• Richard Johnson

Army / Flying Corps
  • 13th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Private

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  • Victory Medal
  • Birth

    Batemans Bay, NSW, Australia

  • Enlistment - WW1

    Kiama, NSW, Australia

Stories and comments
    • Bringing home his bride?
    • Posted by RichardWilly, Tuesday, 23 October 2018

    On enlistment on 26th June 1916 Richard Johnson was given a medical check-up at Victoria Barracks in Sydney. His medical certificate indicates that he may have had a “dental” condition. Two days later, on the 28th June 1916, Private Johnson swore the Oath of Allegiance to the King in Kiama NSW. On the same day he filled out his Attestation Papers, in which he listed himself as a “widower” aged “about 32 years”, with an occupation “Saw-Mill hand”. On the paper he selected “three-fifths” (rather than two-fifths) of his Army pay for the support of his mother. Dick deleted both the words “wife” and “wife and children” on the paper, and entered “mother” in their stead. This might imply that, as a widower, he had no children from his marriage. After training he left Sydney on the “Ceramic” on the 7th of October 1916. After a 45 day voyage the Ceramic docked in Plymouth on the 21st of November. He was assigned to the Australian Divisional Base Depot and then, on 15th February 1917, he boarded the ferry SS Victoria at Folkstone, heading for Etaples in France, where he was taken on Strength with the 13th Battalion. After 3 months in the trenches Richard went to hospital in Belguim with “septic abrasions” to his right heel. A month later, on the 17th of July 2017, he re-joined his unit. He took leave for 16 days from the 5th to the 21st of December in France. Thus he spent his second Christmas away from home - in the trenches on the Western Front. Six months later, on the 27th of June 1918, he was wounded in action with a gun-shot wound to his right knee. He spent a week in hospital in Rouen and was then transferred to the 73rd General Hospital in Frouville. Three weeks later he was taken to the 4th Southern General Hospital in Plymouth, and officially “invalided to the UK”. He took furlough from 18th September for 3 weeks. By January 1919, 7 weeks after the Armistice, Richard had made his way to Edinburgh in Scotland, probably having done some work in a woollen mill, and had married Thomasina Douglas, spinster, wool winder, aged 30. When he signed his marriage certificate on the 4th of January 1919 he stated his occupation as a Tailer’s Machinist, that his age was 34 and that his father was Donald Johnson, deceased, labourer. His bride’s father was Wm Douglas, occupation “carter”. They were married in a building – number 53 - on the George IV Bridge in Edinburgh. It was probably then a registry office; now its a drab brick affair amongst other similar buildings. Dick left the UK on the “City of Exeter” on the 16th of January, 12 days after his marriage. It isn’t known if his bride came to Australia on the same ship, or whether she came later or, indeed, whether she came at all. It is probable that further search of immigration records may verify her entry into Australia. It appears that the army checked the veracity of his marriage - they received an extract of his marriage certificate on 3rd March 1919, 3 days before Dick arrived in Sydney on the "City of Exeter" on the 6th of March from England. Dick was discharged from the AIF on the 13th of April 1919. In February 1965 the Repatriation Department in Sydney requested Dick Johnson’s Medical Records from Central Army Records Office in Melbourne: At aged 81 it appears that Dick had made a request for Repatriation benefits. Dick also applied for a “Gallopi” medal in August 1967. No doubt this would have been denied. An “SPF” was sent back to Dick in reply on 31st August. In a letter dated 17th July 1968 Dick requested, and was granted, his war medals - the Victory Medal and the British War Medal were posted to him in late August 1968. These medals, he stated in his letter, were for passing on to his grandson. Some observations: 1. Dick's Attestation Paper made no provision for allocating some of his pay to "children" alone; he may have had children from his first marriage, and left them in the charge of his mother. If this were the case it might give us some insight into his character. Conversely, without children, and having lost his wife, he may have been enticed to join the great adventure overseas. 2. His marriage in Edinburg in January 1919 implies that he found his way there from Plymouth hospital - after he was discharged in September 1918, and after taking 3 weeks furlough and then reporting to Australian HQ in London on the 2nd of October. His injury to his knee seemed not to restrict his employment as a "Tailor's Machinist", as he stated on his Marriage Certificate. One can presume that he met his new wife Thomasina while working in a Mill in the north of England or in Scotland. 3. Dick's letters to the Department of Veterans Affairs in the 1960"s are of interest. It appears that he hadn't collected his medals after his return to Australia after the war, as they were posted to him in 1968, when he was 84 years old. 4. His application for a Gallipoli Medal in 1967 seems, on the surface, an audacious request; the Gallipoli campaign had ended almost a year before he enlisted in Australia. But, at the age of 83 he might have been getting things confused, particularly as Australia in the aftermath of the 50th anniversary seems to have revered the landing at Gallipoli ahead of all other Australian exploits that followed later on the Western Front and in the Middle east during the Great War. In 1967 Dick might have assumed that all who fought in the Great War were entitled to the Gallipoli Medal.