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Person Details
27 Aug 1886
He was the son of John and Ellen Johnson and the brother of Hilda, Mary Ellen and Frances Dora Johnson. In 1911, they lived at 64, Park Road, New Lenton and later at 26, Cottesmore Road, Lenton Sands (both Nottingham).
He was a forman.
09 Oct 1917
1633602 - CWGC Website
Lance Corporal
2nd Bn Honourable Artillery Company
He was severely wounded during the night of 30/31st March 1917, but killed on 9th October 1917. He had been admitted as a private in the Honourable Artillery Company on 26th April 1916, proceeding overseas on 1st October 1916. He was killed at Reutel on 9th October 1917. The following notes are taken from an Imperial War Museum interview with William John Parry Morris, Private, 2nd Battalion Honourable Artillery Company who served in France and Belgium from 1916-1917 in the same battalion as Wilfred Johnson, later serving with the battalion in Italy until the end of the war. These notes describe his memories of the attack on Reutel, 9th October 1917, when Johnson was killed and his memories of the area in which they fought. Other aspects of the actions and service seen by 2nd Honourable Artillery Company will be added later. The battalion moved from Bullecourt to the Ypres area in August 1917, taking up trenches again at Sanctuary Wood, where they had served a year before. They were simply holding the line there, but there was plenty of shelling. The trenches, however, had not moved since the previous year. Private Parry Morris was involved in the Battle of Passchendaele. His battalion moved up to the frontline at Polygon Wood in preparation for an attack on Reutel. The attack began at 4-30 am, whilst it was still dark. They succeeded in taking Reutel, which lay in front of Polygon Wood, but not without some severe fighting. There had been little preparation for the attack and their main orders were simply to take Reutel. The German defences were mainly to be found in thick, concrete pillboxes because it was impossible to dig trenches in that area as the mud was too bad. This mud also made it very difficult to advance. They didn’t wear full equipment, instead they were in battle order with only light weight equipment, though they had plenty of bombs (grenades) and ammunition. The taking of Reutel provided to be very hard as the Germans had such strong pillboxes and the heavy machine gun fire was very destructive. There were about 500 casualties, with 42 missing, 189 killed and 250 wounded (so he says). Private Parry Morris had to crawl forward with another man and throw bombs into the apertures of a pillbox which was holding up the attack with its machine guns. He was awarded the Military Medal for this. He crawled 15 yards, just as it was getting light, around 6-30 am. They had to move very slowly so as not to attract too much fire. They killed 5 Germans, whose bodies were thrown out of the pillbox as it was turned into a temporary battalion HQ. Reutel itself was not heavily defended as the village had been totally destroyed. The wounded and dead simply sank into the mud and disappeared, which is why so many were posted as missing. Just behind Polygon Wood was “The Mound”, a big mound, quelle surprise, which had been used by the Belgian Army before the war. The German had built deep dugouts in it and when the British took it over they also used them. The Forward Dressing Station was in one and Parry Morris remembers seeing 30/40 men lying on stretchers outside, waiting to be treated after the battle. The German dugouts were much better. He also didn’t think much of his generals. Polygon Wood itself had been destroyed with only the tree stumps survivng in a sea of mud. The only way to get shells up to the guns was using mules fitted with panniers. If the men or mules fell off the duckboards they would drown. This made supplies difficult to maintain. The rations, when they arrived were often biscuits, bully beef and cheese, brought up in sandbags that left fluff all over the cheese. The water supplies were difficult and even ran out. The rum ration was only an egg cup full and it was impossible to get drunk. Every night they had a ration and it was important for morale. Everyone looked forward to it. They also gave rum before battle, in very small amounts because it helped morale.
Tyne Cot Memorial Panel 7
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