Private Joshua Johnson – 195853 — ACTIVE SERVICE (World War I)
On March 25, 1916 Joshua Johnson completed the Attestation Paper for the Canadian Army, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). He was 32 years, 8 months old when, as a single man, he enlisted for the duration of the War. Joshua indicate that he was born in Buckhorn (Halls Bridge), Ontario. The birth date on the Attestation Paper indicates July 12, 1823. The year is obviously wrong. Based on another entry that he was 32 years and 8 months, when he enlisted, this would put his birth year 1883. Joshua indicated that; ”he did not presently belong to a Militia Force, nor did he have any previous Military experience”. There is nothing on his File to indicate where he was educated or to what level. As far as his Trade or Calling is concerned, he lists Trapper. Joshua was 5′ 8” tall with a 39” chest (expanded). There is no indication of his weight. He had a dark complexion, with brown eyes and black hair. His Medical Examination was completed March 25th, 1916 in Peterborough, Ontario. Other than having scars on his left knee and shin and right shin he had no medical issues or physical limitations and as such he was deemed fit for Overseas duty with the CEF. His next-of-kin was listed as his Mother Mrs. Sarah Johnson of Curve Lake, Ontario. Joshua Johnson signed the Oath and Certificate of Attestation on March 25, 1916 in Peterborough, Ontario. Although the Attestation Paper is stamped the 57th Regiment, Joshua Johnson was taken-on-strength with the 93rd Battalion (Bn), as a Private (Pte) and was assigned Service Number 195853. The 93rd Bn was authorized and formed up, in Peterborough, on December 22, 1915.
The 93rd Bn, after training through the winter and spring at 5 different area Centres, departed by train from Peterborough on May 29, 1916. The 93rd Bn made a short stop at Barriefield Camp, located at Kingston, Ontario, before moving on to the main CEF Training Centre located at Valcartier, Québec. Valcartier was erected as a Military Base in August 1914, as part of the mobilization of the CEF, at the outset of World War I. The Base was located approximately 16 miles north of Québec City. The facilities and training were pretty rudimentary. Training consisted of marching, rifle and bayonet drills. The officers actually practiced swordsmanship. The main goal of the Base was to form the men into Units, and ship them off to England, as quickly as possible. Pte Johnson and the 93rd Battalion embarked from Halifax, Nova Scotia, on July 15, 1916, aboard the Empress of Britain.
The 93rd Bn disembarked at Liverpool, England on July 25, 1916. There is no reference in his File, as to where Pte Johnson was stationed from July 25, 1916 until October 5, 1916. On October 6, 1916 he was transferred to the 39th Battalion stationed at West Sandling, England. On October 7th he was taken-on-strength with the 39th Bn. On October 13, 1916 he was transferred to the 4th Battalion. On November 14, 1916 he was transferred to the 87th Battalion. On November 15, 1916 he was taken-on-strength with the 87th Bn, a Montreal, Québec based Unit. The 87th Bn was attached to the 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade – 4th Canadian Infantry Division
Private Johnson embarked from England for the Canadian Base Depot in France on November 19, 1916. He joined the 87th Bn on November 25, 1916.
There are no entries in the Military File from November 25, 1916 until April 7, 1917. The following information about his movements and that of the 87th Bn came from research on the Internet and the 87th Battalion War Diaries.
November 1916 when Pte Johnson joined the 87th, they had just been relieved from the Front-Line and were in billets at Bouzincourt, France. On the 26th the Battalion began a march that took them from Bouzincourt, through numerous Villages to Arqueves. The Battalion stayed at Arqueves until the 30th. On the 30th the Battalion left Arqueves and marched to their billets at Nouvellette.
December 1916 began with the Battalion leaving Nouvellette on the 1st and marching to Buchmont. On the 2nd they marched to billets at Oeuf. The 3rd was a repeat this time marching to billets at Hestrus. December 4th they left Hestrus and marched to Frevillers. They remained at Frevillers until the 20th. Other than an inspection of the Battalion on the 17th by Brigadier General Odlum – Commanding 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade, there are no entries as to what they did during this period. On the 20th they marched to billets at Camblain L’Abbe. December 21st they went into the Reserve Line at Berthonval Wood, relieving the 14th Battalion. December 24th upon being relieved, they moved back to billets at Camblain L’Abbe. On the 27th they relieved the 75th Battalion in a Brigade support position.
January 1917 began with the Battalion moving from its Brigade support position to the Front-Line. They now went through a series of moves to and from the Front-Line to billets at Berthonval Wood. These moves continued to the end of the month.
February 1917 entries in the War Diaries were very difficult to read, but Battalion movements were a repeat of January.
