John Drummond JOHNSTON. "Jack" (1898-1917)

9th Infantry Brigade AIF

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35th BATTALION A.I.F.

Corporal: 1449 John Drummond JOHNSTON. "Jack"


Born: 1898. Quirindi, New South Wales, Australia. Birth Cert:6431/1898.

Died: 18th July 1917. Killed in Action Messines Ridge, Belgium.


Father: Stephen Drummond Johnston.

Mother: Margaret "Maggie" Johnston. nee: Coakley.


INFORMATION

John "Jack" Drummond Johnston enlisted with Headquarter Company, 35th Battalion AIF on the 1st of December 1915 and left Sydney on board HMAT A24 "Benalla" on the 1st of May 1916 and disembarked at Plymouth England on the 9th of July 1916. Jack was marched to the Durrington Army Camp at Larks Hill and commenced training with the 9th Training Battalion. Jack proceeded overseas for France on the on the 21st of November 1916.

Jack was taken on in strength with Headquarter Signals and went into action with the 35th Battalion where he fought at the 1st Battle of Messines in June 1917.

7th June 1917.

THE BATTLE OF MESSINES

The 3rd Australian Divisions first major offencive was at Messines Ridge on the 7th June 1917. The Australian 3rd Division was a part of the II Anzac Corps which was allotted to the first assault. The 25th New Zealand, 3rd Australian Division with the 4th Australian Division in reserve. The 4th Division were battle hardened troops who had fought many major battles.The 3rd Australian Division were having problems getting to the "jump off" point. The day before the 9th and 10th Infantry Brigades were bombarded by German Gas-Shells around Hill 63 and Plugstreet Wood. Many of the Aussies were not wearing gas masks, but dispite this they pressed on even though they received 500 casulties.

They made it to the "jump off" point but only just with some of the men from the 9th and 10th going straight over the top without stopping. The mines went up and the attack commenced behind a protective barrage. The II Anzac Corps were attacking on the right with their objective being the southern shoulder of the ridge which included Messines, the Dover and St Yves areas as far south to the east of Plugstreet Wood.

Major General: Sir John MONASH's 3rd Division had to contend with a tricky 3 mile approach out of Plugstreet Wood and after the German gas attack, but they were not detered. The 9th Infantry Brigade under Brigadier General: Alexander JOBSON and the 10th Infantry Brigade under Brigadier General W R NICHOLL, had just made the jumping off point but some of the men did not stop, going straight into the assault from the approach march.

Their objective lay between St Yves and the Douve. The mines at Trench 127 and Trench 12 at Factory Farm were laid to aid this task. The explosions erupted a few seconds before zero hour and created craters of 200 feet in diameter, completely obliterating the German defence line as the 9th and 10th Infantry Brigades went over the top. The mine crates forced the 9th and 10th Brigades to veer to the left and right which caused some confusion with the main assault. It is testimony to the quality of training that every man knew the ground, tasks and objectives so well.

Private: 1804 John CARROLL 33rd Battalion rushed the enemy's trench and bayoneted four of the German occupants. He then noticed a comrade in difficulties and went to his assistance, killing another German. He then attacked single handed a German Machine Gun Team, killing all three of them and capturing the gun. He later rescued two of his comraded who had been buried alive by German Shell Fire, and in spite of heavy shelling and machine gun fire he dug them out alive and saved them from certain death. John was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The German foward zone was completely engulfed and taken by the main assault. The two supporting battalions of each brigade then passed the leading battalion to continue the advance. The men were constantly re-supplied and the ridge was taken. There were many German prisoners taken during the offencive. The 3rd Division was well ahead with the 9th Infantry Brigade pushing on beyond Grey Farm, and on the right the 10th Infantry Brigade were veering left towards Septieme Barn north of Douve.

The German resistance was heavy but was generally brushed aside by tanks and artillery before the infantry had to become too involved.The 4th Bavarian Divisions Artillery had mede little impact, but as the day wore on the 3rd Division and later the 4th Australian Division received many casulties from German artillery. (70% of all casulties during WW1 were from artillery).

By 9:00am nearly 6 hours after the assault began the Germans were in dissaray, but there was a major problem as the Australians received less casulties as anticipated and when ordered to dig into the ridge they had so many men, that some could not find shelter. the 35th battalion were dug in around Seaforth Farm.

The second phase of the operation was to take the Oosttaverne Line. The 3rd Australian Division would now be in reserve with the 4th Division attacking. The 9th Infantry Brigade (33-34-35-36Bn) were near Thatched Cottage facing Warneton. The river Lys was to their right and the Plugstreet Wood was now behind them.

Once their objectives were taken the troops consolidated. A barrarge to stop and counter attack was shortnened and caught three battalions which had to retire. By 9:00pm this part of the Oosttaverne Line was abandonded. At 10:45pm General Godley ordered the 3rd and 4th Divisions to retake it. This they did by the early hours of the 8th of June.

The Battle for Messines Ridge during May-June 1917 saw 35 officers and 1,631 other ranks loose their lives.

9th Infanry Brigade Casulties.
33rd Battalion. AIF 8 Officers 382 Other ranks
34th Battalion. AIF 10 Officers 378 Other ranks
35th Battalion. AIF 5 Officers 431 Other ranks
36th Battalion. AIF 9 Officers 421 Other ranks
9th Machine Gun Company. AIF 2 Officer 17 Other ranks
9th Light Trench Mortor Battery. 1 Officer 2 Other ranks

After surving this major offensive after 8 months of active service he was promoted to Corporal on the 15th of July 1917 after Corporal:3170 Winsleigh Aleaxander MURRAY HQ Coy 35th Battalion was promoted to Sergeant. But afer only 3 days service after his promotion Jack was Killed in Action at Messines Ridge, Belgium and is remembered with honour and commemerated in perpetuity by the Commonweath War Graves Commission at the MENIN GATE MEMORIAL, Ypres.

Menin Gate Memorial

MENIN GATE WAR MEMORIAL

Jack has no known grave.

Family Information

Jack was a single 18 year old Apprentice Baker from Bunn Street, Wallsend, N.S.W. upon enlistment. He worked for W.M Abel for over 2 years as an Apprentice. Jack aslo served with 15B Wallsend, Senior Cadets for 4 years. His parents Stephen and Maggie Johnston were married in 1897 at Quirindi, N.S.W. Marriage Cert:6211/1897 and had at least 5 children. John Drummond Johnston born 1898 at Quirindi, N.S.W. Birth Cert:6431/1898 and died in 1917 at Messines, Belgium. Stephen Drummond Johnston born 1899 at Quirindi, N.S.W. Birth Cert:33928/1899 and died in 1899 at Quirindi, N.S.W. Death Cert:14865/1899. Janet Margaret Johnston born 1901 at Gunnedah, N.S.W. Birth Cert:3783/1901. James E Johnston born 1903 at Wallsend, N.S.W. Birth Cert:35109/1903. Robert Johnston born 1907 at Wallsend, N.S.W. Birth Cert:19087/1907/ and died in 1977. N.S.W. Death Cert:101524/1977.

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Commonwealth of Australia (National Archives of Australia)

Under Construction; 18/04/2009-10/02/2017.


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