Monday, 19 May 2014

Corporal William Foster Johnson

I've written about 'Uncle Will' before; I've referred to him in several posts, in fact.

But this year, of all years, it seems appropriate to mark the day of his death - a heroic death, a tragic death, a death among hundreds of thousands of other deaths between the years 1914 and 1918 but one made more poignant by being both personal to me as well as occurring a matter of months before the end of the war to end all wars.

I wonder what Uncle Will would have made of the fact that, twenty-odd years later, there'd be another war between the same sides fighting on the same western Front where he was fighting? Or that, since those guns stopped firing, there's barely been a year when they haven't been firing in anger somewhere in the world as part of some armed conflict.

Would he have fought so tenaciously in a cause he must, at the time, have thought just? He was a brave man, winner of the Military Medal as well as both the DSO and Bar. But would he have carried on such acts of bravery if he had known that the fighting would still rumble on, somewhere, probably for all time?

Knowing what little I know of him he probably would. But I would love to know more. We know when he died, where he is buried. But in spite of research (and help from various people) I can find out nothing about where he was serving when he sustained his fatal injuries, or what the map of his war was.

His battalion (12th West Yorks) was first merged (with 8th East Yorks) to form an entrenching battalion before being disbanded in April 1918 (a not uncommon occurrence when managing huge losses). But Uncle Will kept the same regimental number, suggesting he didn't go from the West Yorks to the East but was transferred within the Regiment somewhere else.

But where?

I'd love to find out more. I'd love to be able to put in place the pieces of Uncle Will's war jigsaw and those of the many others like him.

But in the meantime, in the words of Laurence Binyon, let it be enough merely, at the going down of the sun and in the morning, to remember them.


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