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  • Commonwealth war grave headstone marking his grave at Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery, France . Courtesy of Murray Biddle
Person Details
William was born in 1893 in Ordsall and was the son of Fred and Alice Johnson of 5 Station Road,Retford. he had a brother Albert and half brother Edward Arthur and half sister Hilda May. By 1911 his mother Alice has died .His father later remarries a woman called Edith. William was employed at the Rubber Works, as is his father. He was 22 years of age at the time of his death and had been a scholar at the Council School.
labourer on enlistment
24 Apr 1915
2000189 - CWGC Website
5 station Road Retford.
Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment)
William enlisted at Retford on 6th January 1914 into the territorials , his attestation papers showing he joined for four years in the reserves. He gave his age as 20 years and 11 months and his address as 5 Station Road,Reford, he stated he was a labourer. At the outbreak of war William was embodied on 5th August 1914 and served on the home front from 5th August 1914 until 1st March 1915. On 2nd March 1915 he joined his battalion the 1/8th battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derbys ) Regiment as they went to France to join the British Expeditionary Force. He and a group of his mates from Retford were all in the trenches when a mortar fell into their midst and killed seven of them (see report below) . They are all buried in Kemmel Chateau Military cemetery, Belgium his grave reference is E 75 An article in the Retford Times 7th May 1915 reads;- Retford Territorials Killed Seven young heroes of the trenches Retford men complimented for bravery On Friday last definite news reached Retford, confirming a previous report, of the death of seven members of the Retford Company of the 8th Sherwood Foresters. They were all killed in the trenches on April 24th by the bursting of a mortar shell. Their names are :- Pte, Herbert Grant, Ollerton – Road. Pte, Herbert Husband, Spa – Lane Pte, W M, Pattison, Canal – Street Pte, W Johnson, Station – Road Pte, Albert Hincks, Wharton – Street Pte, Henry Randall, Beardsalls - Row Pte, E Worthington, Worksop, formerly of Retford The sad news has caused profound regret in the town, and the deepest sympathy is felt with the bereaved parents and friends of the brave young heroes. Their lives have sacrificed for a noble and righteous cause and we trust that this will be some consolation to their sorrowing relatives and friends. As a Nottingham man, writing to his fiancée, who lives at Retford, says, “ I have to die, I only wish that I shall die with such a record as these Retford heroes did”. A beautiful tribute to the brave lads. The circumstances under which the young men met with their deaths are perhaps best told in the letters which have been received. Pte, Frank Farrand, writing to his parents Mr and Mrs Farrand of 36 West Street says;- “ We have had a bit of bad luck this last time, for we lost seven Retford lads, their names being; Ptes, W Pattison, H Husband, H Grant, H Randall, E Worthington, A Hincks and W Johnson. It is a very sad affair, but they all died like heroes every one. It occurred about 5 o clock on Saturday night. It (April 24th) had been very quiet all day, and we were getting ready to be relieved, when all of a sudden the Germans started to shell us, especially with trench mortars, these shells dropping clean into the trench. They blew the parapet down, and then the dogs turned a machine on that spot. It was awful, I can tell you. But we stuck it, and this afternoon we have been highly praised by General Stuart-Wortley. He also said our company ‘D’ and ‘B’ Company behaved magnificently under heavy shellfire. He also called the officers of the same companies and evidently congratulated them. He also said next time his despatch went to Sir John French he would put it all forward so I think we are beginning to make a name for the 8th”. Pte Fred husband, the brother of Herbert Husband, gives the following account in a letter to his parents:- “ Just a few lines to let you know poor Herbert was killed last night (April24th) while in action, we were side by side when he was struck in the chest by a trench mortar. I was with him to the last. He did not linger long. It is a wonder any of us are alive to tell the tale, I shall never forget it as long as I live, we had, as near as I can tell, eleven killed and a number wounded, it was murder, it was hell itself. I myself was very nearly buried alive, but thank God, I was unhurt, but for the shock. I thought my last minutes had come, the scene was terrible. Most of the men had to wade up to the knees in mud and water to get to safety, I was one of those that had to do it to escape being killed. The Lance- Corporal over Herbert’s section was killed, there was only two out of ten left, most of them being Retford lads. Herbert died a true British soldier fighting for his King and