March 1917 begins with the 87th Battalion at rest at Hersin-Coupigny, France. On the 1st the 4th Canadian Division carried out an attack on enemy positions. March 2nd the 87th Battalion relieved the 54th and 75th Battalions in the Front-Line. The Battalion was disbursed as follows: ”A” Company sector from Vincent to Tottenham, ”B” Company sector from Tottenham to Cavalier, ”C” Company sector from Cavalier to Lasalle, and ”D” Company sector the Tunnel. On the 3rd, at approximately 8:00 AM, a German Major bearing a Red Cross flag came into No Man’s Land and called the Commanding Officer to come out and see him. A Lt Sinclair was sent out. The German Officer offered an armistice for a few hours in order to give an opportunity of collecting the bodies of those killed during the attack of 1st March. The armistice was carried out between 8 and 12:00 AM, in good order. The Germans bringing the bodies of men from the 54th and 75th Battalions half way across No Man’s Land, to be carried the rest of the way by the 87th men. The German Officer, who spoke fluent English, stated that his objective on offering the armistice was that there might be fewer men listed as missing, and those at home might gain some consolation from the fact of their relatives having a Christian burial. He further stated that prior to the War he had been a professor in a London University. Also on the 2nd, the Battalion took over the 12th Brigade frontage of 700 yards. This gave the 87th Battalion a mile of Front-Line to hold. Casualties for the day: 2 men killed and two wounded. March 4th the German Major once gain came forward in to No Man’s Land with another proposed armistice. This one was refused by the 87th Commanding Officer, owing to the fact that the German said the Battalion on his right was opposed to the armistice and that he could not guarantee their actions. On the 5th seven men were wounded and one man died of wounds. On the 7th the 87th Battalion (less ”D” Company which remained in the Front-Line under the orders of the Commanding Officer 102 Battalion), relieved the 54th Battalion in a Support position. Distribution of the three other Companies in Support as follows: ”C” Company in Coliseum trench, ”B” Company on the Arras-Bethune Road, and ”A” Company in Artillery dugouts back of Bajoie line. One man was wounded. The 8th of March marked the return of Captain Robert Bickerdike (wounded at the Somme) from England for duty. Major William Alexander Macpherson on taken-on-strength, supernumerary to establishment, and one man died of wounds. There are no entries for the 9th and 10th. On the 11th the Battalion was relieved from its Support position by the 38th Battalion and it moved to Bouvigny Huts for rest. March 16th the 87th relieved the 13th Battalion (Service) Middlesex Regiment, in Reserve position, on the Lorette Spur in the Souchez Sector, coming under the orders of the 73rd British Infantry Brigade. Company distribution as follows: ”A” Company to Albain Lane, ”B” Company to Dugout on track opposite Sugar Factory, ”C” Company to Dugout Lane, and ”D” Company to Maistre Line. This position was occupied until the 87th was relieved by the 9th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment at about 5:00 AM on the 17th March. On the 18th one man attached to 11th Field Company was killed-in-action. On the 19th the Battalion took over the Front-Line from the 38th Battalion. The Companies were distributed as follows: ”A” Company holding from Vincent inclusive to Tottenham exclusive. ”B” Company from Tottenham inclusive to Old Boot Sap exclusive, ”C” Company to Tottenham Caves, ”D” Company to Music Hall Line, Wortley to New Boyeau inclusive and also the use of the Dugouts in Arras Valley, from New Boyeau to Wortley. Major Shaw in command, Lt Col Frost DSO going to Transport Lines (sick). March 20th one man killed, on the 21st four men killed – four men wounded, on the 22nd one man killed – one man died of wounds, on the 23rd Lt Yonkles slightly wounded – 1 man killed – three men wounded. Overnight the 23rd/24th three men killed and three men wounded. On the 24th Major Maxwell, as well two men killed – three men wounded and one man died of wounds. March 26th the 87th Battalion was relieved by the 75th Battalion, coming out to rest in huts at St. Lawrence Camp – Chateau de la Haie. From the 27th to 31st, the Battalion was undergoing training.
April 1917 opened with the 87th Battalion continuing to train in wet and cold weather. On the 1st the effective strength of the Battalion is listed as 42 Officers and 1,101 other ranks. Available for trench duty: 28 Officers and 741 other ranks, at Transport line: 4 Officers and 90 other ranks, on courses: 4 Officers and 20 other ranks, detailed away on other duties: 6 Officers and 250 other ranks. On the 2nd the Battalion was continuing to train in the wet cold weather. It is noted that it snowed quite hard in the evening. The 3rd of March, the Battalion moved up to the Front-Line area in preparation for the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The Company disbursement was as follows: ”A” Company to Berthonval Wood, ”B” to Arras Road and Music Hall trench, ”C & D” Companies to Tottenhan Caves and Front-Line. On the 4th 13 other ranks were taken-on-strength. From the 4th to 6th large work parties were supplied to Assembly trenches. On the 7th ”B” Company moved up to the Front Line and took up positions to the left and right of Tottenham. ”C & D” Companies shortened up their lines accordingly.
