Service Number 911
Battalion 17th Battalion
Regiment West Yorkshire Regiment
Walter Johnson was another of the sons of Henry and Sarah Ann Johnson who served in the Great War. In all, eight of Henry's sons served for some period of time, and two lost their lives.
Walter was born in Collingham on the 13th June 1895. In 1911, Walter was living at Elmwood Terrace, Collingham, with his parents and brothers Albert, David and Robert Henry. Walter was single, aged 27, and was a plasterer and labourer.
Walter's service record has survived, but is very brief, amounting to just two forms. He attested for short service for the duration of the war. He gave his address as Collingham and said that he had previously served in the 3rd West Yorkshire Regiment (a Special Reserve Battalion). He joined on the 6th January 1915 and was posted to the 17th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment. His record gives no further information, but his medal card shows he had a service number of 17/911 and that he was transferred to the reserve on the 11th March 1919.
The 17th (Service) Battalion (2nd Leeds Pals) Battalion was formed in Leeds in December 1914, by the Lord Mayor and the City as a 'Bantam' Battalion for those men who were under the normal regulation minimum height of 5 feet 3 inches. Walter's record shows he was 5 feet 2 and a half inches. In January 1915 they underwent training in Ilkley and Skipton, and in June 1915, they joined the 106th Brigade of the 35th Division at Masham, North Yorkshire. On the 27th August the Division moved for final training to Salisbury Plain. They were ordered to Egypt in late 1915, but the order was canceled and instead they went to France on the 1st February 1916, landing at Le Havre. They then concentrated east of St. Omer. They were engaged in The Battle of Bazentin Ridge, The Fighting for Arrow Head Copse and Maltz Horn Farm, and The Fighting for Falfemont Farm.
The original intention of Bantam Battalions was to provide fit, healthy but shorter men who were often miners and farm labourers. After the replacements of losses at the Battle of the Somme, it was found that the new recruits were not of the same physical standard as the original Bantams. A medical inspection was carried out and 1,439 men were transferred to the Labour Corps. There is no record of Walter being transferred out of the Battalion. In 1917, the Battalion was in action in the pursuit to the Hindenburg Line, at Houthulst Forest and the Second Battle of Passchendale. On the 16th November 1917 the Battalion left 35th Division to join XIX Corps on railway work and in December they amalgamated with the 15th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment.
After the war, Walter returned to the Wetherby area and in 1939 was living at Mill House, Wetherby.
1911 Census. The National Archives. Class RG14 Piece 25962
First World War Medal Index Cards. The National Archives (WO372).
First World War Medal Index Rolls. The National Archives (WO329).
First World War British Army Service Records. The National Archives (WO363).
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