1914 - 2023

The Marston Lads

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John Johnson

Killed in Action
9th April 1917

Aged 19

The Cheshire Regiment

'And later'

The 7th Battalion
King's Shropshire Light Infantry

45 Wincham Lane

John Johnson was born 1898 in Wincham and was one of 13 children born to Alfred and Emma Johnson. By 1911, two children had died. John Johnson was 13 years old in 1911 and at school.

John Johnson joined the Cheshire Regiment, and at some point transferred to The 7th Battalion King's Shropshire Light Infantry. Unfortunately, despite an exhaustive search, no military records from either regiment have been located. The only document that appears to have survived is his record card. But it's fair to presume he signed up in 1916, at the age of 18 years.

John Johnson was killed on the 9th April 1917 and his body was never recovered. He is Remembered with Honour at the Arras Memorial, France.

We do know a lot about the area he was killed. The 9th April 1917 was the start of The Second Battle of Arras and a British offensive on the Western Front during World War I. From 9 April to 16 May 1917, British troops attacked German defences near the French city of Arras on the Western Front.

The casualty figures for the Second Battle of Arras are disturbing. Third Army casualties were 87,226; First Army 46,826 (including 11,004 Canadians at Vimy Ridge); and Fifth Army 24,608; totalling 158,660 in just five weeks.

As the author of this website, I lost two relatives in this battle. The sheer number of casualties is even more shameful when you consider after five weeks of carnage, nothing was gained, not a single inch of ground, an utter pointless waste of human life.

'John Johnson' A remarkable chain of events'

I had visited the Marston Memorial a number of times, as I had many other local war memorials. Having recently returned from our yearly visit to Europe after visiting the various Commonwealth Cemeteries in 2015, I was asked by my Aunt, Kathleen Hayes, if the name of 'J Johnson' on the Marston Memorial could be related to her with her maiden name being Johnson. It didn't take me long to confirm that soldier J Johnson was, in fact, her Uncle, John Johnson.

As already stated, his war records were missing but the search continued, and then my Aunts daughter-in-Law came across an internet post from a woman in Lostock Gralam who had just dug out of her garden a First World War medal with the name engraved 'J Johnson' and regiment number 3823, The Cheshire Regiment.

A few weeks later, my Aunt got a knock at the door and received into her hand the very medal that had been lost for over 90 years. The medal was cleaned and the missing ribbon replaced. How it came to be in a garden in Lostock Gralam, we will never know.

The story was covered by The Northwich Guardian and can be read by clicking this LINK.

Kathleen Hayes with John Johnson's found War Medal.

 In 2017, exactly 100 years since John Johnson was killed, we visited The Arras Memorial in France where John Johnson is commemorated, for an emotional reunion.
Left: Kathleen Hayes son Robert Hayes, who was also in The Cheshire Regiment, at The Arras Memorial France, 2017.

The Arras War Memorial, Arras, France.
Tony Hayes