James Johnston GC (EM exchanger)

b. 12/12/1881 Greenock, Scotland.  d. 07/09/1974 Salisbury, Wiltshire.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 07/01/1925 Mohpani Colliery, India.

James Johnston (1881-1974) was born on the 12th December 1881 in Greenock, Scotland, the son of James and Christina Johnston (nee Munro). His father was a journeyman engineer in Greenock. When he was just four years old, the family moved to India and James attended St James School in Calcutta (now Kolkata) then trained at a college based in Dhanbab in the prrovinces of Bihar and Orissa. On the 28th December 1912, he married Dorothy Alice Trump, the daughter of a Somerset Light Infantry officer.

James Johnston GC

James and Dorothy had six children, though two of their sons, Eric and Ian pre-deceased them. Their other children were Noel, Dorothy, Iris and Sheila. James worked as a Senior European Overseer at the Mohpani Colliery of the Indian Peninsula Railway Company when the incident occurred which led to an Edward Medal in Bronze.

On 7th January 1925, a large roof fall took place at Mohpani Colliery, killing 1 miner and burying another called Nanoo Maora. When a report reached the Under-Manager, James Kipling, he immediately went tp the scene accompanied by Johnston and Nani Khan, a timber drawer. They crawled through the fall and after 15 minutes succeeded in estracting the trapped man. Within 20 minutes of the rescue, another 20 tons of rock fell on the very spot where he had been buried.

On the 19th March 1926, the London Gazette announced the awards of Edward Medal in Bronze to James Johnston, James Kipling and Nani Khan for saving the life of Nanoo Maora. James remained working the railways after the action. After nationalisation of the railways he worked for the new State Railways until his retirement in 1948, aged 67.

He and his wife Dorothy then decided to leave India and embarked on the maiden voyage of the “Caledonia” back to England. They then settled in Salisbury in Wiltshire, and in 1971, following the change in the Royal Warrant, he was offered the opportunity to exchange his Edward Medal for a George Cross. The family story is that when his son Noel told him about the offer and which medal he would like to keep, James simply replied “anything”. Johnston received the George Cross by post due to ill health stopping him attending an investiture in 1972, and sent his Edward Medal to the Imperial War Museum.

James died on 7th September 1974, aged 92, and was cremated at Salisbury Crematorium, where there is an entry in the Book of Remembrance. His ashes were scattered in the Garden of Remembrance. His George Cross is proudly held by the Johnston family.