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we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow

we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow

The 22nd November 1916 was a Wednesday. But to the undersized, muddy, pigeon-chested, dour, cynical, louse-infested youths huddled in a deep wet ditch in a rain-swept plain in north-eastern France, not much mattered but the cold. Except, of course, correctly identifying the characteristic howls, roars, shattering bangs, and other cacophony generated by howitzers and the fearful whiz-bangs, and, as far as possible, keeping out of the way of incoming minnies and coal boxes. In the British lines, one officer was showing another the lie of a roughly-fashioned trench leading from the front line into no-man’s-land and towards the German line. It was the last day of Major “Johnny” Johnson’s life.

Late in the 19 century, my great-grand parents, the Reverend Henry Barham Johnson and Catherine Bodham Donne, had brought little Geoffrey into the world. His eyes opened on a room in the vicarage in the Somerset village of Lullington on 10th Aug 1893.

Ten years later he and his elder brother, who would later become my grandfather, sang at Westminster Abbey at the coronation of King Edward. Later still, he went to Jesus College, Cambridge, where he read theology, taught in a Sunday school and helped at a boy's youth club.

Patriotic, swept up by the enthusiasm of the times, he signed up on 4th August 1914 before war was declared. He received a commission in the 7th (Service) Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment (7/Norfolk), one of Lord Kitchener's Regiments. The Division to which it belonged moved to France in June 1915.

Geoffrey wrote home every few days.

June 6 1915. The heat is terrible. There is an awful lot of firing going on but it is all many miles away. This certainly is not pleasant, but we are very cheery and make the best of it. What with the cows and the guns roaring we shall have difficulty in getting to sleep.

June 8 1915. We have now got to our journey's end. This is a fairly large town. There is a grand bath with hot and cold and a douche. The whole place is very English. The first thing we saw was a notice "To the Follies". I believe this place is generally shelled in the afternoon. That remains to be seen.

June 9 1915. We are thoroughly enjoying ourselves here. You would never think that there was a war on if it was not for the occasional shell explosion.

June 10 1915. Last night there was a lot of firing going on in the trenches but I was soon asleep and did not hear much of it.

June 12 1915. I am in a comfortable house and so have my washing done here. We have got several aeroplanes above us. There was a great bombardment from all sides. We are getting accustomed to that now.

June 15 1915. Our guns are making a terrible din now. They keep going off every half minute each side of the house. The whole place shakes. Yesterday we went into the trenches for the first time. At night we went up and dug trenches. When the bullets came the men worked like anything.

June 17 1915. We are opposite Saxons at present. This trench warfare is absurd. It seems an absolute deadlock.

June 18 1915. This morning I was only a few yards from the German trench. It was quite safe. We had blown up a mine and had been able to get hold of the crater. Everything is very quiet. Hardly any firing.

July 5 1915. We are in quite an interesting trench. We were shelled a little yesterday, but I think it was only the ordinary morning hate. In the afternoon a large hole was knocked out of the trench by a machine gun.

July 6 1915. Last night I very nearly had an exciting time. I was being sniped at from some point behind our line.

July 10 1915. We have been in the trenches for several days and are now out again. We got quite interested in our bit of the line. The din of these high explosive shells bursting is absolutely colossal and inconceivable. If it were not for the danger that attends them, it would be a fine sight to watch. Last night we had quite an interesting night. I cannot say what happened. It may get into the papers.

July 14 1915. Last night a good mine was blown up. The whole place shook and swayed about and then there was a tremendous fusillade and their guns opened up on us.

July 27 1915. The Germans have just put up on their trench a notice that Warsaw has fallen with 100,000 prisoners. I wonder if this is true.

August 1 1915. My little dug-out is very cosy. It is 8 ft long 4 ft broad and about 4ft 6in high. I watch the canvas move when the rats run up and down on top.

August 24 1915. Yesterday evening we had a little talk with Fritz. We had kippers for breakfast but they had been delayed in the post a little and were rather strong in parts! Our guns are firing a bit now so I must go and watch the fun. They do some very good shooting now.

Between 23 September and 5 October 1915 he was given a few days leave and returned to England. His sister said, "Though he did not say much it was clear that he did not expect to get through it alive

1981 Hamilton US Army wrist watch GG W 113 FED stock No 6645 00 066 4279 Date Feb 1981

1981 Hamilton US Army wrist watch GG W 113 FED stock No 6645 00 066 4279 Date Feb 1981

Hand Wound
Hamilton GG-W-113 with 17 jewel movement made for issue to the US military. Hamilton have been a primary supplier to the US forces for many years and this watch is typical of the “Vietnam Era” design. These watches however are all marked with issue numbers ranging from 1979 to 1981. The design is typical military. It is sandblasted stainless steel case, fixed bars, screw on back and original olive drab military webbing strap.

military wrist watch

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