JOHNSON, Stanley Frederick [of Nottingham]

Pvt. Johnson was a Canadian soldier who came back home to Nottingham and contracted influenza.

By Guy History

The Church (Rock) Cemetery contains 99 war graves, 79 graves from the First World War and 20 graves from the Second World War, but as one walks around the cemetery, it is easy to see many more memorials on family graves that remember loved ones whose bodies lie in a ‘foreign field’ or are commemorated on one of the great war memorials around the world.

However, not far from the entrance to the Church Cemetery a small marble tablet rests on the ground in the shadow of a large tree and today a small Canadian flag blows in the wind next to the tablet. The tablet commemorates a Canadian soldier who enlisted in 1915 and sadly died in Nottingham in November 1918.

The soldiers’ name was Stanley Frederick Johnson who was born in Nottingham on the 23rd November 1890 on Burford Road, Forest Fields. He was born into a family where he would have two brothers and two sisters (Harry, Leslie, Nellie and Maggie).

His fathers’ name was Frederick Sewell Johnson and his mothers’ was Alice.

Stanley’s father was a Lace Warehouseman which was reasonably well-paid job, as according to the 1891 census they employed a live-in servant called Betsy Rate.

However, by 1915, the family had moved to Albert Grove, Lenton Sands.

Stanley grew up, living at the family home on Burford Road, however, before the 1911 Census, it appears that Stanley immigrated to Canada and moved to Toronto and became a Butcher.

With coming of war in 1914, men of the Empire (Commonwealth today) were called upon to join up and on the 30th July 1915, Stanley enlisted and became Pvt. 138615 - Stanley Frederick Johnson of the 75th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Later he would be part of the D Company, 3rd Canadian Battalion, Toronto Regiment.

Stanley would see much of the fighting that the Canadians were involved in, in both France and Belgium.

In October 1918, Stanley was granted leave to visit his family back in Nottingham in Albert Grove.

At that time a major influenza epidemic was raging in Nottingham and throughout England.

In 1918, 884 died and by the end in 1919, 1396 people would die. Nottingham became the second most affected town in the country.

In London over 23000 people died and 50 million worldwide.

Sadly, Stanley contracted the illness and this turned to pneumonia and he died on the 12th November 1918 at the family home on Albert Grove, with his family around him.

Because Stanley was not a casualty of war and did not die as a result of action during the war, he was not entitled to a memorial headstone from the Imperial War Graves Commission.

Following his death, his comrades placed this white marble tablet on his grave, which reads:

 

This tablet was placed

here by the Officers, NCO’s

and Men of the D – Company

3rd Canadian Battalion,

Toronto Regiment

as a mark of affection for

Pvt S.F. Johnson

Died on 12th November 1918

whilst on leave from France.

 

A fitting tribute to a friend and comrade.

 

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Was it ‘just bad luck’ that Stanley contracted influenza, possibly not. Stanley would have returned from the ‘front’ in a poor state of health suffering from fatigue and a lack of nourishing food. His ability to resist and fight the illness would have been very low.

 

One sad point to remember is that Stanley would have gone through most of the actions that the Canadians fought in, he would have seen comrades and friends killed in action or die of their wounds and he had survived all of this, only to be struck down with an illness from which he would not recover and die the day after the Armistice was signed on the 11th November 1918 at 11 o’clock, bringing silence across the battlefields he had fought across.

 

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On the 11th November 2014 as part of a BBC Radio Nottingham tribute to the fallen of the Great War, Verity Cowley and myself laid poppies at Stanley’s grave and told his story to the listeners.

Should you wish to read more about Stanley and his Regiment, please visit the Regimental Museums website http://qormuseum.org/ and search under the webpage link ‘Riflemen’

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'JOHNSON, Stanley Frederick [of Nottingham]' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'JOHNSON, Stanley Frederick [of Nottingham]' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'JOHNSON, Stanley Frederick [of Nottingham]' page

This page was added by Guy History on 13/01/2015.

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