Pte Johnson’s Military File indicates that on April 4, 1917 he was wounded when a shell burst hit in his area. He suffered wounds to the left hand, left thorax and right side of head. He was first treated at the 11th Canadian Field Ambulance, then the 6th Casualty Clearing Station and then on April 7, 1917 he was admitted to the No 4 General Hospital at Camiers, France. He was diagnosed as having ”a facial contusion and severe concussion”. On April 16, 1917 Pte Johnson was admitted to the 3rd London General Hospital at Wandsworth, England. May 31, 1917 Pte Johnson was transferred to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital at Bromley. On June 2, 1917 he was transferred to the Westcliffe Eye and Ear Hospital at Folkstone with Hypermetropia (farsightedness). June 12, 1917 he was transferred to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital at Monks Horton. Pte Johnson was discharged on June 29, 1917. June 30, 1917 he was ”On Command” to the No 3 Canadian Convalescent Depot (CCD) at Shoreham, England. On September 6, 1917 he ceased to be On Command with No 3 CCD when he was transferred to the 23rd Reserve Battalion. October 20, 1917 Pte Johnson was admitted to No 12 Canadian General Hospital at Bramshott with what was initially described as ”an abscess on right buttocks”. On November 8, 1917 an X-ray revealed a foreign object present in the wound. The diagnosis was changed to reflect a Gunshot wound. The foreign object was removed and treatment rendered. On November 15, 1917 Pte Johnson was discharged. He returned to the 23rd Reserve Battalion where he remained until March 16, 1818 when he rejoined the 87th Battalion at Bramshott. On March 21, 1918, upon disembarking in France, he was taken-on-strength with the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Centre. There are two notes in the File indicating that Pte Johnson was ”placed under stoppages of pay to make good value of articles of equipment lost” – the items noted are 1 Cardigan and 1 Mess tin cover. On March 26, 1918 he rejoined the 87th in the Field. There are no entries in the Military File between March 26 and October 2, 1918.
Once again the 87th Battalion War Diaries were utilized to track his movements during this period of time.
March 26th orders were received about 11:00 PM to expect and enemy attack early the next morning and directing the Battalion to ”stand to” in Battle positions and prepare for attack. The night was spent adjusting supplies of ammunition, bombs, etc, thinning out the Front-Line and fixing up positions on various strong points. The morning passed quietly and by 8:00 AM word was received for the Battalion to”stand down”. An order was received from Division to make transport mobile and to be prepared for sudden move. On the 27th the weather was threatening. It was reported that considerable progress had been made during the night in running wire. Patrol activity during the night was limited by the bright moonlight. During the evening, word was received for the 87th to move to Columbia Camp. During the morning of the 28th orders were received that upon relief the Battalion would move to Cambian L’Abbe not Columbia Camp. Shortly after, this was changed to Le Pendu Camp. Word was received that the Battalion would be moved by light railway from Red Mill Siding, Lievin. At 9:00 PM orders were received changing destination from Le Pendu Camp to Roclincourt. After detraining at Territorial Dump, the 87th marched 4 miles to a Camp located at N.28.A.6.3, arriving at 5:30 AM. On the 29th weather was still threatening with frequent showers. The Battalion spent the morning resting. At 11:00 AM orders were received to move off at 4:30 PM to relieve the 4th London Regiment of the 56th Division, in a Support position. Relief was completed without incident. Trench strength was listed as 750 all ranks. In the early morning of the 30th, in accordance with a scheme of reorganizing of troops in the Sector by Brigade, the Battalion moved to trenches in the Brierly, Tommy Alley, Ouse Alley, and Ridge Redoubt sectors. Readjustment was completed by 5:00 AM. Report was received that the enemy were massing in an attempt to retake Vimy Ridge. Enemy Artillery active throughout the morning, principally on Brierly trench and Ouse Alley. On the 31st, Easter Sunday, the weather was wet and disagreeable in the morning, but fine in the afternoon. Enemy shelling active but increasing activity of our guns keeping the enemy shelling down. Battalion now settled into new quarters, which due to the bad weather were for the most part none too comfortable. With the end of March, the 87th Battalion finished a strenuous month in the Line, being in the Front-Line or close support for 20 days continuously without bathes or a change of clothing.
April 1918 opens with the 87th Battalion in a Support position in Brierley Hill trench, Oppy Sector. Weather was reported as fine and warm. The 2nd to 9th of April was spent in work parties digging cable lines, and sending out Patrols reconnoitering enemy positions. Enemy Artillery was fairly active shelling back area. Companies taking turns being sent to Roclincourt for bathes. On April 10th pursuant with operation order, three Platoons from ”C” Company raided an enemy position in the area of Tired Valley and Arleux Loop. The purpose of the raid was securing identification and inflicting casualties. Zero hour was 5:00 AM following an Artillery barrage. The outcome of the raid was not satisfactory, but valuable lessons were learned. In the evening, the Battalion was relieved by the 38th Battalion. Relief was completed by 9:30 PM. The 87th was now in a Divisional Reserve position in Wakefield Camp, Roclincourt, where it was expected to remain for six days. The morning of the 11th at 9:00 AM a warning order was received from Divisional Headquarters that the Battalion was to go into right Support in the Achville Sector. This order was later changed to left Support and again changed back to right Support. The Battalion moved off at 6:00 PM. The Battalion was warned of another move the next day, due to a readjustment of the Divisional and Brigade Frontages. The 12th was spent quietly. Orders were received that the 87th would be relieved by the 74th Battalion and would be moved into a Divisional Reserve position. ”A” and ”B” Companies moved into billets at Cellar Camp and ”C” and ”D” Companies to Grange Tunnel, which were found to be very unsuitable for housing troops. On the 13th ”C” and ”D” Companies moved to Cellar Camp. April 14th ”work parties from A” and ”D” Companies were ordered forward to quarters in Vimy for work in forward area, and also to man Vimy defences. The 15th and 16th passed relatively quietly. The 17th was spent in preparations for relief, before moving to the Front-Line to relieve the 75th Battalion, left sub-section Mericourt Sector. Companies moved off at 6:15 PM, with relief completed by 10:00 PM. Patrols were sent out all along the Battalion frontage to get acquainted with No-Man’s-Land.
