Robert (Bob) Ellis Johnson was born in Flint in March, 1891 and baptised 19th August, 1891 at St Mary’s Parish Church, Flint. He was the fifth of nine children to Robert Ellis Johnson and Elizabeth (Bellis).
Robert Ellis senior and Elizabeth were both born in Flint and were married on 23rd October, 1882 at the Holy Trinity Parish Church, Chester.
The Johnson family lived at No 2 Court, Castle Dyke Street before moving to 14, Castle Dyke Street by 1901.
On leaving school Robert jnr became employed by Messrs Summers’ Ironworks, Shotton and prior to joining the Army had been a territorial for several years. He never married.
Mrs Johnson died in July, 1909, aged 78, and was buried in the Northop Road Cemetery, Flint.
Bob enlisted in Flint and after training was posted to Gallipoli and landed there on 8th August, 1915 where he was killed in action on 22nd September.
The sad news reached Flint on Friday 8th October. No letter had been received from him since the 16th August, but a letter from his cousin, Private Richard Johnson, stated that they were having a rest in a trench after working when a Turkish shell exploded and a piece of a shell struck and killed him.
Private Edward Williams of Flint is stated to have been killed in the same explosion and five men were wounded.
Private Johnson, of the King’s Head, said he went to the spot “where poor Bob and the other young fellow lay” and saw the place where they had been buried – a spot just facing the sea – where he put a nice cross with their names and regimental numbers on to mark the place. In his letter, Private Johnson conveyed the sympathy of all the comrades of deceased, and said that he was a good soldier and comrade.
Bob was buried in the Hill 10 Cemetery, Turkey in Plot I, Row C, Grave 20, and is remembered on three war memorials: Flint Town, St Mary’s Parish Church, Flint and Oddfellows Hall, Flint. He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.
Sergeant Robert Parry, whose home was at 27, Swan Street, and who was with the 1/5th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers at the Dardanelles, wrote a letter to his wife, dated 25th September, stating that he was in the pink and pulling through. He said his comrades and himself had received a copy of the “County Herald,” and he could say that they all looked forward to getting the paper, which contained very fine reports respecting the men of the Battalion. The Battalion had been sent down to the Beach, which was called the base, for a fortnight’s rest; but, of course, the men were performing fatigue work during the day such as the unloading of the ships. Still they were not even safe there, because they were shelled very heavily. The first day they landed at the Beach Base there were five killed and nine wounded, and of their Company were four killed and three wounded by one shell. Amongst the killed were Johnson, of Castle Dyke Street, and Edward Williams, of Roskell Square, and two others. Indeed it was wonderful how their nerves stood it all. They were at the Base free of the snipers, who were awful when the men were in the firing line. The men had all done their best out there, and it was quite true, as stated in the ‘County Herald,’ the men who were not hit in the big fight were very lucky. He was quite close to the late Colonel Basil Philips in the charge when he shouted “Come on boys; come on the Fighting-Fifth.” At the end of his letter he stated that Private Joe Hogan, of Flint, went into hospital when the Battalion were sent for their rest down to the Base.
Private Johnson also wrote a sorrowful letter to his uncle (Bob’s father), under date of Saturday, 25th September. He stated that he was sorry that as this was his first letter to him and it should contain such a shock and blow, which it must be to him, but he hoped and trusted God would give him strength to bear it. On the 23rd of the month the Turks shelled their position, where they were resting, when one large shell burst right in the trenches where his cousin Bob was, and a piece of the shell pierced his heart and killed him. At the time he (the writer) was in his dug-out taking as much cover as he possibly could, because it was not safe to venture out, the shells bursting all around them. Eventually the firing ceased and he went to where his poor cousin lay dead. He had searched the clothing of the body and forwarded several articles. There was also a piece of the shell, and of copper, enclosed. The deceased cousin was a good soldier and a comrade to them all, and they all sent their heartfelt and deepest sympathy to Mr Johnson in his sad bereavement. He was unable to dig the grave; but he had since been to the spot where the remains of Williams and he lay together in peace. The burial ground was on the side of a hill, overlooking the sea, and at the head of the grave there had been placed a nice cross on which was inscribed their names, numbers, and the name of the Regiment.
Bob’s father, Robert, died on 25th December, 1927, aged 66, and was buried with his wife. He was a labourer at the chemical works and had served in WW1 with the National Reserves.