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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 41298
2nd Suffolk Regiment
Who was killed in action on Thursday, 27th September 1917
Age 19

No Known Grave Panel 40 to 41 & 162 to 162a
Memorial to the "Missing", Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele, West Flanders, Belgium

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour

Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium1

Frank Johnson was born in Beeston, Notts in 1898, the youngest of seven sons, one of at least 12 children2 of Frederick (b. c1857, Nottingham) and Mary, his wife (née Priestley3b. c1861, Barton, Notts). Although originally from Birmingham, Frederick had lived in Nottingham when he and Mary started their family. In about 1888, they moved to Beeston where, it seems, Frederick had obtained a job as a filer with Humber Cycles. In 1891, they were living at Lower Regent Street, Beeston4. By 1901, they had moved to 119 Queens Road, Beeston and Frederick was working as a brass bobbin finisher5. In 1911, the family had moved to 49 Windsor Street, Beeston6. Frederick was still in his brass bobbin job and six or the sons had found work in the surrounding engineering factories - Ericssons Telephones and local foundries. Frank, aged 12, was not quite old enough to leave school.

As Frank's Army Service Record has not survived, we do not have a precise record of when he enlisted, but it was probably in late 1916 or early 1917 with the Sherwood Foresters7. It is probable that he was posted to France in the Spring of 1917, after training and immediately following his 19th birthday8. He was then attached to 2nd Battalion Suffolk Regiment, a battalion that had been on the Western Front since it was mobilised in August 1914. In the early battles it had suffered a huge number of casualties - over 700 at the Battle of Le Cateau. After reorganisation, it went on to fight in many of the major battles of 1915 and 1916, including Hooge, Albert and the Ancre. Its involvement in the Battles of the Scarpe, between early April and early May, were probably Frank's brutal introduction to the reality of the Western Front. The operations, east of Arras against the newly established German Hindenburg Line involved British, Commonwealth and French troops. Early attacks, including the Vimy Ridge attack were successful with significant gains but the later phases were less so and, once again, there were very heavy casualties9.

Then on the last day of July, the three-month long series of bitter battles which made up the Third Battle of Ypres - also known as Passchendaele - with 2nd battalion taking a full part in both the Battle of Menin Road and the Battle of Polygon Wood towards the end of September. At Polygon Wood, the battalion, as part of 3rd Division, took part in successful attacks against Zonnebeke and resisted German counter-attacks. Private Johnson was amongst the inevitable casualties on the 27th September.

As Private Johnson's body was never identified he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing within the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery of that name. The cemetery grounds were assigned to the United Kingdom in perpetuity by King Albert I of Belgium in recognition of the sacrifices made by the British Empire in the defence and liberation of Belgium during the war. On the forward slope of the Passchendaele Ridge is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any war. The cemetery and its surrounding memorial are located outside of Passchendaele, near Zonnebeke in Belgium. The Cross of Sacrifice is to be found in a central position in the cemetery, at the base of the cross a small patch of the original German Block House can still be seen, contained within a bronze wreath, while on the far side, between it and the memorial wall, is a collection of some 300 graves. These are the original battle-field burials left where they were found after the Armistice. The other some nearly 12,000 graves which stand in parade ground order, were brought in from the surrounding area after the Armistice. The stone wall surrounding the cemetery makes up the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing. On completion of the Menin Gate memorial to the missing in Ypres, it was discovered that it was too small to contain all the names that were originally planned. An arbitrary cut-off point of 15th August was chosen and the names of the UK missing after this date were inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial instead. The memorial contains the names of 33,783 soldiers of the UK forces and a further 1,176 New Zealanders.10.

Private Johnson was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal11. His financial effects, amounting to 2 6 7d were paid to his father on 16 February 1918 and he was also paid his War Gratuity of 3 on 31 October 191912.

At least two of Frank's brothers, Arthur and William, and probably more, are known to have served during the war and, thankfully, survived.

1The photograph of the Tyne Cot Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q2/1898 (Ref 7b 212). His siblings were Archibald Josiah (b.1885), Sophia (b. c1885), Hilda (c1889-1889), Frederick (b. c1890), Thomas (b. c1892, Arthur (b. 1893), Albert b. 1895), William (b. 1896), Beatrice Anne (1900-1907), Nellie (b. 1901) and Louise (b. C1904.
3Mary's maiden name is based solely on that given when her children were registered. In the 1911 Census, it was recorded that she and Frederick had been married 26 years but no matching marriage has been found. It is possible that she had been married previously although nothing has been found.
4Beeston, Notts, 1891 Census, Piece 2671 Folio 123).
5Beeston, Notts, 1901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 132).
6Beeston, Notts, 1911 Census, Piece 20430 RD429 SD3 ED5 Sched 14.
7Based on the amount of his War Gratuity which indicates that he had served for less than 12 months when he was killed.
8Men under 19 could not then be sent overseas. Changes in 1917, allowed men aged 18 years and 6 months to be sent overseas as long as they had had six months training. We do not know Frank's exact birth date although, based on the quarter in which is birth was registered, it is likely to have been in April-June 1917.
9This summary of the battalion's deployment is based on its entry on the Forces War Records site (www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/324/suffolk-regiment)
10The description of the Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial is based on that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
11Details from Frank's Medal Card and Medal Roll - available on ancestry.com.
12Details from "Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929" - available on ancestry.com.

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