James Frederick Johnson, Company Sgt Major 6939, “D” Coy. 9th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps
Died 30th July 1915 in Belgium, aged 27
James Frederick Johnson was born on 18th October and baptised on 19th December 1887 at Sunderland Street Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Macclesfield, the son of Alice and Frederick Johnson, a shoeing smith of 4 Court, Pierce Street, Macclesfield.
By 1901 the family had moved to 7 George Street West, and 13 year old James was living here with his parents and siblings Annie (11), William (8) and Betsy (4). By this time James had left school and was working as a cotton weaver.
On 30th January 1906 James attested at Macclesfield for six years as a Militiaman with the Cheshire Regiment, receiving the service number 5970. He informed the attesting officer that he was now living at 7 Court 1 House Pierce Street, Macclesfield, and was employed by Mr. P. Davenport of Bridge Street Mill as a wire coverer. He also stated that he was presently serving with the 5th Volunteer Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment.
The army medical records show that he was 5 feet 4½ inches tall, weighed 123 pounds and had a 31½ inch chest measurement. He was described as having a fresh complexion, blue eyes, and light brown hair, and had two small circular scars on his left knee, three vaccination marks on his left arm and a linear scar at the back of his head.
On 22nd March that year James transferred to the Kings Royal Rifle Corps and travelled to Winchester for his training. James served in India from 9th January 1907 until 9th December 1913; during this time he made good progress as he was promoted to Lance Corporal on 4th April 1908 and then Corporal on 17th January 1911. He is listed in 1911 census at the Kings Royal Rifle Corps barracks at Chakrata in India.
James was stationed in the UK from 10th December 1913 until 20th May 1915. It was during this spell of home service that he married Daisy Knight, of Stansted, Kent on 23rd November 1914 at Farnham Register Office. After marriage, Daisy lived at Brattons [Cottages, Plaxdale Green Road], Stansted, near Wrotham, Kent.
Their daughter Alice Bertha was born at Malling on 26th June 1915, one month before James died.
James was promoted to Sergeant on the 7th August 1914, at the start of the war, and to Company Sergeant Major on 3rd November 1914.
The battalion embarked from Folkestone on the SS Victoria on 20th May 1915, landing at Boulogne at 2am the next day. From there, they marched 2½ miles uphill to camp at Ostrohove. On 22nd May they travelled by train to Zeggers Cassell, where they heard the guns faintly in the distance for the first time. On 30th May, the battalion left at 5am and marched to Dickebusch, 4 miles southwest of Ypres, moving again to Vlamertinghe in mid-June, and to Poperinghe at the end of the month.
On 19th July the battalion marched to Basseboom. There was heavy enemy shelling overnight on 29th July and at lunchtime on the 30th, A and B companies, and C and D companies moved to positions south and north of the Menin Road respectively, in preparation for an attack; considerable losses were suffered whilst moving into these positions. There was a preliminary bombardment from 2pm to 2:45pm, after which Lieut. H. S. Richmond advanced to the attack, followed by B and D companies from the communication trench north of the Menin Road. Trench G10 was retaken without much opposition but heavy losses occurred from rifle and machine gun fire at the top of trench G10. James Johnson was killed at some time during this day, but his body was never found.
Coy Sgt Maj James Johnson has no known grave and is commemorated on panel ref. 51 and 53 of the Menin Gate memorial at Ypres in Belgium.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Coy Sgt Maj James Johnson, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
Elsewhere, he is commemorated on the Stansted village war memorial in Kent.