Second Lieutenant John Henry Williamson


John Henry Williamson was born on 8 November 1892 (named Thomas John) at Main Street, Limavady, County Londonderry, the second of seven children of shop manager Thomas Williamson and his wife Rebecca (nee Smith). Around 1896 the family moved to Belfast, where John was educated at the Belfast Model School. By 1911 he was living with his parents and three surviving siblings at 41 Londsale Street, Belfast and working as a shopman in the brush business. Soon after they moved to 30 Vicinage Park.

Williamson enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Belfast on 1 October 1914 (No.1243 – later Corps of Hussars No.71298). On 28 April 1915 he embarked for France with a small reinforcement draft, where he was posted to A Squadron.

On 19 December 1915 at Blendeques Williamson was awarded 7 days confined to barracks for being absent from roll-call, and on 30 July the following year, at Pas, 5 days confined to barracks for ill-treating a horse.

On 2 December 1917 Williamson applied for a commission in the infantry, with a preference for the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He left France on 23 December and after a period of leave, on 8 February 1918 reported for duty at No.7 Officer Cadet Battalion, Fermoy. After some months of training he was assessed as having fair education and military knowledge and moderate power of command and leadership. "This Cadet is quite devoid of experience in command. He may make a successful officer after another month's training."

A month later, on 31 July, Williamson was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the 52nd (Graduated) Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Soon after he embarked for France, where he was posted to the 9th Battalion (62nd Brigade, 21st Division), joining it at Walincourt on 10 October.

Thirteen days later the battalion went into action in front of Vendiegies-sur-Écallion, north-east of Cambrai. The war diary for the day reads:

Zero hour at 0200. All objectives were taken up to Vendegie by 0900 on 23rd. The 62nd. Inf. Brigade passed through at 0930 but were held up by Heavy Machine Gun fire about 500 yards in front of Vendiege. During the afternoon the enemy retired to Green Line, running through F.2. & 9. central. 62nd Inf. Bde. followed up and established posts on road.

Williamson was one of the casualties that day, hit by a machine-gun bullet through his left hip. Two days later he was admitted to No.3 General Hospital, Le Treport, and then sent to England, where he was treated at the Officers' War Hospital, Exeter. A medical board on 17 December 1918 found "he was wounded by a M.G. bullet left hip 'through & through' wound involving muscles only." He had fully recovered, and was ordered to report to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry at Patrington after three weeks' leave.

Williamson was then posted to the 5th Battalion, serving in the Army of Occupation at Euskirchenn in Germany. On 18 June 1919 he faced a court-martial charged with drunkeness, but was acquitted. On 17 September he relinquished his commission on completion of his service.

On 10 January 1920 at Whitehall, London, Williamson re-enlisted in the army, as a private in the motor transport branch of the Royal Army Service Corps (No. M/23569). On 10 January 1922 he was discharged as being no longer physically fit for service – he was suffering from a cerebral tumour. His military character was assessed as "good". The commanding officer of 1154 Motor Transport Company in Belfast wrote: "I consider him a fair motor driver. He has carried out his duties satisfactorily."

Two years later Williamson wrote to the War Office stating that his medical condition was now A1.