Private William J. Johnston

 

The background of this North Irish Horseman is not certain, other than that he was from Belfast. It seems probable that he was the William James Johnston born on 6 November 1888 at 73 Blackstaff Road, Belfast, the first of seven children of labourer David Johnston and his wife Susan (née Douglas). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at 93 Donegall Road, Belfast, with his widowed mother, three of his five surviving siblings and two other relatives, and working as a laboratory assistant.

Johnston enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 19 and 22 August 1916 (No.2243 – later Corps of Hussars No.71720). He trained at the regiment's Antrim reserve depot before embarking for France in the first half of 1917, where he was posted to one of the squadrons of the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment.

Johnston was one of ten men of the regiment gassed while on a working party at Ypres on 6 September 1917. Following his recovery he probably resumed duty at the North Irish Horse reserve depot at Antrim.

Records show that he was later attached to the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry Regiment, which suggests that he was part of a draft of Horsemen from the Antrim camp who embarked for Egypt in January 1918. Johnston was still serving in that regiment as late as December 1919.