Ernest Johnson – Gunner, Royal Garrison Artillery

Soldiers outside Thursley church one must be Ernest

Title: Soldiers outside Thursley church one must be Ernest
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Ernest was my paternal grandfather, originally from Northamptonshire, born 29/1/1886 in Watford. After marriage to my grandmother, Gertrude, in 1913, he moved to Warren Cottages, Thursley, where he worked at the Warren Mere estate as a gardener.

Ernest enlisted on 26.11.1915 at Godalming, Surrey, joined 12th Essex Regiment on 31.5.1916 then transferred to 25th Training Reserve Battery on 1.9.1916 with the number 30426. He later joined the Royal Garrison Artillery as a Signaller/Gunner: 142011 with the 445th Siege Battery.

RGA badges

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The following is from the 445th Siege Battery’s war diary:-

  • One section personnel only, went out to Western Front 23 September 1917
  • Joined First Army 30.9.17 and was posted to 308th.
  • Went out to Egypt (via France and Italy) 24 September 1917
  • Arrived Alexandria 20.10.17. Remained at Gabrari Camp till 23.12.17, then moved to
    Sidi Bishr; returned to and remained at Alexandria 1.1.18 till 19.2.18.
  • On 23.2.18, right section (personnel only) joined XX Corps. H.A. [Heavy Artillery] and
    were split up, “A” sub section attached to 383rd Siege, “B” subsection to 10th
    Heavy, until 18.3.18. This section then rejoined the left section which had
    remained at Alexandria.
  • Battery complete joined 61st HAG [Heavy Artillery Group] 18.4.18, moved to Salonika with 61st
    HAG, arrived 16.5.18. No subsequent change.

 

A collection of embroidered flags was made by Ernest in 1917. This may have been made during his stay at Stoke-on-Trent war hospital while he was being treated for gas poisoning between 19.8.1917 and 13.11.1917.

s Ernest firescreen

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Ernest’s medal card states that he was in 297th Siege Battery. Research tells me that this battery left Sanctuary Wood, which is near Ypres, on 7.9.1917.

All other information states that he belonged to the 445th Siege Battery. There is no information about what military activity he was involved in, but if he arrived in Salonika in May 1918 (as per the Battery’s war diary, above), there wasn’t much time before he was admitted to hospital in December that year. No exact date is known but the Battery’s war diary states that two Gunners were admitted on the 21 December 1918. The next entry states that one died on the 23 and the other (Ernest) died on the 25 December 1918. He was aged 34 years and died of broncho-pneumonia, most likely as a result of the influenza epidemic prevalent in that area. The hospital was known as 60th General Hospital, which was a collection of tents on the Mount Hortiach plateau during the summer and moved down into the town area for the winter.

Ernest died on 25 December 1918 in hospital and is buried at Mikra Cemetery, Kalamaria. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Further information from Ernest’s war records includes a letter sent to the authorities on behalf of Grandma Gertrude by General Sir Josceline Henage WODEHOUSE of Elm Beams, Elstead, Surrey. It is in the terms of a reference stating that Gertrude had just left his cottage and that Ernest had been employed by him for some years. I presume that the cottage was Warren Lodge because the electoral register shows them as living there at the time of the letter (March 1919). There is no information to show if General Wodehouse owned the estate at Warren Mere. He had been Governor of Bermuda in 1907/08.

Ernest is commemorated on the war memorial in Thursley churchyard and also on the plaque inside Thursley church.

Soldiers outside Thursley church one must be Ernest

Title: Soldiers outside Thursley church one must be Ernest
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This is a photo of a group of soldiers outside Thursley church but I have no idea of the identity of any of them. I am hoping that one of them is my grandfather Ernest. If anyone can help please comment.

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