A MAN’s efforts to achieve recognition for a farmer’s son who was killed in the Battle of the Somme during the First World War are to result in a remembrance service on the centenary of his death.
Joe Kenny was struck by the fact that Private Henry Johnson was the only soldier from the village of Hilton, near Yarm, not to return home after he was killed in action near Martinpuich on the Somme on September 17 1916, aged 24
Mr Kenny, who is from Liverpool, was visiting relatives in the area when he came across a war memorial listing the names of the men who had served the parish of Hilton.
He said: “All the others served and came home, but one name stood out, Henry Johnson, who was killed in action.
“Intrigued I began to look into it and found myself getting sucked in.
“He is a hero of Hilton, a very brave man who died a very violent death. I am of the view he should be recognised further.”
Pte 5458 Johnson, the son of James and Jane Johnson, of Ox Hill Farm, Hilton, served with the 4th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards).
On the day of his death the 4th Battalion, along with the regiment’s 5th Battalion and the 5th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry were tasked with attacking and holding German trenches to the South-East of Martinpuich.
The positions were taken, although Pte Johnson was killed during the attack.
His body was never recovered and he is listed on the Thiepval memorial in Northern France along with 77,000 men who were killed on the Somme battlefields and who have no known grave.
Mr Kenny, who has visited France and also the National Archives in Kew as part of his research into Pte Johnson, has now organised a service and parade on Saturday (September 17) at 3pm at St Peter’s Church, Hilton.
It is expected to include representatives from the Green Howards and the Royal British Legion.
Steve Erskine, assistant curator of the Green Howards Museum, in Richmond, said: “We think it’s marvellous that Joe was so struck by this single name on a war memorial which made him want to learn more about a soldier who died a hundred years ago.
“It’s when you start to look at the ordinary individuals and think of the tens of thousands like Henry who were in exactly the same situation that you start to understand the impact of conflict and the importance of learning about it.”
Mr Kenny has been unable to date to trace any living relatives of Pte Johnson. Anyone who can help should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
The Green Howards Museum has a special exhibition, ‘Somme. The Other Side of No-Man’s Land’ running until December 23, 2016, which explores the fate of thousands of Yorkshiremen involved in the battle.