Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

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


Recommended Posts

FROGSMILE
11 minutes ago, corisande said:

Thank you Harry

 

So that rules George Helmore out, so we are still short of a definite link between Helmore and Lt.Col Johnson


It seems to me to be important to actually examine yourself both, Johnson’s service record, and Helmore’s attestation document (assuming the latter survives).  Establishing Johnson’s exact movements after being returned home is crucial, and the attestation document should declare previous service (or be committing an offence).

Edited by FROGSMILE
Link to post
Share on other sites
headgardener
On 21/07/2020 at 12:20, FROGSMILE said:


It seems to me to be important to actually examine yourself both, Johnson’s service record, and Helmore’s attestation document (assuming the latter survives).  Establishing Johnson’s exact movements after being returned home is crucial, and the attestation document should declare previous service (or be committing an offence).

 

Agreed. You might crack the case with just a signature or an address on an otherwise trivial document or minute sheet which might get missed by a researcher who is inexperienced in WW1 records.

 

As we’re assuming WRJ’s statements to be broadly accurate, I also think it may be instructive to relate them to verifiable events - especially in the absence of evidence that he was Helmore’s CO.

 

I’ve established a tighter timeline for WRJ’s movements during the war which I’ll set out below.

 

1914

Late July / early Aug WRJ took part in annual training at Clacton with 7th Essex (TF)

4 Aug War declared. 7th Essex remained on the Essex coast employed on Coastal Defence duties

 

1915

May 7th Essex moved to St Albans as preparation for deployment to Gallipoli

24-26 Jul Bn embarked at Devonport, sailed for Gallipoli

11/12 Aug  Bn landed at ‘A’ Beach, Suvla Bay. Subsequently saw action at Suvla, Kiretch Tepe and Hill 60

late Nov. Bn withdrawn to Mudros and then on to Alexandria

Dec  Bn employed guarding the coast railway from Alexandria to Da’aba

 

1916

Mar  Bn moved to Suez, on guard duty

In his letter to King George V dated December 1918 WRJ claimed that “Whilst in the east I was very ill with enteric”

Army List for May & Jun 1916 show WRJ on the books of 3/7th Essex Regt - this would appear to be only an administrative posting as he was back on the books of 1/7 in July, so it presumably coincided with his stated period of ill-health. In my experience, Postings like this in the Army List usually lag behind actual events by 1 or 2 months.

about early Aug?  found to be disruptive and disloyal to his C.O., returned to the UK

11 Nov. Joined 4th (Reserve Bn) Essex Regt in Halton Park, Buckinghamshire

The Army List continues to show him on the books of 7th Essex throughout the period Nov 1916 until his return to France in autumn 1917. This suggests that he was not posted to any other unit such as a TRB or Training School.

 

1917

late Aug / early Sep  posted to France to join 9th Essex (WRJ wrote in December 1918 that “About a month after joining this battalion the C.O. was wounded and aftwards died” - see below, dated 7 Oct)

7 Oct CO of 9th Essex (Col Frederick Vivian Thompson, RE) wounded

14 Oct Col. F.V. Thompson died. WRJ appointed C.O.

15 Oct WRJ reverts to Acting C.O. on appointment of Col. Howard Montague Bulmer de Sales de la Terriere KRRC as C.O. (Col. de la Terriere actually assumed command a few days after this date). WRJ wrote in December 1918 that “about a month later Major de la Terriere was appointed to the command, and I served as his wnd in command”. [note that WRJ’s command lasted no more than a few days, and very definitely not “about a month”]

 

1918

Mar  in his letter of Dec 1918 to King George V, WRJ states that he “commanded a composite battalion during the Cambrai retreat”. This presumably implies that he commanded a body of men from various units who has become separated from their own regiments during the German Spring Offensive and were temporarily grouped together as a fighting unit during the retreat

Apr WRJ states that after the Spring Offensive he was “sent to the senior officer school. On my return [to 9th Essex] I found that another officer had been appointed 2nd in command”. This would presumably have been Maj. Gilbert Green, Essex Regt.

16 Apr  Col de la Terriere returned to the UK due to “sickness”, Gilbert Green appointed C.O.

22 Aug  Col Green was gassed during actions at the Bray-Meaulte road and was succeeded by WRJ. WRJ later wrote that “this officer went sick and I took over command”

22nd or 23rd Aug: “....the 9th Essex were held up in the open by a machine-gun which was being worked at the gates of a chateau. Lieut-Colonel Russell-Johnson called for volunteers to rush the gun and Captain Barltrop and four or five other men dashed forward with the commanding officer. It was an apparently mad thing to do, but audacity paid. A run of some hundred to two hundred yards brought the party to the shelter of a row of houses. One or two of the number were hit by another gun situated on a slag heap on the left. As [WRJ] and the others neared the machine guns the teams fled. On searching the chateau one Prisoner was secured. No further progress was made...” (extract from “The Essex Regiment - 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th & 13th battalions” by J.W. Burrows; pub.1923]

24 Aug “Sometimes, however, the bravery [....] verged upon foolhardiness. An eccentric command decision was taken by [WRJ] on 24 August. In the advance East of Mametz towards Carnoy, he ordered the Company Commanders of the 9th Essex to lead their men into action on their chargers. One of the officers involved later wrote: ‘We did so for about 50 yards, when owing to the chargers loathing for barbed wire and 2 particularly nasty shells, they were sent back again, only too thankfully, by the company commanders”. [extract from ‘From The Somme to Victory” by Peter Vickers]

18 Sep WRJ awarded the DSO for action at Ephey

13 Oct WRJ “slightly wounded... and replaced for a few days by an officer from the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment” [ref: Peter Vickers, ibid]

approx 1 Nov WRJ reported sick with influenza, Col. de la Terriere resumed command.