An entry in his Military File indicates, as reported by Pte Johnson, that it was around this time he ”was buried by a shell burst, which crushed his chest”. He did not go to the hospital.
April 1918 was spent working on improvements to existing trenches, constructing new ones, and laying wire. Battle Patrols were sent out to reconnoiter the area in front of the left Company and worked over towards Mericourt trench. On the 19th, other than enemy aircraft, activity in their trenches was very slight. Field Artillery pieces taking registration shots at enemy positions. Night Patrols were out, but due to a bright moon made their efforts very dangerous. The 20th was once again generally quiet, with Battle Patrols continuing to go out, still without meeting any enemy. The 21st was generally very quiet with enemy Artillery nil. Allied Artillery shooting at targets of opportunity and having some success. One night Patrol entered an enemy trench and reconnoitered it for 100 yards. Finding no enemy, it withdrew. On the 22nd enemy Granatenwerfer was fairly active in the morning, but the shells did not reach Battalion’s Lines. A Granatenwerfer was a grenade thrower that bridged the gap between a hand thrown grenade and a light Minenwerfers, with a range of 330 yards. Night Patrols continued, with another one entering German trenches and exploring for 200 yards in each direction from the entry point. Once again no enemy were encountered, but it was discovered that the enemy trenches were in very bad condition. The 23rd began with a enemy barrage of the whole Front-Line, which lasted for 30 minutes, before it was silenced by Allied heavies. The Line was only hit in one place, but this resulted in six casualties; three killed and three wounded. The rest of the day was quiet with very little enemy activity. Battalion received orders that it was to be relieved by the 54th Battalion and take up a Brigade Reserve position. The relief was completed by 9:30 PM without incident. ”A & B” Companies went to billets in Red Line and ”C & D” Companies to Chaudier Defences. The 24th was quiet with everyone getting acquainted with the new location and practicing ”standing to”. The mid-month Pay Parade was held on the 25th. On the 26th the Battalion held bathing parades, but on account of the small capacity, it was only possible for one Company to get through per day. On the 27th in the late afternoon, there was considerable enemy shelling in the area of Victoria Dump and Battalion HQ. On the 28th Company Commanders went forward to reconnoiter the right sub-section of Brigade Sector (Mericourt) in preparation for the relief of the 75th Battalion, the night of the 29th. Some enemy shelling of railroad embankment in the vicinity of Battalion HQ during the morning of the 29th. The shelling appeared to be principally for the purpose of registration of guns. Companies moved off at dusk in relief of the 75th. Relief was completed by 10:00 PM in very bad weather conditions (heavy rain had started to fall at 5:00 PM). On the 30th it rained heavily throughout the morning. It was reported that trenches were in bad shape and funk holes were caving in. (Funk holes were shallow holes scraped in the side of the trenches where individuals would crawl into to get some shelter from the weather.) The month ended with Allied Artillery firing laying down harassing fire on enemy positions. During the night, work commenced on getting trenches in shape particularly attention was paid to Montreal trench which was knee deep in water. While this work was going on, the enemy harassed the trenches with 4.1” shells and whizbangs. At 10:00 PM the Allies replied with 3” and 6” Stokes mortars and 4.5” shells were laid in on enemy positions. For the 87th Battalion, the month of April was exceedingly strenuous with trench tours. 24 days of the 30 were either spent in Front-Line or close support. In spite of this, casualties for the month were not heavy.
May 1918 opened with the 87th Battalion still in the area of Mericourt, France. On May 1st it was reported a party of approximately 25 passed in front of Front-Line wire. They were challenged, but did not respond. They were challenged a second time, without any response, they then disappeared into the dark. Based on the fact there was a Patrol from the 87th expected back at the same time, they were not fired upon. At 3:45 AM the Patrol returned, having established they had not been in the area in question, another patrol was organized and set out shortly after 4:05 AM. They found no evidence of the initial party, but did take one German prisoner. Under interrogation, he provided very useful and reliable information. During the rest of the day, both enemy and Allied artillery were quite active. Battalion strength was reported as 46 Officers and 1,057 other ranks. Trench strength is shown as 29 Officers and 788 other ranks. During the night of the 2nd enemy artillery harassed Forward Lines with high explosive and gas shells. Allied Field Artillery fire harassed enemy positions at Acheville at irregular intervals. Night Patrols were sent out and took up fighting positions in front of Forward Trenches, but reported no enemy activity. They also checked the condition of enemy wire. Allied Aircraft were quite active all day. On the night of the 3rd the enemy artillery shelled the junction of New Brunswick and Toper trenches, as well as Montréal trench with high explosive and gas shells. It was reported a great deal of gas shells were mixed in with the high explosive shells. At 3:50 AM the enemy opened quite heavily on New Brunswick, Québec, Toper and Teaser trenches with 4.1”, 4.2” and whizbangs. Allied Artillery carried on the usual harassing fire of enemy positions. The usual night Patrols were sent out, all returning by 4:15 AM, reporting no enemy activity. During the daylight hours the 87th machine guns were fairly active. Enemy artillery intermittently shelled Winnipeg and Montreal trenches. Allied 6” Newtons (trench mortars) fired 26 shells on enemy positions in Tempest trench, scoring many direct hits. It was reported that the enemy were using dummy heads along their Front-Line so as to endeavour to observe and locate Battalion snipers. The 4th to 7th were pretty much a repeat of other days with enemy and Allied artillery firing on the respective positions and usual night Patrols. On the 8th the Battalion was relieved with ”B” and ”D” Companies billeted at Mingoval, ”A” and ”C Companies and Transport Lines at Bethonsart. Upon arrival at billets the men were served breakfast and then turned to rest. In the afternoon cleanup started. The 9th was spent resting, with bath and pay parades. From the 10th to the 25th the Battalion engaged in: training (including open warfare tactics), sports, Memorial Services, inspections, open air concerts and church parades; decorations for gallantry, devotion to duty and bravery were awarded. They also participated in a massed Brigade Assault scheme. The afternoon of the 25th the 87th moved to billets at Valhuon where they stayed until the 31st. Here they engaged in playing baseball and training in Company Assault tactics. Special attention was given to how the Lewis gun and rifle work.
