Johnson, Richard Herbert (Dick)

Name of Researcher / Enw’r ymchwylydd: Mavis Williams

Name of Memorial / Enw’r gofeb: Connahs Quay

Name / Enw: Johnson, Richard Herbert (Dick)

Regiment/Catrawd: Royal Engineers 25th Div. Signal Coy

Service Rank and Number / Rheng gwasanaeth a rhif: A/Sergeant 78476

Military Cemetery/Memorial / Fynwent milwrol: Premont British Cemetery

Ref No Grave or Memorial / Rhif cyfeirnod bedd: I. D. 10.

Country of Cemetery or Memorial / Gwlad y fynwent neu gofeb: France

Medals Awarded / Medalau a ddyfarnwyd: British War & Victory Medals and 15 Star (Mentioned in Dispatches) Military Medal

Date of Death: 25th October 1918

Date and Circumstances of Death / Dyddiad ac amgylchiadau marwolaeth:

Died of wounds. 25th October 1918

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We have been contacted by Richard Johnson (who is the grandson of Sgt R H Johnson) and he  has given us this family history. He tells us that his grandfather, Richard Herbert, was born in 1878 in Manchester to parents Richard from Salford and Annie from Lockwood in Yorkshire. There was one other child, a daughter also named Annie. The parents, Richard and Annie were travelling show people.

Richard Herbert Johnson aged 14.

Richard Herbert Johnson aged 14.

Richard Herbert Johnson married Margaret Healey at St Ambrose Church in Everton in December 1898.

In 1901, Richard Herbert Johnson was living at 86 Anthony Street, Everton, Liverpool with  Catherine and Thomas Jackson. In the household was widow Ellen Davies 72. Richard Johnson 21, was listed as a Boarder who was a married man and an Electrician’s Apprentice Mechanic. His wife was not present.   

The 1911 census records Richard’s wife and family. Living at 104, Towson Street, Everton.  Margaret Johnson,  the wife of a Richard Johnson  was 29 and said on the form that she had been married for 12 years and had given birth to four children but one had died. The listed children were  Robert  11,  Albert  7 and Mathew 1.   The head of the household was named as  Richard Johnson,  31, a ‘wireman’, ‘away from home’. Margaret Johnson had filled in the census form and signed it. We know that the child that died was Annie who had been born in in 1902.  The child Matthew grew up to be the father of the Richard Johnson who has provided much of this story.

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This is Richard Herbert’s son Matthew. It seems likely that the photograph was sent to Richard when he was away at war. The touching message on the back of the photograph was dated 7th April 1915

Margaret died early in 1912 and Richard remarried later that same year.  Richard Herbert Johnson 31 an electrical engineer and a widower married Frances Robson on the 7th August 1912 in St Deniol’s Church Hawarden, Flintshire.  She was 25 and lived in Brook Road Shotton. The wedding was recorded in the Parish Register Page 169 no 338. (An interesting point of information, is that Frances’s brother Fred was a famous golfer and took part in the Rider Cup on four occasions). In years to come Frances told stories about how she and Richard used to walk to Hawarden carrying a projector to show films, which ties in with the news cutting below.

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Frances and Dick Johnson

UK soldiers who died in the Great War 1914 -19, accessible on www.ancestry.co.uk confirms the regimental information above and adds that he was born and enlisted in Liverpool. Richard Herbert’s medal card also accessible on ancestry, records his medal details and also tells us that his first theatre of war was Egypt and that he entered it on 2nd May 1915

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Richard Herbert on the camel on the left

 

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Richard Herbert Johnson sitting second from left

 

Three letters that Dick sent home to Frances.

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Letter to Frances from the Sister in Charge at the Casualty Clearing Station where Dick was taken after being injured. It is transcribed beneath

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20 Casualty Clearing Station BEF

25th October

Dear Mrs Johnson,

Your husband – Sgt R.H.Johnson 78476 82. E Signals 75 Bde HQ- was admitted here on on the 24 Oct & died this morning at 6.45 25 Oct. He had a very severe gun shot wound of the chest.

He was quite conscious on admission and when I told him I was writing to you he said ” make it as little as possible as she’ll worry so.”  However, yesterday he was only semi conscious and did not realise he was dying, so left no messages.

He will be buried by a C of E Chaplain in the military cemetery near here where so many of our fine men are lying.

I hope it will be a little comfort to you in your great loss to know that he passed away so peacefully and free from pain.

With deepest sympathy

Yours faithfully

(Miss ) E.O Scholefield

Sister in charge

 

This next (incomplete) letter is also from the Casualty Clearing Station. It isn’t clear who it is from but it seems likely that it was a chaplain. It is transcribed below.

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20 Casualty Clearing Station. France

Oct 31 1918

Dear Mrs Johnson,

Probably before you receive this you will have heard that your dear husband was brought here on 24th Oct grievously wounded by a bullet. I am very sorry to say that he did not pull through but passed to the great life beyond next morning about 6.45.

I do feel so very very deeply for you. My heart goes out to you in your great loss. May God sustain, guide and comfort you now and always as he alone can and bring you one day to a happy reunion with your dear husband in the full and beautiful life beyond this.!

You will be brave as he would wish you to be.

We buried him in a nice military cemetery near here. A neat wooden cross with his name and regiment on will soon be put up at the head of the grave.

I am not allowed to tell you the name

 

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 Letters of sympathy to Frances

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Another letter from the Casualty Clearing Station, this one is concerning his possessions

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A letter from Dick’s comrade, Sgt Demay, who was with him. This seems to be the most reliable version of Dick’s injuries and how he got them. It appears to be an internal army communication

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Another letter of sympathy and  further explanation of what happened from a comrade to Frances. The date of this letter is especially poignant. 

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There is an index card for Richard Herbert Johnson  in the Flintshire Roll of Honour at the County Record Office in Hawarden. (Flintshire WW1 Index Cards F30)  It gives the adress 74 High Street, Connah’s Quay. It confirms his regimental  No 78476, his regiment and Company but it says his rank was  ‘W. Officer’.  It says that he had the Distinctions of the Military Medal and was Mentioned in Despatches.

Commonwealth War Graves additional Information:Son of the late Richard and Annie Johnson, of Balfour St., Liverpool; husband of Frances Johnson, of 74, The Laurels, Connah’s Quay, Chester.

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Dick’s medals, two badges and his small brass compass

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His commemorative plaque. ‘The Death Penny’.

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‘The Death Penny’ still in its original container

Richard Herbert Johnson in the UK, Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 tells us that the Sole Legatee was his widow, Frances, who was paid £34. 17s 11d, which included his War Gratuity of £25. 10s 0d on the 10th March 1919 and also £2. 14s 10d on the 19th May 1919.

Finally, his Flintshire Roll of Honour card  says he Died of wounds on the  25th October 1918. The card was signed on the 19th September 1919 by Frances Johnson. Frances had been hoping to spend Christmas 1918 with her husband. There were no Christmas celebrations that year or in any subsequent years. Frances could never bear to celebrate Christmas again.

Richard Herbert is also named on the Memorial Plaque in St.Mark’s Church, Connah’s Quay.

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This small newspaper cutting reports Dick’s death. The very remarkable snippet in the cutting is the reference to their son Robert “who being tall, joined up at the age of 14.” Dick in one of his letters home (see above) refers to Bobby being in the war.

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Richard Herbert Johnson’s final resting place with his Commonwealth War Grave headstone.

Many thanks to Richard Johnson, grandson and namesake of Richard Herbert Johnson, for sharing with us this remarkably complete archive of his grandfather’s story.