 

 

I’ll post a couple more things later today.

Edited by headgardener
Link to post
Share on other sites
FROGSMILE

A very interesting rundown, although the details for 1916 would bear further scrutiny.  The only reason that I can imagine WRJ being shown on 3/7th's books would be if he was in a rest and recuperation camp, and I do not know if that was the normal procedure when actually still in France.  Also where was he between  Aug and Nov?

Link to post
Share on other sites
headgardener
7 minutes ago, FROGSMILE said:

A very interesting rundown, although the details for 1916 would bear further scrutiny.  The only reason that I can imagine WRJ being shown on 3/7th's books would be if he was in a rest and recuperation camp, and I do not know if that was the normal procedure when actually still in France.  Also where was he between  Aug and Nov?

 

He was in Egypt, not France. Yes, it would fit with being in hospital and/or convalescent camp ‘in theatre’.

Link to post
Share on other sites
headgardener
24 minutes ago, FROGSMILE said:

 Also where was he between  Aug and Nov?

 

The correspondance that Corisande posted shows the local Brigadier’s findings (that WRJ was disloyal and disruptive) to have been made in early Aug, then there was an appeal letter from WRJ dated, I think, 17 Aug. I’m not sure whether there is any more correspondence - do you have any more Corisande? Assuming an unsuccessful appeal was heard that might push his departure from Egypt to early Sept. Then a voyage by sea to the UK (10 days / 2 weeks?), then a period of leave or at the Depot, then Halton Park on 11 Nov.

Link to post
Share on other sites
corisande
30 minutes ago, headgardener said:

then there was an appeal letter from WRJ dated, I think, 17 Aug. I’m not sure whether there is any more correspondence - do you have any more Corisande?

 

I have all the correspondence on his file, and there was no appeal noted. All who were consulted concurred with the local findings in in Egypt. He was ordered to return home to UK and reported to 4th Essex on 11 Nov 1916

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
headgardener
6 hours ago, corisande said:

 

I have all the correspondence on his file, and there was no appeal noted. All who were consulted concurred with the local findings in in Egypt. He was ordered to return home to UK and reported to 4th Essex on 11 Nov 1916

 

 

 

Thanks!

 

You posted a photo of the reference to him reporting to 4th (Res) Essex plus the reference to his ‘disloyalty’ being noted - are there any other entries on the Minute Sheet(s) between Aug 1916 and November 1917 and, if there are, what do they say?

 

Do you also have the Courts Martial file? It would be interesting to know exactly what references there were to WRJ having known Helmore as a result of Helmore having served under him. I’m assuming all the info about WRJ’s involvement in the case comes from the CM file?

Link to post
Share on other sites
corisande
36 minutes ago, headgardener said:

are there any other entries on the Minute Sheet(s) between Aug 1916 and November 1917 and, if there are, what do they say?

 

As I said above there is nothing else to note. I have the whole officer file

 

37 minutes ago, headgardener said:

Do you also have the Courts Martial file?

 

Afraid not, only the transcript that I have been supplied with

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry if I missed it, but which court sentenced him and why Maidstone gaol?

Link to post
Share on other sites
corisande

He was court-martialed in Ireland, and would have served his time in an Irish Prison, but when Irish Independence happened in 1922, for fairly obvious reasons they moved all British soldiers to British Prisons

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks

Link to post
Share on other sites
FROGSMILE
On 22/07/2020 at 12:15, headgardener said:

 

The correspondance that Corisande posted shows the local Brigadier’s findings (that WRJ was disloyal and disruptive) to have been made in early Aug, then there was an appeal letter from WRJ dated, I think, 17 Aug. I’m not sure whether there is any more correspondence - do you have any more Corisande? Assuming an unsuccessful appeal was heard that might push his departure from Egypt to early Sept. Then a voyage by sea to the UK (10 days / 2 weeks?), then a period of leave or at the Depot, then Halton Park on 11 Nov.


That makes sense now with the trooping factored in. It’d slipped my mind he had been in Gallipoli and Egypt.

Link to post
Share on other sites
FROGSMILE
On 22/07/2020 at 20:25, corisande said:

 

As I said above there is nothing else to note. I have the whole officer file

 

 

Afraid not, only the transcript that I have been supplied with


It still feels like we don’t know enough about Helmore’s movements pre enlistment with the RMLI. If WRJ was indeed his CO then it could only have been in the window of opportunity after his return home and time at Belton Park.  Has Helmore’s attestation form been found so that it can be examined for indications of previous service?  The only conceivable link would be if he had joined the Essex reserve battalion underage, but then subsequently been discharged.  A relatively common scenario.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...