Service Number 72387
Battalion 126th Siege Battery
Regiment Royal Garrison Artillery
Killed in Action: 18th April 1917
Buried Canadian Cemetery No. 2, Neuville St.Vaast, France
Arthur Johnson was born on the 6th October 1889 in Crakehall, the fourth of 13 children of Ingram and Sarah Johnson. By 1911, Arthur was living with his parents at South End, Bedale, and he gave his occupation as a domestic gardener.
Arthur enlisted in the Army in Harrogate around March 1916 and served as a gunner in the 126th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA).
126th Siege Battery RGA went out to France on the 25th July 1916 and served in a number of Heavy Artillery Groups. The war diary of 126th Siege Battery RGA shows that in April 1917, they were supporting an attack near Vimy Ridge. On 13th April the battery was moving from Louez to Neuville St.Vaast. Even during a move, this was a dangerous sector, and on that day a member of the battery, Gnr Shadbolt , was killed while on his way to an observation post on Vimy Ridge. The next day, on the 14th April, No. 4 gun was in action by 8am and was registered on its targets – the wire in front of Mericourt and Arleaux Church by 11am. On the 15th, the battery was ordered to bring up the other three guns, but only two caterpillars (the towing vehicles for the guns) arrived so two guns (Nos 1 and 3) were moved forward and were positioned by 7pm and the remaining one (No.2) was in place by 8am on the 16th. The Germans were obviously aware of the moves since the positions were shelled all night and the war diary records that a Lieutenant was buried by one shell. Due to the delay in getting the guns into position, on the 16th April, three of the guns were in action by 11am, while the fourth was firing by 2.25pm. Their targets were again the wire and trenches in front of Mericourt. They fired 251 rounds and claimed 43 hits in the wire and 2 on the trenches. On the 17th April there was rain, hail and snow all day and ranging and registration on targets was difficult and much shooting was done by map reference. The German counter battery work was good and a shell splinter hit the spring box of No. 3 gun and put it out of action, but 195 rounds were still fired by the battery.
Arthur Johnson was killed on the 18th April 1917. The weather was bad like the previous day with rain, snow and sleet all day. The battery fired 212 rounds on the wire and trenches but observation and accurate registration was difficult. The gunners claimed to have seen several rounds fall in the enemy trenches and so the aim was taken as fairly accurate. Lt Hourihane even tried going out into No Man’s Land to set up an observation post, but the ground mist prevented observation. During the day and night the German counter battery work was again accurate and shells fell at frequent intervals during the day and night. One of these shells got the edge of No.4 gun platform and killed Gnrs Johnson and Smith (it is unusual for War Diaries to give names of other ranks, but these two soldiers are named).
The death of Arthur Johnson was reported in the Wetherby News of April 27th 1917.
Arthur Johnson was buried in Canadian No.2 Cemetery at Neuville St.Vaast very close to Vimy Ridge.
1911 Census. The National Archives. Class RG14 Piece 29389
The Wetherby News 27/4/1917
First World War Medal Index Cards. The National Archives (WO372).
First World War Medal Index Rolls. The National Archives (WO329).
War Diary of 126th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery (WO95/475/6) The National Archives.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery and Burial Reports
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