In memoriam

Private James Frazer Johnston

 

 

 

James Frazer Johnston was born on 19 May 1897 at Ballygawley, Clogher, County Tyrone, the eldest of five children of RIC constable Joseph Johnston and his wife Mary Jane (nee Frazer). After Joseph retired in 1910 the family moved to Blacklion in County Cavan, where they opened a drapery shop.

Johnston enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron at Enniskillen in March 1915 (No.UD/229). In 1916 or the first half of 1917 he embarked for France, where he joined the squadron as a reinforcement.

In June 1916 the Inniskillings squadron had joined with C and F Squadrons of the North Irish Horse to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, which served as corps cavalry to X Corps until August the following year. In September 1917 the 2nd Regiment was dismounted and most of its officers and men were transferred to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – which was renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion. Johnston, like the majority of the men, was transferred to the battalion on 20 September. He was issued a new regimental number – 41126, and posted to A Company.

During the battalion's retreat from St Quentin in the German Spring offensive of March 1918, Johnston received a head wound. He died soon after, on 25 March.

Private Johnston was buried just south of Roye (map reference 66.d.S.3.a.4.5) in the Roye-St Gilles German Military Cemetery, where 85 United Kingdom soldiers were buried by the Germans in March and April 1918. After the war his body was exhumed and re-buried in Roye New British Cemetery, Somme, France, grave IV.B.3. His gravestone inscription reads:

41126 PRIVATE
J. F. JOHNSTON
ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS
AND INNISKILLING DRAGOONS
25TH MARCH 1918 AGE 20

WHETHER WE LIVE OR DIE
WE ARE THE LORD'S
ROMANS CHAP. 14 VERSE 8

 

According to family recollections, a few months after the war Johnston's friend Herbert Brownlee, who had been captured during the retreat from St Quentin, came into the Johnstons' shop in Blacklion. He told them he had comforted James as he was dying and said he was calling for his mother. Brownlee gave them James' watch and cap badge.

 

 

First image of Private Johnston kindly provided by David Johnston; second image sourced from Ancestry - Joe Johnston.  Gravestone image kindly provided by Mick McCann, through his British War Graves website www.britishwargraves.co.uk.