Copyright © All rights reserved.

John Johnson

John Johnson was born in the second half of 1893 at Whinflower Hall, Settrington and was the eldest son of Charles and Annie Louisa (nee Metcalfe) Johnson who married in the Pickering area in the third quarter of 1886.  The couple and five of their six children were living at Whinflower Hall in 1901.

1901 Census- resident at Whin Flower Hall, Settrington

JOHNSON, Charles, Head, Married, M, 43, Farmer, Whinflower Hall, Yorkshire,

JOHNSON, Alice L, Wife, Married, F, 39, , Malton, Yorkshire,

JOHNSON, Naura, Daughter, , F, 10, , Settrington, Yorkshire,

JOHNSON, John, Son, , M, 7, , Settrington, Yorkshire,

JOHNSON, Frank, Son, , M, 5, , Settrington, Yorkshire,

JOHNSON, Alex, Son, , M, 3, , Settrington, Yorkshire,

MINTOFT, E J, Servant, Single, F, 23, Mother Help, Middleton, Yorkshire,

NEUDICK, A, Servant, Single, F, 20, General Domestic Servant, Thorpe Basset, Yorkshire,

TAYLOR, Harry, Servant, Single, M, 20, Waggoner On Farm, Settrington, Yorkshire,

DENNIS, George, Servant, Single, M, 18, Teamster On Farm, Essex,

SPOONER, Joseph, Servant, Single, M, 17, Teamster On Farm, Essex,

GOLDMAN, James, Servant, Single, M, 16, Teamster On Farm, Norfolk,

DOUTHWAITE, James, Servant, Single, M, 30, Shepherd On Farm, Settrington, Yorkshire,

GRAY, George, Servant, Single, M, 15, Teamster On Farm, Malton, Yorkshire,

TAYLOR, William, Servant, Married, M, 51, Shepherd On Farm, Unknown, Yorkshire,

 In 1911 the family was resident at Whinflower Hall and John’s occupation is given as Apprentice Corn Factor.  The Malton Messenger records that before the war he worked for Messrs W. Metcalfe  and Sons, millers in Malton and this firm was presumably owned by members of his mother’s family

1911 Census- resident at Whinflower Hall, Settrington

JOHNSON, Charles, Head, Married, M, 51, Farmer, Whinflower Hall Settrington Yorkshire,

JOHNSON, Annie Louisa, Wife, Married25 years, F, 47, , Malton Yorkshire,

JOHNSON, Florence, Daughter, Single, F, 24, Farmer's Daughter Dairyman, Whinflower Hall Settrington Yorkshire,

JOHNSON, Mabel, Daughter, Single, F, 23, , Whinflower Hall Settrington Yorkshire,

JOHNSON, Nora, Daughter, Single, F, 20, , Whinflower Hall Settrington Yorkshire,

JOHNSON, John, Son, Single, M, 17, Apprentice Corn Factor, Whinflower Hall Settrington Yorkshire,

JOHNSON, Frank, Son, Single, M, 15, School, Whinflower Hall Settrington Yorkshire,

JOHNSON, Alec, Son, , M, 14, School, Whinflower Hall Settrington Yorkshire,

RUFFILL, Albert, Servant, Single, M, 16, Horseman On Farm, Maldon Essex,

DAWES, Bernard, Servant, Single, M, 18, Horseman On Farm, Haverhill Suffolk,

MALLARD, Percival J, Servant, Single, M, 18, Horseman On Farm, Walthamstow Essex,

TURNER, William, Servant, Single, M, 18, Farm Labourer, Parish Suffolk N K,

John enlisted in Malton in the 2nd Battalion of the Scots Guards.  In November 1914, the 2nd Battalion had landed in France and taken part in the First Battle of Ypres which took place between September and November. In 1915, they took part in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, the Battle of Aubers and the Battle of Festubert.and in August, they were transferred to the Guards Division joining the 3rd Guards Brigade.

In September 1915, they took part in the Battle of Loos and the regiment suffered over 500 casualties. It must have been about then that John joined them as his Medal roll card shows him entering the Theatre of War on 6th October 1915

In September1916, the Scots Guards entered the Somme Offensive, taking part in the subsidiary Battle of Flers-Courcelette, which saw the first introduction of the tank.

