2730503 Staff Sergeant Walter Charles Patrick Johnson, Royal Canadian Engineers
Born on 24th June 1885 in Lydd, Kent
Died on 22nd November 1945 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Walter Charles Patrick Johnson was born in Lydd, Kent, the third of the 10 children of Walter Johnson and Elizabeth (Bessie) née Hall. His father was a Company Sergeant Major in the Royal Engineers.
Walter’s siblings were:
- Sister: Isabel Bessie, born in 1883
- Sister: Mabel Mary, born in 1884
- 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
- Brother: 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
- Sister: Jessie Aileen, born in 1899
- Sister: Kathleen Rose, born 3rd March 1902
The 1891 Census shows Walter, a 3 year old School Boy, living in Park Road, Hythe, Kent with his parents and siblings Isabella, 8, Mabel, 6 and Gordon, 4 who were all at School. Alexander Johnson, 2 and Archibald Johnson, 1 were at home.
Joining the Royal Engineers 6
Walter joined the Royal Engineers on 26th June 1899, the day after his 14th Birthday. He was following in the footsteps of his father, who was a Company Sergeant Major in that Corps. Walter was then 4 feet 11¾ inches tall, weighed 87 pounds and had a 31 inch chest. He had a fresh complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair.
- Between 26th June 1899 and 31st March 1900, he served as a Boy Soldier, Service Number 3301.
- Then, between 1st April 1900 and 25th June 1903, he was a Bugler in the 52nd Company, Royal Engineers which, from 27th October 1900 to 14th August 1903 was based in Gibraltar.
The Family in 1901 4
While Walter was away serving in Gibraltar on Census night 1901, his parents Walter, 41, “Clerk of Works. Royal Engineer” and Bessie, 42 and his siblings Isabel 18, Mabel, 17, Alexander Johnson, 12, Stanley Johnson, 11, Florence, 7 and Francis Johnson, 4, were living at 20 Peacock Street, Milton, Gravesend, Kent.
In September 1902, Walter’s family moved to Little Gaddesden as his father, then retired from the Royal Engineers, became Ashridge Estate Clerk of Works. His younger siblings Archibald Johnson, Gertrude and Francis (Henry F) Johnson started at Little Gaddesden School on 24th September 1902, having just come to live in the village. Walter’s brother Alexander Johnson’s Service Record suggests that they first lived at 32 Little Gaddesden before moving to No 38.
Meanwhile, Walter continued to serve in the Royal Engineers. From 26th June 1903, once he was 18 years old, to 21st July 1910, he served as a Sapper in the 32nd Company. In October 1903 he passed classes of instruction in Swimming, in November 1905 he proved himself “Skilled” in Drawing and on 9th August 1907 he was rated “Superior” as an Electrician.
In the 3rd Quarter of 1907, Walter Charles Patrick Johnson married Mary Ellen Harrington in Strood, Kent. However, from 17th September 1907 to 8th December 1910 he was posted to Mauritius, where he served in the 43rd then the 4th Company, Royal Engineers. On 26th October 1909, Walter passed his First Class Certificate of Education.
Death of his brother Gordon 10
Walter’s younger brothers Gordon, Alexander Johnson and Archibald Johnson also 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’.
On his return to England with the 4th Company Royal Engineers on 9th December 1910, Walter was based at Haslar, Alverstoke, where, on Census night 1911, he is shown as a 25 year old married Electrician.
Meanwhile, 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. Frank Johnson had chosen not to follow his father and brothers into the Royal Engineers, but instead became a Carpenter’s Apprentice on the Ashridge Estate.
On 31st August 1911, Walter was promoted to Lance Corporal in the 4th Company, Royal Engineers.
Birth of a Daughter 1
Walter and Mary’s daughter Dorothy Frances Johnson was born in Alverstoke in the 4th Quarter of 1911.
Discharge from the Royal Engineers 6
On 5th July 1912, after 13 years’ service, Lance Corporal Walter Charles Patrick Johnson was discharged free from the Royal Engineers.
A 1929 Canadian Passenger list notes that Walter emigrated to Canada in July 1912. His wife Mary and 10 month old daughter Dorothy Frances joined him in Canada on 11th September 1912. His Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force Attestation Paper supports that emigration date. It shows that, by 22nd June 1918, he had served 13 years with the (British) Royal Engineers and 6 years with the Royal Canadian Engineers.
Death of his brother Alexander 13
Walter’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.
On 22nd June 1918, Staff Sergeant Walter Charles Patrick Johnson of 3192 Verville Street, Park Ave. Extension, Montreal, Province of Quebec, Canada attested for the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force. He was a 33 year old Draughtsman, 5 feet 9 inches tall with a 40 inch chest, fresh complexion, hazel eyes and fair hair. He weighed 155 pounds. He then joined No 4 Engineer Depot, Royal Canadian Engineers and his Service Number was 2730503.
Walter did not serve outside Canada. He was discharged at Montreal on 31st March 1919; his Discharge Certificate noted that his conduct and character while in the service were very good and that he was an excellent Draughtsman. It records that he was not involved in campaigns or awarded campaign medals, but he was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.
The day after his discharge from the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force, Walter was re-admitted to the Canadian Permanent Force as a Provisional Quartermaster Sergeant. By that date, his address was 1018 Laurier Avenue, West Outremont, Montreal, Province of Quebec, Canada.
Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper”
Walter 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 Walter, Royal Engineers. However, on the Centenary Revision of the Roll, this has been updated to Royal Canadian Engineers. His brothers Alexander Johnson and Henry F 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
1921 Census of Canada 15
In the 1921 Census of Canada, Walter, 36, Mary, 38 and Dorothy, 10, lived at 2155 Esplanade, Laurier, Montreal, Province of Quebec, Canada. Walter was a Draughtsman; parts of the entry are hard to read but the word “Militia” is included.
Widowed and Re-married 16
Between June 1921 and October 1927, Walter’s wife Mary Ellen died, but no record of her death has yet been found.
On 8th October 1927, Walter Charles Johnson married Lucille Arsenault at Dunham, Quebec. Walter was then the Widower of the late Mary Ellen Harrington. He was a Soldier, resident in Montreal, Quebec. Lucille, a Spinster and daughter of Eugene Arsenault, also lived in Montreal.
A Visit to England 12
Walter visited England between 19th July and 31st August 1929. He stayed with his widowed mother, Mrs Bessie Johnson at 85 Hawoods Street (Harwoods Road), Watford. His entry on the Canadian Passenger List gives his Canadian address as 6931 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, Quebec and lists his profession as a Soldier.
Walter died, aged 60, on 22nd November 1945 in Vancouver, British Columbia. His headstone in Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver has the inscription:
W C P JOHNSON
NOV 22 1945
LEST WE FORGET
R.C.E.R. is an abbreviation for the Royal Canadian Engineers Regiment and C.E.F. for the Canadian Expeditionary Force of the First World War.
Although some of the detail which accompanies the photograph of Walter’s headstone is not quite accurate, e.g. his date of birth is recorded as 24th June 1886, rather than 1885, and his mother’s maiden name as Hale, not Hall, there is sufficient accurate information to be confident that this is Walter’s headstone.
7. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906
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.
If you have found this page interesting or useful, please consider making a donation to Little Gaddesden Church.
It’s quick and easy to do on our Donate page, and your generosity will be much appreciated.
Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson