Poppy In memoriam Poppy

Rifleman Thomas Johnston



Thomas Johnston was born on 29 March 1896 at Ballynamaddy, Dundermot, Clough, County Antrim, the third of ten children of farm labourer William James Johnston and his wife Lizzie (nee Stewart). By 1911 his father was farming at Ballyreagh, Clough, and Thomas was working as a farm servant at nearby Ballybogy.

Johnston enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim between 27 and 29 May 1916 (No.2186).

In November 1916, together with around 100 other North Irish Horsemen, Johnston volunteered to transfer to the Royal Irish Rifles (No.40881). They embarked for France on 7 December, where they joined the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, on the Somme front.

Johnston was one of the many of the battalion wounded during the early phase of Third Ypres (Passchendaele) in July-August 1917. He was wounded again later that year.

After he recovered he was transferred to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles.

Johnston was killed in action near Cugny on 24 March 1918 during the retreat from St Quentin, part of the German Spring offensive, when his battalion was cut off and made a determined but hopeless last stand. According to the Battalion war diary for that day:

6 am Touch was established with troops who had during the night moved forward. Enemy M.G. fire was very heavy during the morning, but no infantry advanced to the attack on the Battalion front, although on the right and left he succeeded in driving back our troops. Our flanks were slightly withdrawn to form defensive flanks.

2 p.m. The enemy advanced preceeded by a very heavy artillery bombardment in overwhelming strength, on our front and both flanks, and although the Battalion put up a most stubborn resistence, all with the exception of about 10 wounded O.R. and 10 unwounded were killed or taken prisoner.

Initially reported as missing, his death was later officially accepted. As he has no known grave, Johnston is commemorated at Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France, Panel 75.



Thomas's brother Hugh Hall Johnston also served in the North Irish Horse during the war.

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