Launched on the 15th of September 1916 Flers-Courcelette began with the overall objective of cutting a hole in the German line by using massed artillery and infantry attacks. This hole would then be exploited with the use of cavalry. It was the third and final large-scale offensive mounted by the British Army during the Battle of the Somme. By its conclusion on September 22, the strategic objective of a breakthrough had not been achieved; however tactical gains were made in the capture of the villages of Courcelette, Martinpuich and Flers.

The project to develop the 'Land Battleship' had commenced in the summer of 1915 under the initiative of the British Landships Committee with the objective of developing an armoured vehicle that would break the deadlock of trench warfare. Under the highest degrees of secrecy the 'tank', as it later became known, was designed and built with the first prototype of the Mark I rolled out in January 1916.

Just less than six months after its first tests, General Sir Douglas Haig had wanted to launch the first mass tank attack on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. However, the manufacturers could not have the tanks ready in time for the first attacks on July 1. Two and a half months later, as Flers-Corcelette was being planned, the tanks were delivered and they were incorporated into the battle plans. From the beginning the tanks were challenged by having to traverse the heavily upset terrain of the Somme battlefield while still beset with numerous mechanical failings and manned by crews that had had little training in their operation. Nonetheless, the decision was taken to send the 49 tanks that were available into battle on September 15. He was warned against this by the engineers who were responsible for the creation of the tank, his subcommanders and the French government. The primary concern of those who didn't want the tank used was that they wanted it kept secret until they could be massed in larger numbers and be more likely to lead to a major breakthrough.

The Canadian Corps made their debut on the Somme, here and saw considerable first day success on 15 September, advancing approximately two kilometres in their initial attacks, capturing their assigned objectives in and around Courcelette village. After having struggling for the preceding two months to take control of it, on the commencement of the battle, the British 47th (1/2nd London) Division succeeded in clearing the last German-held sections of High Wood, sustaining heavy losses in the process. The New Zealand Division fought for and captured a position known as the Switch Line between High Wood and Flers after 30 minutes of fighting.

In the centre of the attack, two villages were captured, Martinpuich and Flers,  but these were more than 2,000 yards short of the lofty final planned objectives of the fortified villages of Gueudecourt and Lesbœufs which lay still further to the east.

To the south, on the right flank of the attack, where Haig had hoped the hole would be opened in the German lines to allow the cavalry penetration and breakthrough, the attacks faltered. The artillery preparation and tank support did little to neutralise the defenses and left the trenches and wire protecting the position largely intact. The Guards Division made considerable headway, advancing 2,000 yards, but they were stopped short of their ultimate objective, the village of Lesbœufs. To take the remaining objectives, the British Fourth Army launched the Battle of Morval on 25 September.

The performance of the tanks was patchy. Of the 49 ordered only 32 were able to reach their assigned start positions on the battlefield and of them, seven failed to start - leaving 25 moving forward at the commencement of the attack. In the end, the tanks proved to be largely a psychological asset, emboldening the attackers and intimidating the defenders where they moved forward. Tactically however, they provided little advantage or support to the attackers with most breaking down or becoming immobilized in the terrain of the battlefield and only nine actually reaching and penetrating the German lines. Even where they were successful they were hard pressed to advance across the cratered battlefield faster than a soldier's walking pace.

The Battle of Morval, which began on 25 September 1916, was an attack on the German-held villages of Morval, Gueudecourt and Lesboeufs. These villages were originally objectives of the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, and the Guards eventually took Lesboeufs. The French Sixth Army, which had not been keeping pace with British progress in September, also attacked to try to bring the two armies into line but were unable to match the British advance and so the problem of a German salient at the boundary of the Allied armies remained.

John Johnson died of wounds on the 26th September 1916but whether these were sustained at Flers- Courcelette or Morval is not known. The Malton Messenger however states that he was killed in action, having previously sustained wounds during his time in Service. He was buried at Bronfay Farm Military Cemetery, Bray-Sur-Somme. The cemetery was begun by French troops in October 1914, but little used by them. It was used by Commonwealth troops from August 1915 to February 1917, particularly during the Battle of the Somme, when the XIV Corps Main Dressing station was at the farm.