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Lt Col Walter Russell Johnson - why was he interested in this murder?


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corisande

" As regards Pte Helmore RM, is there any link with the Archangel expedition?  I suspect that scrutinising his postings and comparing them with the whereabouts of Russell-Johnson at the same time will lead to the linkage between them.  There was significant Royal Marines involvement (including a mutiny) in North Russia. "

 

RM records are quite opaque as regards postings. This is Helmores RM record. It does say though that he was paid a war gratuity of £5 which puzzled me

 

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FROGSMILE
6 minutes ago, corisande said:

" As regards Pte Helmore RM, is there any link with the Archangel expedition?  I suspect that scrutinising his postings and comparing them with the whereabouts of Russell-Johnson at the same time will lead to the linkage between them.  There was significant Royal Marines involvement (including a mutiny) in North Russia. "

 

RM records are quite opaque as regards postings. This is Helmores RM record. It does say though that he was paid a war gratuity of £5 which puzzled me

 


His only active duty seems to have been with 8th Royal Marines battalion circa 1920.  I don’t know if they were involved in North Russia or if they sent any drafts there.  I’m not familiar with the procedures of RM records and cannot see any overseas service mentioned.  Forum member horatio2 might be able to assist regarding the gratuity.

 

If the link was not with Helmore during his service then it might have been before that, or perhaps some deep association with his parents.  I think that you are right that there must be some intimate and as yet undiscovered cause here.

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headgardener
38 minutes ago, corisande said:

 

Can anyone help with " Military Secretary to the High Commissioner of Mesopotamia in Baghdad. "

 

 

The British High Commission in Baghdad was the centre of government of post-War Iraq. The High Commissioner was the senior government official. The Military Secretary to the High Commissioner would have had administrative oversight of British military affairs in Iraq. Presumably also a conduit between the command structures of the British Forces in Iraq and the High Commission.

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corisande

I had not considered a non-military link and will look into that

 

As regards Archangel

 

1919 Jun 25 to 24 Oct 1919 . Comdt. on the Lines of Communication (CLZ).—Lt.-Col. W. R. Johnson, C.B.E.,D.S.O., 7th Essex R., T.F. Damien Wright's book shows that a list of the deployment of Archangel Forces gives Johnson in Command of Lines of Communication for the whole force. He is based at Ust Padenga (about 150km south of Archangel) , and was responsible for 916 men, covering Railway and River Communication

 

I have no idea how the RM records would have recorded Russia Service , nor whether we can read Helmore's record to say he did not serve in Russia

 

Buservice-record.jpg.6432c28cf4e22eef36156d034f1ea73e.jpgt he must have served somewhere to get a War Gratuity of  £5 with his service in RM

 

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FROGSMILE
5 minutes ago, corisande said:

I had not considered a non-military link and will look into that

 

As regards Archangel

 

1919 Jun 25 to 24 Oct 1919 . Comdt. on the Lines of Communication (CLZ).—Lt.-Col. W. R. Johnson, C.B.E.,D.S.O., 7th Essex R., T.F. Damien Wright's book shows that a list of the deployment of Archangel Forces gives Johnson in Command of Lines of Communication for the whole force. He is based at Ust Padenga (about 150km south of Archangel) , and was responsible for 916 men, covering Railway and River Communication

 

I have no idea how the RM records would have recorded Russia Service , nor whether we can read Helmore's record to say he did not serve in Russia

 

But he must have served somewhere to get a War Gratuity of  £5 with his service in RM

 


Yes, the gratuity seems significant.  Forum member horatio2 is preeminent in RN and RM matters and might well be able to advise.  I wonder if there was RM involvement with the inland water transport.

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corisande

Headgardener

 

Thanks for the info on the High Commission in Baghdad - all helps to understand what is going on here

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headgardener
13 minutes ago, corisande said:

Headgardener

 

Thanks for the info on the High Commission in Baghdad - all helps to understand what is going on here

 

His role on LoC in Archangel and as Mil Sec in Baghdad all points towards him being an administrative type.

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FROGSMILE
3 hours ago, headgardener said:

 

His role on LoC in Archangel and as Mil Sec in Baghdad all points towards him being an administrative type.


Although I think that you’re absolutely right that he must have been a highly efficient administrator, I feel that it’s important to note too, that there’s an undercurrent running throughout his activity at that time of sheer desperation for work in the Army.  I sense that he had real conviction in himself that he was a competent and courageous military officer, but he perhaps felt that he wasn’t given his dues, and that was reflected in his protest to the king.  So many military officers who would like to have continued to serve were laid off after the war.  This officer seems to have fought tooth and nail to secure for himself military employment.  He did so by taking on what were probably not seen as attractive roles to regular officers.  North Russia appears to have been the venue for many adventurer types and Baghdad was known to have been a flea bitten and unpleasant place to work unless you were able to enjoy the living conditions of the upper echelons.  He appears to have been the rent-an-officer type, and whenever on the inactive list he did his best to get back into another military job.  It seems like his forays into fruit farming and involvement with hounds were all somehow relative failures, in that they were notably short-lived, and in one case passed on to a lady who he seems to have manipulated with a promise of marriage.  It also has to be said that his apparent sexual activities might have made working in the masculine military environment a prospect and lifestyle that he was keen to maintain. In short I think he was a complex individual and much more than just an efficient military administrator.