Country, I looked after him myself all I could. The Officer is writing you but I thought it best for me to write. Well dear Mother and Dad, bear up and trust in God”. Pte Arthur Parsons writing to Mrs Grant the mother of Pte Herbert Grant says:- “ Just a line to say how I sympathise with you in your great loss. I am pleased to say he stuck to his post while his last, he has been laid to rest in the Sherwood Foresters burial ground just behind the firing line. I am sure his grave will be well looked after whenever we have the chance”. Enclosed with the above letter was the following note, Lieut E C A James:- “ I am taking the liberty of adding a personal note into this letter as I am so busy that I have not time to write a letter. You son is buried with all our Retford men in the Sherwood’s Cemetery at Kemmel. Please accept my deep sympathy”. Pte Herbert Fisher a friend of Pte Grant writing to Mrs Grant says:- “ It is with greatest regret that I write to tell you that Bert was killed in the trenches on Saturday about 5.30pm by a shell. I cannot realise it myself, it is too awful. Bert was on sentry duty at the time and stuck to his post like a man. I expect you will have heard from the War Office by the time this arrives, but the news has to be broken. I saw Bert buried in the military cemetery this evening I cannot write any more, it is too painful”. Another Retford Terrier writes :- “ We went into the trenches again on Monday night. The Retford and Newark Companies had a very bad time. You will have heard before this letter reaches you that seven of the Retford fellows were killed and one very badly wounded. What is known as a trench mortar (a kind of shell that is dropped in the trenches) exploded in their midst. I am sorry to say that amongst the killed were young Hincks of Wharton Street and young Grant of Ollerton Road, two young men whom G----- knows very well. You would also be very sorry to hear of the death Mr Eddison of Mount Vernon. He was shot while in front of the trench one night putting up some wire entanglements”. Another Retford young man writes:-“ I have some bad news for you at Retford, H Randall, Hincks, Johnson, Grant, Husband, Pattison and Worthington were all killed Saturday 24th. There are some wounded as well. It was murder for the Company, they thought they were all lost. I was talking to those who are dead just before they went into the trenches. Young Husband was standing near his brother when he was hit. Some of my mates had to bury them. My God! It is awful to think about”. Pte Herbert Grant was the son of Mr S and Mrs Grant of Belvedere, Ollerton Road. Our representative was informed by Mrs Pattison, Canal Street that she had not yet received any intimation about her son’s death but there can be little uncertainty as to his fate. It is said that Pte Pattison had been wounded just before the fatal shell was dropped into the trenches, and if he could have been removed in time his life might have been saved. He was 26 years of age, and had been employed at the Northern Rubber Works for 13 years and was highly popular among his fellow workmen. He was a hard working official of the Retford Town F C and was a nephew of Sergt Joe Woodward, the well known Retford Centre Half who is now attached to the Indian Forces at the front. His brother Alfred, who is in one of the regular battalions of the Foresters, is a prisoner of war in Germany. In the course of a chat with his foremen Mr C Appleby an old Retford cricketer we learned that ‘Billy’ as he was known to his shop mates was a pressman in the shoe sole department. He was one of the best of workmen, of a genial and happy disposition, and generous to a fault. He was a comrade of Pte Frary who was killed a few weeks ago. Pte A Hincks was the only son of Mr and Mrs Thos Hincks of 10 Wharton Street, Newtown. He was 23 years of age. In a previous issue it was reported that he had a remarkable escape soon after arriving at the front. A bullet passed through his cap and out through his hair. His father is an old soldier. Mr and Mrs Eli Randall have not yet received any official intimation of the death of their son Pte Harry Randall. Randall, who was 20 years of age, had been 3 years in the territorials, and was formerly employed at the Northern Rubber Works. Pte Wm Johnson was also employed at the Rubber Works, as is his father. He was 22 years of age and was a scholar at the Council School. Private Ernest Worthington was the third son of Mr T Worthington late of Retford , he sailed to France on his 23rd birthday, a brother, with the reserve Sherwood Forester’s stationed at Luton, is to spent the weekend in Retford with his sister, Mrs Lacey of 3 Caledonian Road.
Remembered on


  • Commonwealth war grave headstone marking his grave at Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery, France . Courtesy of Murray Biddle
    William Johnson - Commonwealth war grave headstone marking his grave at Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery, France . Courtesy of Murray Biddle