June 1918 was spent in billets at Valhuon, where the Battalion was engaged in the usual routine of training, inspections, parades, sports etc.
July 1918 opened with the celebration of the 51st Anniversary of the Confederation of the Dominion of Canada. Everyone took a holiday and enjoyed a Canadian Corps Sports Day. The 87th would remain billeted at Valhuon until the 10th. During this time the Battalion was engaged in the usual activities: training, bath parades, a concert, and church services. The Battalion received orders that it was to move to the area of St. Aubin on the 10th and to the trenches on the 11th. Before leaving for the trenches the men were served a hot meal. The move to the trenches was completed by 5:00 PM, on the 11th. The Battalion deployment was as follows: ”A” Company right Front-Line, ”C” Company left Front-Line, ”B” Company right support, and ”D” Company left support. Battalion HQ was located at Gully Post. Trench strength was 31 Officers and 756 other ranks. Night Patrols were sent out in the evening and reported everything was quiet in front of the lines. The 12th passed quietly. The usual night and defensive Patrols were out, but nothing was seen or heard. On the 13th Battalion HQ received and operation order from Brigade to ”side-slip” and take over part of the 46th Battalion Frontage, effective the 15th. The usual Patrols were out, but the enemy were quiet. The 14th preparations were underway for the side-slip. Still quiet. Work parties engaged in improving trenches. The 15th the side-slip was completed without incident. It was reported that the enemy were unusually quiet. Night Patrols and work parties continued their activities. On the 16th operation order received indicating the Battalion was to be relieved on the 17th by the 102 Battalion. Following the relief, the 87th moved to a Brigade Reserve position. In the early morning hours, the enemy opened a light barrage on forward areas with 4.1″ and 5.9” mixed with gas. The barrage lasted 5 minutes. The 18th to 21st were spent quietly by the Battalion. The days were spent with the men cleaning up, bath parades, work parties, and training for an Army Rifle Competition. The 22nd an operation order was received to relieve the 102nd Battalion on the 23rd. The relief started at 5:00 PM on the 23rd and was completed by 8:00 PM. Disposition of the Battalion was: ”A” Company right Front-Line, ”C” Company left Front-Line, ”B” Company right support, and ”D” Company left support. The enemy remained very quiet. Protective Patrols patrolled the frontage all night. On the 24th orders were received from Brigade HQ to make preparations to raid Enemy Lines for the purpose of inflicting casualties and obtaining information. A Patrol of 3 Officers and 20 other ranks with a Lewis gun left Line at 10:30 PM to select a jump off point for the raid and examine enemy wire and defences. Although the work of the Patrol was hampered by a heavy concentration of Gas, it returned at 2:15 AM having successfully completed its mission. On the 25th Patrols were out in the early morning hours and late evening examining enemy wire. No enemy activity detected. During the afternoon, the enemy shelled the whole area. On the 26th the early part of the evening, the enemy shelled the Front-Line with 4.2” and 5.9” shells which resulted in two men killed and three wounded. Protective Patrols covered the Battalion Frontage during the night. The 27th preparations for the raid were complete, which was to start at 1:30 AM, but was postponed due to a pending gas attack. During the day of the 28th word was received that the 87th would be relieved by the 102nd Battalion on the 29th. The 87th would move to Brigade Support. A raiding party of 2 Officers and 56 other ranks raided enemy trenches during the evening. The party had very little difficulty getting into the enemy trenches as the wire was in poor condition. Overall, the raiding party killed 28 enemy and took 2 prisoners. The raiding party suffered 5 wounded and one missing. On the 29th the relief started at 5:30 PM and was completed by 8:15 PM. The Battalion disposition in Brigade Support position was: ”B” Company at Point du Jour Arka, with ”A”, ”C” and ”D” Companies at Brown trench. On the 30th the Battalion received a warning order from Brigade HQ to prepare to hand over the position to the 4th Royal Scots. On the 31st the relief started at 2:00 PM and was completed by 6:30 PM. The Battalion was moved to billets at Brant and Reinforcement Camps at Ecoivres. During the month, the Battalion casualties were: 3 killed, 1 missing, and 24 wounded. Battalion Ration Strength was 37 Officers and 872 other ranks.
