b. 15/10/1890 Worksop, Nottinghamshire. d. 25/04/1945 Arnold, Nottinghamshire.
William Henry Johnson (1890-1945) was born in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, on the 15th October 1890. He was the son of William and Elizabeth Johnson, and had an older brother Edward. He worked at Manton Colliery and was a bell ringer at Worksop Priory Church. He enlisted in to the Sherwood Foresters on the 9th February 1916. Serving as a Sergeant in the 1/5th Battalion, Nottinghamshire Regiment when he preformed the deed for which he was awarded the VC.
On 3rd October 1918 at Ramicourt, France, when Sergeant Johnson’s Platoon was held up by a German machine gun nest, he worked his way forward under heavy fire, and single-handed charged the post, bayoneting several gunners and capturing two machine guns. During this attack he was severely wounded, but continued to lead forward his men. Shortly afterwards, the line was once more held up by machine guns. Again, he rushed forward, attacked the post single-handed, bombed the garrison, put the guns out of action and captured the teams.
The citation for the award of the VC was posted in the London Gazette 14th December 1918. The VC was presented to him by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 29th March 1919. In March 1920, he was awarded the French Medaille Militaire.
He served in the Home Guard during World War II, but while serving in a searchlight unit, he suffered an injury to his leg that necessitated amputation. Later he was admitted to hospital at Sheffield for further treatment, and shortly afterwards his second foot was amputated. Sadly, William didn’t recover from his injuries and died on 25th April 1945. He was buried in Redhill Cemetery, Nottingham with full military honours. One of the mourners at his funeral was John Caffrey VC. In October 2011, The Newark Advertiser newspaper reported that the wording on his headstone at Arnold was repainted. The report noted “The Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Victoria Cross Committee donated half of the £360 it cost to renovate Sergeant William Henry Johnson’s faded epitaph.
“The committee’s chairman, Mr Tony Higton of Bingham, said the committee was approached by sergeant Johnson’s grandson, Mr Keith Johnson of Radcliffe-on-Trent, to help fund the project and was only too happy to help”. “Mr Keith Johnson did not ask the Victoria Cross Committee to pay for the full cost of the headstone restoration because he wanted to contribute something”. He commented “I was not quite five years old when he died but I know he helped anyone who asked… He was easy going and was a lovely man. Everyone who knew him said that. I just want everybody to know about him – I am so proud”.
William’s medals including the VC, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, King George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and French Medaille Militaire are held by the Sherwood Foresters Museum, Nottingham Castle.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: SHERWOOD FORESTERS MUSEUM, NOTTINGHAM.
BURIAL PLACE: REDHILL CEMETERY, NOTTINGHAMSHIRE. SECTION L, GRAVE 6.
Kevin Brazier – Map of Redhill Cemetery.
Mark Sanders – Johnson’s Medal Card.
Mark Jones – Image of Johnson’s Medal Group at Nottingham Castle.
Gary Crosby – Image of Johnson’s VC Stone in Canch Park, Worksop.