1918-2008: Ninety Years of Remembrance

Soldier Record

William Johnson

Contributed by: John L.Tooze, on 2008-11-05

No portrait available
First Name William
Surname Johnson
Year of Birth 1898
Year of Death Unknown
Regiment East Surrey Regiment
Place of Wartime Residence Bermondsey, Greater London

William's Story

While working as en engineer with us elements of his conversation revealed great anger as to what he had been exposed to during his time on active service. He would keep himself busy during quiet periods by making coshes, with wrist thongs, to keep to hand. we have one still hanging in out broom cupboard. (I encountered a similar ritual from a young Vietnamese boy/adolescant - in his case booby traps for people in bare feet or thinsoled shoes)

Bill had no children of his own, but I write this as a tribute to our saddened relationship.

One of Bills vignettes related to his dealings obviously as part of a squad, with the "Miniwerfers" As it were the artilliary ,who manned these rocket launchers, when overrun. As told to me they his group, took no prisoners. No further detail was given - was I expected to go into supplimentary questioned. His statement did not warrant that. No doubt he would have dissembled - but in our circle it is not gentlemanly to show prurient interest.

Bills experiences in the trenches - of meals "eat it while its ot" an exortation to nourish oneself whatever the circumstances, was not to coin a phrase, trenchant! On demob Bill went into Civil Engineering, the discipline took him into the construction of vaults, Bank vaults, and he was certainly involved with the devising of intertwined spring steel coils set in the re-inforced concrete of such places. And the installation of "Speigal" plates here and there in such settings. A serious interest, the product of being subjected to bombardments in dugouts; and no doubt his observation of what construction methods survived "incoming" artilliary shells best.

Bills skill set resulted in his becoming, the, or at least on of the team of locksmiths at the Bank of England. He, and his wife May, were one of the Banks pensioners.

The trauma of wartime fighting never left him. This to the extent that, & I am 99% sure of this, he took his own life in a deliberate traffic accident in the Old Kent Road, London SE1 5UB.

Words fail me as I write - tis poignant - as I prepare to take part in the Armistice Day ceremonies this coming Sunday morning at Stockwell Clock part of my old schools (Strand) rituals started on the cessation of hostilities in 1919. 88 years as I write.

Other memories

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