August 1918 began with word being received that it would leave Ecoivres and march to Simencourt on the 1st. The Battalion paraded at 1:00 PM with transport and marched to Simencourt arriving at 5:00 PM. The men being tired after their long tour in the Line and the extreme heat made the march difficult. It was reported that with very heavy rain, the 2nd was a lousy day. At 10:00 PM instructions were received from Brigade to be ready to move the following day. On the 3rd the Battalion marched to Wanquentin, where they boarded buses. Buses left at 8:00 PM, but for variety of reasons didn’t reach the destination until the following morning. On the 4th at 5:30 AM, the 87th de-bused at Oisenont and marched to billets at Neuville au Bois. On receipt of further instructions, the Battalion paraded at 9:00 PM and marched to Vergies arriving at 3:00 AM. On account of the darkness and the condition of the roads the march was found to be very difficult. Upon arrival, it was evident that preparations were being made for an offensive. Orders were issued to all concerned that the men be kept under cover as far as possible. The Battalion rested during the day of the 5th, while preparations were made for another move. The 87th moved off at 11:00 PM and marched to Namps au Val arriving at 8:30 AM on the 6th. Word was received, from Brigade HQ, of yet another move, this time to Bois de Boves. The Battalion paraded and marched off at 9:00 PM. The Battalion arrived at 5:00 AM on the 7th and bivouacked (a temporary camp without tents or cover, used especially by soldiers) in a wooded area, which was the primary concentration point for the offensive. Besides cavalry and tanks, practically the whole Canadian Corps was there. At 9:00 PM the Battalion proceeded to the assembly position arriving at Bois de Gentelles, at midnight.
August 8th, 1918 was the start of the Battle of Ameins, also known as the 3rd Battle of Picardy. This day was also the beginning of the Allied 100 Day Offensive.
August 8th 1918 final preparations for the attack were completed by the 87th Battalion. Zero Hour, for the main attack, was 4:30 and 5:30 AM. The Battalion started to move. It moved around the southern edge of Gentelles Wood and then south and parallel to the Roye Road, crossing the River Luce and taking up a position along an old German trench system at 8:50 AM. Word was received that the main attack was going favourably, with many prisoners being sent back. The 87th moved again at 9:20 AM, crossing Roye Road to a position in 5C and D, arriving at about 10:30 AM and waited instructions. The instructions were received at 12:10 PM. The Battalion then moved forward in two parallel columns assembling in D.8.C, by 1:30 PM and once gain waited orders from Brigade HQ. At 3:30 PM orders were received from Brigade to move forward in Reserve to the advance by the balance of the Brigade. The 87th moved forward in two columns: ”C” and ”D” Companies moving on the left of the Village of Beaucourt, and ”A” and ”B” Companies on the right. When the Battalion was 1,000 yards to the east of the Village it took up a defensive position. Based on the fact that the 75th had been unable to gain its objective, it was decided that two Companies from the 75th and two Companies from the 87th would conduct a Frontal Attack on enemy positions during the night. ”B” and ”D” Companies were chosen from the 87th and they moved off at 11:45 PM. On account of darkness and the thick wood, the two Companies experienced great difficulty reaching their jumping off position. At 4:30 AM and 5:30 AM on the 9th the two Companies reached their jump off points and started their advance. At 10:55 AM they had reached a line 200 yards east of the road through K2A and E26C. On account of heavy machine gun fire from enemy positions they were unable to advance any further. At 11:15 AM tanks were sent forward to help in the advance, but were of no assistance in clearing up the situation. At 12:30 PM it was noticed that the enemy had begun to withdraw and ”B” and ”D” Companies followed up occupying their objective. At 1:30 PM the 1st and 3rd Canadian Divisions passed through the 87th and carried on the attack. After the 1st and 3rd Divisions passed through, the Battalion was relieved by the 47th Battalion and it moved back to a wood in D24. Battalion casualties were 3 Officers wounded, 10 other ranks killed and 42 wounded. At midnight of the 10th the Battalion received word to be ready to move any time after 4:00 AM. Breakfast was prepared and the Battalion was standing by and ready to move at 4:00 AM. Further instructions were received ordering the Battalion to move off at 7:00 AM to a position at E15. They arrived at 8:00 AM. At 11:45 AM orders were received from Brigade HQ that the 87th was to move to F25A and C, in a Support position to the 10th Canadian Brigade. At 9:45 PM the Battalion was informed by the HQ of the 11th Brigade that the attack would continue the next day and that the Battalion should be prepared to move by 4:00 AM. August 11th was spent receiving orders to move, then having the orders changed and canceled. Finally at 8:30 PM the Battalion was ordered to stay where it was. The 12th was again a day of changing orders. At 4:00 PM the Battalion moved back to a position at E15 and B21, which was completed at 9:00 PM. On the 13th the Battalion was inspected and men re-equipped. On the 14th the men were resting and bathing. On the 15th word was received from Brigade HQ that further advance would be postponed for the present, but that the 87th should prepare to take over the Front-Line from the 5th Canadian Brigade on the night of the 17th. The enemy heavies shelled the Front-Lines during the day. On the 17th the Battalion completed preparation for relief. It moved off at 8:00 PM and was completed without incident by 11:30 PM. Protective Patrols were sent out to cover the Front-Line, but the enemy was quiet. The enemy were, once again, quiet on the 18th.
Because of the faintness of the records in the War Diaries, it was impossible to read the entries from August 19th to August 31st, 1918.
September 1918 opens with the 87th Battalion in billets at Neuville Vitasse. Orders were received for the Battalion to move forward for an operation on the 2nd. It set out at 8:30 PM and arrived in the assembly area near Vis en Artois by midnight. At 5:30 AM on the 2nd Allied artillery opened a heavy barrage on enemy positions. At 6:20 AM the Battalion moved forward, by Company, to a point of readiness just west of Mont Dury. The new assembly area was reached by 7:30 AM. In spite of the 12th Brigade having not reached their objective and the enemy still holding the sunken road south of Dury, it was decided to push on. At 8:30 AM the Battalion advanced by Company: ”B” Company on the right, ”D” Company on the left, ”A” Company in support, and ”C” in reserve. On reaching the crest of a ridge, just east of the sunken road, the lead Companies came under heavy machine gun and shell fire from the front and both flanks. With great difficulty, ”B & D” Companies managed to push forward to a line 150 to 200 yards east of the sunken road. At 1:30 PM the Battalion CO informed Brigade HQ that without artillery and tank support no further forward progress could be made. The CO was informed to hold on to what they had and await further orders. As a result of casualties, the Battalion re-organized in depth. ”C” Company was ordered forward from its Reserve position and occupy a trench, ”A” Company occupied a trench near the sunken road, ”B” Company, which had suffered heavily, was ordered to the windmill near the sunken road, while ”D” Company maintained the line gained. At 10:00 PM the Battalion was told that the operation would continue the following morning. At 1:10 AM of September 3rd word was received that the planned attack was canceled. The pause allowed the casualties to be collected and evacuated, and the dead were moved to the rear. Scout Patrols were sent forward and reported back that there were no enemy in either Saudemont or Écourt-Saint-Quentin. ”A” Company was ordered to stand to and be ready to follow the Scout Patrols, ”C” Company was in support, with ”B & D” Companies, which was now a composite Company in Reserve. With reports that the way was clear to Saudemont, the Companies moved forward. By 12:20 PM word was received that the Battalion had occupied Ecourt. St. Quentin. During the afternoon, the Companies reported heavy enemy artillery and machine gun fire and called in retaliation from Allied artillery. Patrols sent forward from ”A & C” Companies to locate bridgeheads over the Canal du Nord encountered heavy opposition. At 6:30 AM a warning order was received for the Battalion to side-slip to the south and to continue the operation across the Canal du Nord. At 2:30 PM word was received that the operation was canceled and that the Battalion would be withdrawn from the Line that evening and move back to a Support Line near Drocourt-Quent, south west of Dury. The withdrawal was completed without incident. The morning of the 5th was spent reorganizing. The men had a chance to get a much needed rest and hot meals. During the afternoon, the Battalion moved back, by Company, to an area 2 miles north east of Neuville Vitasse. The 6th broke clear and warm. The day was spent reorganizing, and the men cleaning up clothes and equipment. On the 7th Platoon parades were held and they were inspected. On the 8th it rained heavily. A voluntary Church Parade was held. The weather on the 9th was still showery. The Battalion passed through Gas Chamber Test at Beaurains. On the 10th three hours of training was ordered, which included: gas drill, close order drill, Lewis gun training, and any other training that was ordered by Company Commanders. From the 11th to the 25th the Battalion remained at Neuville Vitasse resting and training. On the night of the 25th the Battalion marched to the Village of Bullecourt. The march was made more difficult by the darkness and overcrowded roads. During the day of the 26th Battle Stores were drawn. At 10:00 PM the Battalion moved out to an assembly position in an old trench system. The Battalion reached the assembly position at 1:10 AM on the 27th. Orders were received to have the Companies prepared to move at 3:20 AM to another assembly position in the Hindenburg support line south of Inchy. The Battalion arrived at 4:45 AM.
September 27th, 1918 was the beginning of the Battle of Canal du Nord.
5:20 AM on the 27th was zero hour for the attack which began with an artillery barrage of enemy positions. The Enemy replied with a heavy counter barrage. At 5:50 AM Companies of the 87th Battalion advanced and crossed the Canal du Nord. Companies of the 87th now continued to advance behind the 10th Canadian Brigade. There was slight pause in the advance while the Battalion reorganized due to casualties. It was reported that by 1:20 PM the reorganization was complete and the advance could continue. Battalion strength was now listed as 21 Officers and 456 other ranks. Orders were received to advance against the Marcoing Line eastwards from Bourlon Village. Zero hour was set for 7:30 AM. At 7:00 AM it was discovered that the 54th Battalion was not in its allocated position. This required the 87th to attack the Railway, instead of jumping off from it. The CO of the 87th decided to go ahead with the attack anyway. At 7:30 AM the Battalion started its advance. At 7:50 AM word was received that the advance was going well. At 8:10 AM orders were sent to the 87th HQ that if it was successful in taking the Marcoing Line, it should swing left and take the Village of Raillencourt. At 9:10 AM it was reported the Battalion had reached the railway and were sending out Patrols. The Patrols worked forward to the Sunken Road, which was 1,500 yards beyond the Railway. Based on the darkness of the night it was difficult to keep in touch, so the CO ordered the Battalion to consolidate its Line on the Railway. This was done by 11:00 PM. Orders were received that the 7th Brigade would attack through the Line of the 87th at 6:00 AM on the 28th. At 8:10 AM orders were received for the 87th to be withdrawn from the Line. Estimated Battalion casualties suffered during this advance was 150. At 4:00 AM on the 29th orders were received for the 87th to move forward to an assembly position just south of the Arras – Cambrai Road near Farm de Lilas. At 11:15 AM word was received that the 11th Brigade, which the 87th was attached to, was to attack from the Railway, south of Sancourt up to the Ridge south of Alecourt and Cuvillers. The 87th was to follow the 54th and swing to the right seizing the Village and Bridgehead at Eswars. The Companies were to move forward in depth. ”B” Company was to lead, with ”C” Company in support, ”D” Company in reserve, and ”A” Company covering the left flank. The strength of the Battalion for the attack was listed as 21 Officers and 456 other ranks. By 3:40 AM on the 30th the assembly position was reached without difficulty. The attack commenced at 6:05 AM. The Battalion immediately encountered heavy shelling and machine gun fire from enemy positions, but the advance continued. At 12:55 PM it was reported that the Battalion had been badly cut up, and had lost a large number of Officers. In the afternoon, orders were received for an attack the next day, similar to the one of the 30th. The Battalion was withdrawn to reorganize. September the 30th had been a most trying day for the 87th Bn. For most of the day, the men were lying out in the open under heavy shelling and machine gun fire accomplishing nothing, not able to move forward or back. Yet when they were asked to go forward the next day (October 1st) there was not a grumble.
October 1918 began at 0:15 AM when an operation order was received at Battalion HQ for the attack to continue at 5:30 AM October 1st. Due to the faintness of the entries in the War Diaries for October 1st it was very difficult to read them. What can be read indicates that the Battalion moved forward by Companies at 5:30 AM. At 9:30 AM it was reported that they were moving towards Eswars. As a result of once again encountering heavy shelling and machine gun fire the casualty count rose steadily. In the afternoon, what was left of the 87th Battalion was reorganized into two Platoons. During the attacks of September 30th and October 1st the Battalion had lost 15 Officers and 350 other ranks. The Battalion came out on the morning of October 2nd with approximately 7 Officers and 130 other ranks.
It is was reported in his Military File that Private Johnson received a gunshot wound on October 2, 1918. Pte Johnson was treated at the 26th General Hospital at Étaples, France on October 4, 1918. He was invalided to England on October 6, 1918. He was posted to the Québec Regimental Depot at Bramshott, England on the October 6, 1918 and also admitted to the 1st Eastern General Hospital at Cambridge. On December 3, 1918 Pte Johnson was admitted to the Military Convalescent Hospital at Epsom, where he stayed until January 10th, 1919 when he was discharged. Upon discharge, he was granted a Sick Furlough from January 10th to January 20, 1919. He was then posted to ”A” Company, Québec Regiment. Pte Johnson was struck-off-strength from ”A” Company and taken-on-strength with Wing 3 – Kimmel Park pending his return to Canada. On February 17, 1919 he was struck-off-strength from Wing 3 on transfer to the CEF on returning to Canada. Pte Johnson embarked from England aboard the Empress of Britain arriving in Halifax on February 25, 1919.
He was taken-on-strength with Casualty Company No 3 District Depot at Kingston. He was granted a Leave from March 1 to March 14, 1919. Private Joshua Johnson was discharged from the 93rd Overseas Battalion as being medically unfit for further War Service on April 12, 1919.
There is a reference in the Military File that Private Joshua Johnson was eligible to receive:
Based on his Military File, Private Joshua Johnson served a total of 3 years and 18 days with the Canadian Expeditionary Force: 4 months and 24 days in Canada, 1 year 6 months and 18 days in England, and 1 year 3 months and 16 days in France (figures are approximate and include travel times).
An excerpt from an article in Maclean’s Magazine by Barbara Ameil, September 1996:
”The Military is the single calling in the world with job specifications that include a commitment to die for your country. What could be more honourable”?
Joshua Johnson was born in Harvey Township, Peterborough County on July 12, 1883, son of Isaac Johnson and Sarah Spencer. The family resided on the Curve Lake First Nation Reserve, Ontario. Joshua was a skilled trapper and fishing guide.
Joshua’s older brother William enlisted to serve overseas on January 15, 1916 and Joshua followed two months later enlisting on March 25, 1916. William was killed in action in France and remembered with honour in the Étaples Military Cemetery near Boulogne, France.
After the War, Joshua came back home and settled in the Burleigh Falls area where he continued to enjoy the outdoors spending his time trapping and fishing. Joshua died November 24, 1955, age 70 years and is buried in the Curve Lake Cemetery.
THE JOSHUA JOHNSON FAMILY OF CURVE LAKE
Joshua’s paternal grandparents are unknown at this time.
Joshua’s parents are Isaac Johnson and Sarah Spencer. The family resided on the Curve Lake First Nation Reserve, Ontario and had three sons Isaac, William and Joshua.
Joshua’s mother, Sarah Spencer, was first married to Richard Coppaway and they had a son, Alfred, born in 1872. Alfred Coppaway also was a WWI Veteran who followed in his stepbrother’s footsteps and enlisted in Peterborough on March 28, 1916 serving with the 93rd Battalion.