumplings into his stew. The judges on this occasion were Lord Brownlow, Mrs Temple, Mrs Bridle, Mrs Flowers + Mr Jim Rodgers. Mr J Parsons presented 3 prizes for the best 3 saucepans of rabbit stew. Arthur Pinnock won the 1st prize.
We do not know who won 2nd and 3rd prizes, but the diary records that Frank was one of the 14 boys awarded his Cook’s Badge. Other Scout Cooks included Albert Basford, Edward Bunn, Francis Green, Gerald Green, Bernard Halsey, Percy Hobbs and Archie Wells.
A Territorial Volunteer in the Hertfordshire Regiment 8
Henry F Johnson’s World War One Pension Record, shows that, on 2nd November 1912, he volunteered for the Hertfordshire Regiment, serving as a Private, Service Number 1991. He claimed to be 17 years old, though he joined 3 weeks before his 17th Birthday. In this record, his name is recorded as Francis Edmund Johnson. The Hertfordshire Regiment was the Territorial regiment in which a number of Little Gaddesden men served part time. His record notes “Shorncliffe 1913”, probably referring to that year’s Annual Camp which he would have attended.
Transfer to the Hertfordshire Yeomanry 8
On 10th November 1913, Henry F Johnson transferred to the Hertfordshire Yeomanry. He then attended the Annual Camp at Luton between 23rd May and 6th June 1914. He served as a Private, Service Number 1580, later 105144. On 5th August 1914, he was embodied for War Service, training in the U.K. until 29th August 1915. He was appointed Acting Paid Second (Lance) Corporal on 24th March 1915. However, he reverted to the rank of Private on 19th June that year “for neglect of duty”.
Death of his brother Alexander 10
Henry F Johnson’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 notes of some of the boys’ War Service, recorded by Bridget Talbot in the Scouts Diary, include an entry for Henry F Johnson, which reads: “F Johnson. Territorials. Serving with Herts Yeomanry Aug 1914“. An undated list near the back of the diary notes “Frank Johnson Egypt, Mesopotamia & Persia“. His first overseas service in Egypt from 9th September 1915 is confirmed on his Medal Roll Index Card; his other postings are confirmed by information in his Pension Record.
Henry F Johnson trained in the U.K. until 29th August 1915, when he embarked at Devonport for Alexandria, Egypt, where he arrived on 9th September 1915, as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. Three days later he joined the Regiment at Abbassia (Cairo) and, on 30th October, embarked for Gallipoli. However, he was not in Gallipoli for long. By 16th November 1915 the regiment was at Mudros West on the Greek island of Lemnos; on 28th November they disembarked again at Alexandria. They then joined the Western Frontier Force at Matruh, Egypt, on 12th December and were subsequently involved in actions against the local Senussi Forces until 6th March 1916. They then returned to Gabbari Camp at Alexandria.
On 28th May 1916, Henry F Johnson embarked from Suez for Basra, Mesopotamia (Iraq), where he arrived on 15th April 1916. The Hertfordshire Yeomanry was by then split up into four Squadrons; he was in D Squadron, which was initially involved in Lines of Communication duties and subsequently attached to the 13th Division in Mesopotamia. During 1916, Henry F Johnson had periods of illness; his World War One Pension Record notes:
- 16th – 28th July 1916 – admitted to hospital in the field – Jaundice
- 3rd – 17th September 1916 – admitted to hospital at Amara – Sandfly Fever
Henry F Johnson remained in Mesopotamia (Iraq) until 14th April 1918, when he was granted a month’s leave in India. On 5th May that year he was appointed unpaid Lance Corporal. However, it seems he may not have returned to his unit, by then in Persia (Iran), until 21st September 1918, when his Pension Record notes: “Returned from leave in India ex H.S. Sicilia”. H. S. Sicilia was a hospital ship. Eight days later, he re-joined his unit in Qasr-e-Shirin, Persia. Further illness was to follow: on 26th October 1918, Henry F Johnson was admitted to hospital in Qasr-e-Shirin, Persia with Influenza. Then, on 12th January 1919, after he had returned to Mesopotamia, he was invalided to England from the 3rd British General Hospital, Basra, aboard A.T. “Syria”, suffering from Malaria; the original diagnosis of Influenza was incorrect.
Henry F Johnson’s was disembodied (discharged from the Territorial Force) on demobilisation on 27th March 1919 at Canterbury under Paragraph 392 (xvia) of the King’s Regulations. He was no longer physically fit for War Service.
His application for a War Pension states that Malaria, contracted on 26th October 1918, was the main cause of his disability. Between that date and the end of June 1919, he suffered fever regularly, every fortnight. He also suffered from slight neurasthenia, a term sometimes used for shell shock, which caused tremors and a fast pulse; a note added states: “says cannot settle down to book work”.
The Medical Board considered that his disability caused 40% impairment and put him in medical category iii – only fit for sedentary work. They believed that his condition would last for another 12 months. The Medical Board record dates from mid-1919, though the year is wrongly recorded as 1917 on one page.
Henry F Johnson was granted a pension of 8 shillings 3 pence for 43 weeks from 28th March 1919, which was extended for a further 9 weeks to 30th March 1920. During 1920, a further payment of £5 was also made.
For his War Service, Henry F Johnson was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper”
Henry F 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. His entry reads Johnson Henry F, Hertfordshire Yeomanry and he is similarly shown on the Centenary Revision of the Roll. His brothers Alexander Johnson and Walter Johnson are also named on both Rolls and his brother Archibald Johnson has been added to the Centenary Roll.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
Henry F Johnson is named as an Absent Voter of 38 Little Gaddesden in Spring 1919. His parents remained at 38 Little Gaddesden until 1925, when they and probably his three youngest sisters moved to Watford. However, no records have been found for him after 1919 – there are too many possibilities for Frank, Francis, Henry and Edmund Johnson and no post-1919 entries for either Francis Edmund Henry (John) or Edmund Henry Francis Johnson. If you have any further information that would add to this account, please email Jane Dickson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906
8. https://www.ancestry.co.uk UK, British Army World War I Pension Records 1914-1920 Francis Edmund Johnson
9. Little Gaddesden Scout Diary 1912 – 1922, HALS, Hertford, Acc 3131
14. 1918-21 Absent Voters’ Lists Parliamentary County of Hertford, Hemel Hempstead Division, Little Gaddesden
Do you have any questions about the information recorded here? Or do you have any further information that you can share with us about those from Little Gaddesden who died or fought for their country? In either case, please contact Jane Dickson at email@example.com.
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson