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This article was written and researched by Susannah Barton-Rossall.

William Johnson was born on 28th July 1892 at 20 Tuson Street, Preston. His parents were (William) Robert Johnson and Ellen Atkinson (nee Hibbert). Both Robert and Ellen were previously widowed and were married by Registrar’s Licence at St Mark’s Church,~Preston on 22nd August 1891.

William was born in July the following year, and was the eldest of the ten children that were to be born to Robert and Ellen. There were two half-siblings from William’s parents’ previous marriages. In 1911,when William was 18 years old, the family was living at 76 Maudland Bank, Preston, and William was working in a cotton warehouse.

William Johnson, 1912.

William Johnson, 1912.

William signed up with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on 12th September 1914, about 5 weeks after war was declared. He was just over 22 years old. He was assigned to the 1st/4th Battalion of the Regiment. He embarked at Folkestone for France on 3rd May 1915. He was made a Lance Corporal on 4th February 1916.


William was fighting in the Battle for the Somme when he was killed in action on 1st August 1916, aged 24.

The Battalion account for 30th July 1916 says that on that night the 1/4th Battalion were sent into trenches at Guillemont . These were old German communications trenches with no dugouts. Within hours of their arrival the Battalion was subjected to heavy artillery fire & sustained many casualties.



This is probably where William was killed. He has no known grave. His name is inscribed on Thiepval Memorial in France, and also on the War Memorial in Preston.


William was awarded the Victory Medal, the British War Medal and the 1914-15 Star. These were delivered to the family during 1920-21. William’s service records also show that his personal effects consisting of 2 identity discs, letters, a cigarette case and a cap, were received and signed for by his mother in November 1916.

After the trauma of losing their eldest son, Robert and Ellen were to suffer more sorrow when William’s younger brother Richard was killed in action just over twelve months later at the Battle for the Menin Road.

Paul McCormick
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