L/11619 Private Thomas Andrew Johnson, Royal Fusiliers
Born on 30th May 1888 in Ringshall
Date of Death unknown
Thomas Andrew Johnson was born Ringshall, Buckinghamshire the fifth of the 8 children of Thomas Arthur Johnson and Jane Eliza, previously Smith, née Hembley. His father was a Wheelwright. He was baptised at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden on 22nd July 1888.
His siblings were:
- Brother: Arthur John Johnson, born 4th November 1882
- Brother: William James Johnson, born 8th June 1884
- Sister: Jane (Jenny), born in 1886
- Sister: Annie (Ann), born in 1887
- Sister: Esther, born in 1890
- Sister: Helen (Ellen), born 22nd March 1891
- Brother: Frank Johnson, born 17th July 1894
Thomas also had a step-brother, George Smith, born in 1874.
The family lived at 18 Ringshall; in the 1891 Census 3 year old Thomas was at home with his parents Thomas and Jane, step brother George Smith,17, a Wheelwright’s Apprentice and siblings Arthur Johnson, 9, William Johnson, 6, Jane, 5 and Ann, 4, who were all at school. The youngest members of the family were Esther, 1, and their unnamed, 14 day old baby sister, later named Helen (Ellen).
Thomas Johnson from Ringshall entered Little Gaddesden School as an Infant on 4th June 1891 when he was only 3 years old.
Scarlet Fever 5
On 16th May 1899 the Little Gaddesden School Log Book records that three members of the Johnson Family of Ringshall contracted Scarlet Fever. They had been playing with a neighbour who had returned from the Fever Hospital a few days before and caught it from her. The school was then closed for an extra three days before the usual Whit Week.
On 29th May the entry reads:
I am sorry to say that, since the children were sent home on Tuesday May 16th, three more of the Johnson family have been taken with Fever, making altogether six in this family; five of these belong to the School.
After further cases, on June 5th the school was closed for four weeks by order of the Medical Officer of Health. The school re-opened on July 3rd but the Johnsons were still absent ill. On Sunday 13th August three of them, who had had Fever, arrived at Sunday School but “as they had not a written Doctor’s Certificate” they were sent home again. The schoolmaster noted:
I hope they will not turn up again until after the holidays as I know the Rector thinks it will be safer for them not to do so.”
The Harvest Holidays started on August 18th and the school re-opened on September 11th with nearly all the children who had had Fever now in attendance.
Little Gaddesden School had an annual Diocesan Inspection, during which the children were examined in Religious Knowledge. The children who distinguished themselves in this examination in January 1901 included Thomas Johnson.
The Family in 1901 3
In the 1901 Census, 12 year old Thomas was living at 18 Ringshall with his parents and six of his siblings. He was still at school, as were his younger siblings Esther, 11, Ellen, 10 and Frank Johnson, 6. His step-brother George, 26, was a Wheelwright, while Arthur Johnson, 18, was a Plumber and William Johnson 16, a Stable Groom. Ann, 14, is recorded “at home”. 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 Thomas, aged about 16, is the cornet player 2nd from left in the back row. His brother Arthur Johnson, aged about 20, is standing with his tuba, 3rd from the left in the middle row and William Johnson, aged about 18, is the trombonist sitting 3rd from the right in the front row. To be with three brass players in one cottage at Ringshall must have been an interesting experience.
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.
Thomas’ 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.
Thomas’ Army Service Record notes that he was previously a General Labourer.
Joining the Army 10
On 29th June 1905, when he was 18 years 1 month old, Thomas enlisted in the 4th Bedfordshire Militia Battalion in which he served as a Private, Service Number 5376. He was then 5 feet 8 4/10 inches tall and had a 34 inch chest. His Service Record also notes that he had a fresh complexion, light grey eyes and light brown hair, and that his eyebrows met in the middle. His home address was then 15 Ringshall. However, on 18th August 1905, having completed 49 days’ drill on enlistment, Thomas transferred to the Royal Fusiliers as a Private, Service Number 11619. Initially posted to the Depot, Thomas joined the 1st Battalion on 14th November 1905.
Acting Bandsman in the Royal Fusiliers 10
Thomas Johnson’s Royal Fusiliers’ pre-War Service Record shows that he put his training with the Little Gaddesden Brass Band to good use. In 1912 he is recorded as “Acting Bandsman 6 years”, a Musician – Baritone and Cornet, sober and reliable, of exemplary character and with 2 Good Conduct badges.
