Private Herbert Johnstone

43578 10th Bn., Lincolnshire Regiment who died 28 April 1917


Family History

Herbert Johnstone was born in Oadby on 27 May 1896, the son of Maxwell and Martha Johnstone. His father, a gardener, was born in Dumfries, Scotland and worked in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire before moving to Oadby. Herbert had six brothers and a sister. In 1911 Herbert, aged 15, was working as a butcher and was living with his family at Greatford Villas, Spencer Street, Oadby.

Greatford Villas, Spencer Street, Oadby

Military Service

Herbert’s service record no longer exists but his original service number of 5059 was issued in July 1915. Family photos show him to have been in the Leicestershire Regiment.  However by late 1916 he was listed in the Oadby Soldiers and Sailors record as serving in the 10th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment. Known as the Grimsby Chums, the unit saw action on the Somme Battlefield where it lost half its number during the first few days of the battle. It is likely that Herbert transferred to the Lincolnshire Regiment as a replacement draft during the summer of 1916

Herbert (front row, far right) when in the Leicestershire Regiment

In early April 1917 the 10th Lincolns advanced in the Arras sector where enemy lines were reached and occupied successfully. After a brief respite, the offensive resumed but this time the target was the heavily defended village of Roeux and its chemical works. The attack on 28 April began at 4.15am but was not destined to be a success. At 8am a German counter attack forced a withdrawal. Losses for the 10th Lincolns were high, with 420 dead, missing and wounded, Herbert among them.

Artist’s impression of the attack in Reoux.

Herbert’s father Maxwell Johnstone on the left

This field postcard was sent home by Herbert on 27 April 2017, the day before he died

Although a field postcard was received by Herbert’s family in Oadby (probably in early May) there was no further news of Herbert in the months that followed. Eventually, Herbert’s father Maxwell made enquiries about his son and received the news that Herbert was believed to have died in the action of 28 April.

 

The letter received by Maxwell Johnstone in response to his enquiries about his son.

 

Details of action on 28 April which were sent to Maxwell Johnstone, following his enquiries about Herbert.

Memorials

Private Herbert Johnstone is Remembered with Honour on the Arras Memorial, Faubourg-d’Amiens Cemetery, France. The memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen who have no known grave. He is also honoured on the Oadby War Memorial.

The Arras Memorial to the Missing

Herbert’s brother Eric (a Private in the 1/4th Leicestershire Regiment) spent many hours after the war unsuccessfully searching war cemeteries for Herbert’s grave. It was only after Eric’s death in 1972 that his son Frank found details of his Uncle Herbert’s memorial through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Medals posthumously awarded to Herbert Johnstone.

 

Family Members

Four of Herbert Johnstone’s five brothers served during the war. His eldest brother James was killed whilst serving in the 2nd Battalion Leicestershire Regiment on 13 January 1916 at the Battle of the Wadi, Mesopotamia.

Eric Johnstone

 

William Maxwell Johnstone

 

Thomas Louis Johnstone

 

James Hall Johnstone died 13 January 1916      

 

Herbert’s mother Martha Johnstone

 

Herbert’s father Maxwell Johnstone on the left

 

Charles Johnstone seen here in later life was the only brother who did not serve

 

Herbert’s sister Flora Johnstone Burrows with their mother Martha Johnstone