b. 28/01/1882 Widdrington Colliery, Northumberland. d. 23/03/1943 Plymouth, Devon.
James Johnson (1882-1943) was born in Widdrington, Northumberland, on January 28th 1882. His parents were Robert and Elizabeth Johnson (nee Johnston). On the 1911 Census, he was still living with his parents and two sisters Elizabeth and Christina at 103 Hugh Gardens, Benwell near Newcastle upon Tyne. James' occupation was listed as a porter. When war broke out he was working as a clerk in the Newcastle Infirmary, and enlisted on 13th October 1914, joining the Royal Horse Guards as a Trooper. He was appointed L/Cpl on 11th August 1915 & reverted to Trooper at his own request on 20th May 1917. He was discharged as a Trooper & as an officer cadet was transferred as a Temporary 2nd Lieut. to The Northumberland Fusiliers 25th May 1915. This was made permanent on 7th December 1917 to 2nd Bn. later attached 36th Service Bn, 178th Brigade, 59th Division.
On 14th October 1918, south west of Wez Macquart, France, Second Lieutenant Johnson repelled frequent counter-attacks and for six hours, under heavy fire, he held back the enemy. When at length he was ordered to retire he was the last to leave the advanced position carrying a wounded man. Three times subsequently this officer returned and brought in badly wounded men under intense enemy machine-gun fire.
He was demobilized at the end of 1918, and in 1920 attended the VC Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. In May 1921, he was the victim of an assault while he was walking home one night and was sandbagged, and was robbed of 38 shillings. In September 1921 he relinquished his commission, and was now in the Royal Irish Constabulary with service number 2066 and was posted as a Temporary Cadet to “R” Company. Sadly, he was struck off the service as a deserter soon afterwards.
In 1929, he attended the VC Dinner at the House of Lords. In 1939, he became a Register Clerk at the Army Recruitment Office, and was now living in Plymouth, Devon. In July 1941, he started work with the temporary staff in the Plymouth City Treasurer’s Office and lived at 2, Salisbury Road, Plymouth. Sadly, James died less than two years later, in the City Hospital, Plymouth on 23rd March 1943, at the age of 53. At the time of his death, he was unmarried.
He was cremated at Efford Crematorium, Plymouth, and as with the wishes of his will, his VC was donated to the Northumberland Fusiliers Museum, Alnwick Castle.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NORTHUMBERLAND FUSILIERS, ALNWICK CASTLE
BURIAL PLACE: EFFORD CREMATORIUM, PLYMOUTH, DEVON. ASHES SCATTERED.
James Johnson's VC on display at the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers Museum.
(Picture - Thomas Stewart).
Efford Crematorium, Plymouth Plaque placed in March 2015 (Picture kindly supplied by Carol Pollard)
Widdrington Station, Northumberland (Andrew Swan)