b. 15/08/1890 Streatham, London. d. 26/11/1917 Cambrai, France.
Frederick Henry Johnson (1890-1917) was born at 13 Bedford Row, Streatham, London on 15th August 1890. His father was Samuel Rogers Johnson, a confectioner’s traveller who later became a baker and confectioner who ran his own shop. Frederick’s mother was Emily nee White and his parents married in 1884 in Camberwell, London. Frederick had a brother, Benjamin Bertie Johnson.
Frederick was educated at Whitgift Middle School, Croydon and St Dunstan’s College, Catford from 1902-1907. He was employed as an engineer apprentice and improver from 1907-1911 and then attended Battersea Polytechnic 1911-1914 (BSc (Eng) Hons 1914 – University of London). He joined the London University Officer Training Corps in August 1914 and was living in Cranworth Gardens, Brixton Road, London at the time. He was commissioned on 24th October 1914 and went to France between 7th and 13th July 1915.
In the attack on Hill 70 on 25th September, 1915. Second Lieutenant Johnson was with a section of his company of the Royal Engineers. Although wounded in the leg, he stuck to his duty throughout the attack, led several charges on the German redoubt, and at a very critical time, under very heavy fire, repeatedly rallied the men who were near him. By his splendid example and cool courage he was mainly instrumental in saving the situation and in establishing firmly his part of the position which had been taken. He remained at his post until relieved in the evening.
Due to his wounds, he was evacuated to England and promoted to Lieutenant on 8th December. The VC was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 22nd December 1915. He returned to France in January 1916, but was back in Britain on 12th May, when Battersea Polytechnic gave him a hero’s welcome and he was presented with a portrait painting by Canon Curtis. A duplicate was presented to Battersea Polytechnic later in 1916. He was appointed temporary Captain on 15th January and acting Major on 30th November. Promoted Captain 18th September 1917. Later he commanded 231st Field Company Royal Engineers.
While conducting a reconnaissance with two other officers in Bourlon Wood on 26th November 1917, they came under fire and one of the officers went missing. While looking for him, Johnson was shot and died of his wounds later the same day at Graincourt Dressing Station. He was buried near Bourlon Wood, but the grave was not found after the war, and he is commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial. His VC action featured in the Victor comic in June 1968.
Frederick never married. His will was administered by his mother and valued at £806. His VC was unsold at a Glendinning’s auction on 1st March 1989. However, the VC was reportedly purchased at the time for £9,000 by the former British Trade Minister, Alan Clark MP. Its current location is unknown and its assumed its in a private collection.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: NO KNOWN GRAVE - ON CAMBRAI MEMORIAL, FRANCE. PANEL 1/2.
St Dunstan's School, Catford
Wandsworth Town Hall
War Illustrated, 4th December 1915
War Illustrated, 2nd February 1918