On 10th June 1912, on the termination of his engagement in the Royal Fusiliers, which had lasted 6 years and 298 days, Thomas transferred to Section A of the 1st Class Army Reserve. He was in Dublin and his intended address was Co Mrs Gray, 17 Main Road, Donnybrook, Co Dublin. He remained in that section of the Reserve until 10th June 1914, when he was transferred to Section B.
On 23rd February 1914, Thomas Andrew Johnson married Lilian Marian Heron at the Parish Church of St Kevin, Dublin. However, on the outbreak of War, Thomas was immediately recalled to the Colours.
War Service 10
On 5th August 1914, Private Thomas Johnson was mobilised at Hounslow and posted to the 6th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, a Reserve Battalion which then moved from Hounslow to Dover.
However, on 30th August 1914, after the Battle of Mons, he was posted to the 4th Battalion in France, where they were involved in the Battle of the Marne, the Battle of the Aisne and the First Battle of Ypres. He remained with that Battalion until 25th December 1914, when he returned to England, his unit then shown as “Depot”.
Then, on 24th February 1915, Thomas was posted to the 6th Battalion at Hounslow, before serving overseas again with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, which he joined on 12th May 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres.
After only twelve days service with the 3rd Battalion, Thomas was reported missing at Ypres on 24th May 1915. He was named on a German prisoners’ list of 31st July and then 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 hospitalised at Reserve Lazarett, Iseghem, Belgium.
“In a Hospital in Germany and not missing” 10
Thomas’ Service Record includes a somewhat torn copy of a letter written by his wife Lillian during the second half of 1915 when the authorities still considered him to be missing. Both the date and the recipient are lost from the remaining portion of the letter, but it could well have been sent to the Infantry Record Office at Hounslow with which she had previously corresponded.
Dear Sir I beg to inform you that … Johnson 11619. No 2. Coy. 3rd Royal F… (is) in a Hospital in Germany and not missing. I am sending you on the 7 post cards, I have received from him. I shall wait till I hear further from… (you?) before sending you on the form which I got from the Office last night. I have not filled (in) the form nor do I consider it necessary to do so as Pte Johnson is not missing. I wrote to the Infantry Office over a fortnight ago when I got the first 3 cards and notified them that my husband was wounded & in a German Hospital but I got no reply up to the present only the form I got last night to be filled in. I also wrote to the Office on Monday & sent a stamped addressed envelope for a reply.
Lillian goes on to enquire about Thomas’ pay and adds a postscript: “Will you please return to me my husbands post cards which I am now enclosing”.
Lillian had been living in Dover. Documents in Thomas’ Service Record give her address as 5 Russell Place and then 31 Townwall Street, Dover. However documents dated October 1915 suggests that she had moved again within Dover.
Return to England 10
On 6th December 1915, when he was released through a prisoner of war exchange, Thomas returned to England. He was then admitted to Queen Alexandra’s Hospital, Millbank, where his notes show that the gunshot wound had fractured the shaft of his left femur. This had shortened his left leg by 3 inches and caused 50% permanent disablement.
Just before Christmas 1915, Lillian successfully applied for a warrant or voucher to enable her to travel from Dover to visit Thomas in Hospital at Millbank.
A cork boot and ‘one to match’ were requested on 11th January 1916. Thomas was discharged from the Army on 14th February 1916 under paragraph 392 (xvi) of the King’s Regulations, no longer physically fit for War Service. As a result, he was issued with Silver War Badge and Certificate No. 83646. For his War Service, Thomas was also awarded the 1914 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
Further Treatment for his Wound 10
After discharge from the Army, Thomas received further hospital treatment in Dublin until at least 28th July 1916, first at Mercer’s Hospital and then at King George V Hospital. His address was then 10 Windsor Terrace, Portobello, Dublin.
Brother Frank Killed in Action in 1916 13
Thomas’ younger 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.
Brother William taken Prisoner of War in 1918 14
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”
Thomas 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 Thomas, Royal Fusiliers. He is similarly shown on the Centenary Revision of the Roll. Thomas’ brothers Arthur Johnson, Frank Johnson and William Johnson are also named on both Rolls.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
Post-war records for Thomas Andrew Johnson have not yet been found; there are too many men of the same name to identify him individually. If you have any further information that would add to this account, please email Jane Dickson at email@example.com.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson