Alfred William Johnson, of Victoria, B. C.,Canada, died of gas poisoning in France on 17th April, 1918, aged 44 years.
Alfred was born in Madagascar in 1874 and attended Bootham School from 1889 to 1890.
The February 1908 issue of “Bootham”, the school magazine, reports on the annual football match between the school and the Old Scholars. Alfred was a member of the Old Scholars Team, which the report tells us was very strong. (The score was 19-1!)
The same issue of “Bootham” included, in the “Marriages” section:
“JOHNSON—MACKENZIE.—On the 28th December, 1907, at Inverness, Scotland, Alfred William Johnson (1889—90), of Canada, to Mary Lillian Kyttie Mackenzie, of Inverness.”
The October 1909 issue of “Bootham” contained the following Birth announcement:
“JOHNSON.—On the 31st August, 1909, at Balquhidder, Kamloops, British Columbia, Mary Lilian Kythe, wife of Alfred William Johnson (1889-90), a son.”
His son was named Harry William Mackenzie. The March 1912 issue announces another birth:
“JOHNSON.—On the 28th December, 1911, at Balquhiddar, Kamloops, B.C., Mary Kythi, wife of Alfred William Johnson (1889-90), a daughter, who was named Kythi Lucy.”
By 1916, Alfred has joined the War. “Bootham” reports under “War Lists”:
“Under Military Discipline :— Johnson, A. W., Second Lieut., Seaforth Highlanders.”
The “Across the Months” section of “Bootham”, June 1917 includes the following:
“LIEUT. A. M. JOHNSON, R.E., Forest Group, rose from Private in the Infantry by way of the Pioneers (Seaforth), into the R.E., and is now in charge of a group in the First Field Survey Company. He took to golf before the war, and says that it has beaten football and cricket to a “frazzle edge,” in fact to a “Fare ye well,” as the Yankees say.”
Then in 1918, the May edition of “Bootham” reports:
JOHNSON.—On the 17th April, 1918, of wounds received on the 9th, Alfred William Johnson (1889-90), of Victoria, British Columbia, aged 44 years.”
The July 1918 edition of “Bootham” includes the following “In Memoriam” piece:
“ALFRED WILLIAM JOHNSON (1889-90). We heard with deep regret of his death. One of his best friends sent these words: “One of the noblest souls I ever knew. Such devotion to duty! Three years as a Trooper in Strathcona’s in Africa and now the supreme offering for us made in France. “He was Captain in the Royal Engineers, Field Survey Department, and died from gas poisoning on April 17th.”
And then in the December 1918 issue of “Bootham”:
ALFRED WILLIAM JOHNSON (1889-90) was born 1874. His parents were Wm. and Lucy Johnson, missionaries to Madagascar, who in 1895 were murdered in a riot there. He was at Ackworth, and afterwards at Bootham. In 1890 he went into business at Sheffield, but his disposition was quite unsuited to such a life, and in two years’ time he went out to Canada. He had a rough and varied experience there, sometimes prosperous, sometimes “down on his luck” for several years. At length he qualified as a surveyor and obtained a Government appointment on the N.W. survey. In 1899 he volunteered for service with Strathcona’s Horse and fought right through the South African War. In 1908 he married Mary L. K. Mackenzie, of Inverness, whom he had met in Canada. He settled in Kamloops, B.C., where he built a delightful home. Two children were born. In 1915 he came to England and, although over military age, persuaded the authorities to give him a commission in the Seaforth Highlanders. He was later transferred to the Pioneers and given a captaincy. He did very efficient work in range-finding and in mapping positions of enemy guns. He was killed by gas in the great German attack in April. After his death he was awarded the Military Cross.
He was as tough as whipcord. He never had a doctor. His character was just like his physique. He always knew his opinion and never minded stating it. He read widely, was a wonderfully graphic and humorous letter writer, never failed to make himself welcome in jovial company. On the deeper things of life he was very reserved, but he had a very real vein of poetry, which he sometimes failed to conceal. He was intensely British. Above all else he was loyal to old friends and associations. His home life was about as perfect as can be. J. H. D.”
Captain Alfred William Johnson is buried at Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.