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corisande

Sums him up well Frogsmile. A very complex man

 

I have taken a look at Marine Service records, and compared Helmore whose record is above on Post 26 above with the Marine he murdered Yates (I have Yates record on that link)

 

Basically Yates record looks like Helmore's and there is no indication of overseas service, just the UK depot that he was attached to. But I know that Yates served overseas and got Star as well as the other two medals

 

So it looks as if Helmore's record will not help trace whether or not he was in North Russia

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FROGSMILE
12 minutes ago, corisande said:

Sums him up well Frogsmile. A very complex man

 

I have taken a look at Marine Service records, and compared Helmore whose record is above on Post 26 above with the Marine he murdered Yates (I have Yates record on that link)

 

Basically Yates record looks like Helmore's and there is no indication of overseas service, just the UK depot that he was attached to. But I know that Yates served overseas and got Star as well as the other two medals

 

So it looks as if Helmore's record will not help trace whether or not he was in North Russia


It suggests that another part of both men’s records are missing or not yet seen, as other records I’ve seen in the past did show details of overseas service. Perhaps you could PM horatio2 and seek his input.

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corisande

@horatio2

 

Can you help with this question of whether Helmore served in North Russia ?

 

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corisande

@ss002d6252

 

Can you comment on the gratuity that Helmore got - £5, even though he only enlisted in RM in 29 Oct 1918, but could possibly have served in North Russia

 

In other words could he have got the gratuity just for North Russia. or would he have had to have served somewhere else before the RM in Oct 1918 (He was born in Nov 1900)

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ss002d6252
3 minutes ago, corisande said:

@ss002d6252

 

Can you comment on the gratuity that Helmore got - £5, even though he only enlisted in RM in 29 Oct 1918, but could possibly have served in North Russia

 

In other words could he have got the gratuity just for North Russia. or would he have had to have served somewhere else before the RM in Oct 1918 (He was born in Nov 1900)

 

The qualifying cut off was 3 August 1919, any service prior to then could qualify. The £5 was the minimum (for 12 months or less).

Craig

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corisande

Thanks Craig,

 

So he could have got the £5 even if he never served abroad (North Russia)

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Kimberley John Lindsay

Dear All,

Brilliant researching! Quite fascinating. I had to laugh at 'rent-an-officer'! Super photo (aka Image) of the enigmatic W. R. Johnson as a Major...

For what it is worth, the Citation for his DSO (L. G. 30 July 1919) ran as follows:-

'JOHNSON, WALTER RUSSELL. Lieut.-Colonel, 7th Battn., Essex Regt., Territorial Force, attached 9th Battn.

For conspicuous gallantry and good leadership during the attack on Epehy on 18 Sept. 1918.

When the companies of his battalion had lost direction owing to the darkness and smoke he reorganised and moved them to a flank while the enemy were still in Epehy.

Later, he rallied two companies of another battalion which had become disorganised owing to one of our tanks, which had lost its bearings, firing on them.

Throughout he has shown great energy and ability to command.'

(The DSO Book.)

Kindest regards,

Kim.

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FROGSMILE
1 hour ago, Kimberley John Lindsay said:

Dear All,

Brilliant researching! Quite fascinating. I had to laugh at 'rent-an-officer'! Can anyone provide a photo (aka Image) of the enigmatic W. R. Johnson...?

For what it is worth, the Citation for his DSO (L. G. 30 July 1919) ran as follows:-

'JOHNSON, WALTER RUSSELL. Lieut.-Colonel, 7th Battn., Essex Regt., Territorial Force, attached 9th Battn.

For conspicuous gallantry and good leadership during the attack on Epehy on 18 Sept. 1918.

When the companies of his battalion had lost direction owing to the darkness and smoke he reorganised and moved them to a flank while the enemy were still in Epehy.

Later, he rallied two companies of another battalion which had become disorganised owing to one of our tanks, which had lost its bearings, firing on them.

Throughout he has shown great energy and ability to command.'

(The DSO Book.)

Kindest regards,

Kim.


Very interesting Kim, and not at all unexpected by me.  He was clearly a brave and able officer, and the citation helps to put into perspective what his feelings might have been when he appealed to the king.  There were through history courageous and efficient officers whose face didn’t fit, or whose sexual orientation led to them being deliberately overlooked (shunned). I mentioned a couple earlier in this thread and another who comes strongly to mind was Brigadier Mike Calvert, of WW2 Chindits fame.

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ss002d6252
1 hour ago, corisande said:

Thanks Craig,

 

So he could have got the £5 even if he never served abroad (North Russia)

Yes. Once it gets past 12 months the monthly increment is different based on home/overseas service but until that point you can't tell.

