In memoriam

Private George Johnston

 

 

George Johnston was born on 1 May 1891 near Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, one of the last of a number of children of herd Robert Johnston and his wife Martha (nee Johnston). (Some records suggest that he was born around 1888.) By 1911 he was living at Drumgarrow, Enniskillen, with his widowed mother and younger brother, and working as a farm labourer.

Johnston enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron at Enniskillen in October 1914 (No. UD/39). He embarked for France with his squadron on 6 October 1915. At the time they were serving as divisional cavalry to the 36th (Ulster) Division.

In June 1916 the Inniskilling squadron came together with C and F Squadrons of the North Irish Horse to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps until September 1917 when the regiment was dismounted and most of its men transferred to the infantry. After a brief period of training at the 36th (Ulster) Division's Infantry Base Depot at Harfleur, Johnston was transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers on 20 September and soon after was posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion. He was issued regimental number 41169 and posted to B Company.

He saw action with the battalion and was wounded during the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

Johnston was one of the many of the 9th (NIH) Battalion listed as missing following the retreat from St Quentin from 21 to 28 March 1918, during the German spring offensive. In fact he had been captured, unwounded, on 27 March, probably at the action near Erches.

Johnston died of pneumonia while a prisoner on 13 October 1918. He was buried in the Forbach Military Cemetery, Lorraine, grave E.13.

In May 1956 the body of Private Johnston and other British casualties of the Great War at Forbach were exhumed and reinterred in the Perreuse Chateau Franco British National Cemetery, Seine-et-Marne, grave I.C.9. His gravestone inscription reads:

41169 PRIVATE
GEORGE JOHNSTON
ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS
13TH OCTOBER 1918 AGE 27

FONDLY REMEMBERED
BY HIS LOVING MOTHER

 

Gravestone image kindly provided by Steve Rogers, Project Co-ordinator of the The War Graves Photographic Project, www.twgpp.org.