Lieutenant Benjamin Johnston



Benjamin Johnston was born at Stranorlar, County Donegal, on 20 April 1880, the first of at least five children of medical practitioner and surgeon Henry Maturin Johnston and his wife, Mellicent Agnes Bleunerhassett (nee Stapleton), the daughter of an officer in the Royal Navy. He was educated at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen.

He served in the Boer War in the 54th (2nd Belfast) Company, 13th (Irish) Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry (No.9554), from 5 February 1900 to to 28 February 1901, and was wounded at Lindley on 28 May 1900. He was later discharged as no longer fit for service.

Johnston then emigrated to Canada, where he worked as a rancher at Priddis, near Calgary, Alberta. On 10 April 1916 he enlisted at Calgary in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (No.228173). He embarked for England on 29 June with the 13th Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles, arriving a week later. There he was taken on strength of the reserve regiment of Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) at Shorncliffe.

Two months later he applied for a commission in the North Irish Horse. He was sent to the No.1 Cavalry Cadet Squadron at Netheravon on 6 December 1917.

On 17 April 1917 Johnston was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the North Irish Horse reserve regiment at Antrim. There he remained until 30 January 1918, when he was sent to France to join the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment.

In February-March 1918 the 1st North Irish Horse was dismounted and converted to a corps cyclist regiment. This left around a quarter of the officers and men of the regiment surplus to requirements. Between 1 and 13 March nine officers and 66 other ranks left the regiment, all but three of the latter reporting for duty at the Machine Gun Base Depot at Camiers. However following heavy losses in the German offensive at the end of March, most were attached as reinforcements to regular cavalry units of the 1st Cavalry Division. The war diary of the 9th (Queen's Royal) Lancers notes on 3 April that six officers of the North Irish Horse joined the regiment, one of those being 2nd Lieutenant Johnston.

On 17 October 1918 Johnston was promoted to lieutenant.

After the Armistice the 9th Lancers served at Düren in Germany as part of the Army of Occupation. The regiment's war diary notes that Johnston was hospitalised there between 12 and 30 January 1919. On 3 March he was demobilised, and on 1 April the following year he relinquished his commission in the North Irish Horse.

After the war Johnston returned to Calgary, Canada. He died on 15 November 1946.