Craig

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headgardener
2 hours ago, corisande said:

Sums him up well Frogsmile. A very complex man

 

I have taken a look at Marine Service records, and compared Helmore whose record is above on Post 26 above with the Marine he murdered Yates (I have Yates record on that link)

 

Basically Yates record looks like Helmore's and there is no indication of overseas service, just the UK depot that he was attached to. But I know that Yates served overseas and got Star as well as the other two medals

 

So it looks as if Helmore's record will not help trace whether or not he was in North Russia

 

If you look at Yates’ postings, ‘Lowestoft’ and ‘Coventry’ are HMS Lowestoft and HMS Coventry. That’s what he got his campaign medals for.

 

Helmore and Yates both joined 8th RM Bn on its formation (it was formed specifically to go to Ireland for guard duty at isolated Coast Guard stations which were soft targets for the IRA).

 

You’ve got Yates as Charles Cleaver Yates, but he’s Charles Burdett Yates throughout surely?

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RaySearching
1 hour ago, Kimberley John Lindsay said:

! Can anyone provide a photo (aka Image) of the enigmatic W. R. Johnson...?

Pay attention  :D  Click on the link in Corisande's post 1

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corisande
53 minutes ago, headgardener said:

You’ve got Yates as Charles Cleaver Yates, but he’s Charles Burdett Yates throughout surely

 

I did not want to complicate an already complicated thread, but he was illegitimate and soon after his birth his mother married a Cleaver, and he used the Cleaver rather than Burdett during his youth and his CWGC headstone reads Charles Cleaver Yates

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headgardener
25 minutes ago, corisande said:

 

I did not want to complicate an already complicated thread, but he was illegitimate and soon after his birth his mother married a Cleaver, and he used the Cleaver rather than Burdett during his youth and his CWGC headstone reads Charles Cleaver Yates

 

Curious. His CWGC details appear to contravene the CWGC's own rule that they record the name that the man or woman served under. And his service papers clearly use the name Burdett....!

Sorry, didn't mean to derail the conversation, my principal point was that Yates' record shows he served on HMS Lowestoft (Jutland, I think) and HMS Coventry, then Ireland with 8th RM Bn. Helmore's only 'overseas' service was Ireland with 8/RM.

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FROGSMILE

It seems increasingly as if the connection between Johnson and Helmore must have predated the war, but that does not explain how Johnson could state that Helmore served under his command.  If he did so then it might be possible that he was a young Territorial (e.g. Boy drummers were permitted) before Joining the RMLI, but that should have been declared on his attestation document.  Nevertheless, it would be committing an offence (a falsehood) for it to be stated in court that they had served together if that was untrue, a not unserious matter for a commissioned officer, especially one so sensitive about his standing as Johnson was.

 

Another puzzle to me is the statement that the King failed to “reinstate” Johnson. Reinstate him to what (in formal matters the word has a specific meaning)? Was this because Johnson was on the TF Reserve (inactive list), but seeking employment (a return to the active list) in places such as North Russia, et al.  It does seem likely given the wording used, but it’s not unequivocal.

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headgardener
17 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

It seems increasingly as if the connection between Johnson and Helmore must have predated the war, but that does not explain how Johnson could state that Helmore served under his command.  If he did so then it might be possible that he was a young Territorial (e.g. Boy drummers were permitted) before Joining the RMLI, but that should have been declared on his attestation document.  Nevertheless, it would be committing an offence (a falsehood) for it to be stated in court that they had served together if that was untrue, a not unserious matter for a commissioned officer, especially one so sensitive about his standing as Johnson was.

 

Indeed, it does look as though any link between them could only have occurred prior to Helmore’s enlistment in the RM. It’s very hard to understand how their paths could have crossed. Helmore appears to have been born and raised in the Reading area prior to enlisting in the RM. Having said that, there’s nothing to indicate where exactly he worked as a “railway porter”. Could have been London for example, although at that age it seems more probable that he was living with he parents. It isn’t easy to see exactly where Johnson was during much of the relevant periods. 

There could be an alternative connection such a familial link between the Helmore and Johnson families, or friendship between Johnson and Helmore’s parents. Could Helmore senior have served under Johnson, and Johnson was seeking to help him out (and, in the process, *bending the truth* regarding his link to Helmore junior)? Or Johnson could have been acting on behalf of someone who really did know Helmore junior but was seeking to keep his own name out of the case in order to avoid their association being revealed?

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FROGSMILE

Any of those scenarios seem possible, but Johnson would have been taking an extraordinary risk if he lied, via legal channels, about his association with Helmore.  It really is a conundrum.

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headgardener
22 minutes ago, FROGSMILE said:

Any of those scenarios seem possible, but Johnson would have been taking an extraordinary risk if he lied, via legal channels, about his association with Helmore.  It really is a conundrum.

 

Agreed. I think Johnson would only have been at risk if any lie that he told was presented in Court as being the truth, and it seems from my reading of things that it never got close to that. He seems to have been presenting (or creating?) a pretext to explain his interest in Helmore’s case. A conundrum indeed.

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