Photo Courtesy of Robert Frederick Johnson (son) Private Collection
183 Frederick Sheldon Johnson
The following except is from a story published by Scott Wilson which gives an account from the diary of 160 Percy Robert Thompson when his good friend and fellow sapper 183 Frederick Sheldon Johnson was severely wounded.
Percy recorded on the 1st May 1916- ‘8 o’clock- shells coming over thick and fast. 8” howitzers- chased out of stables- part of stables wrecked, also sleeping hut- Taube directing fire- luckily none of our fellows seriously hurt. Pontoon wagons believed to have drawn fire- one paddock fairly rooted up- 58 shells lobbed, no horse hurt’.
The shelling occurred again several days later on the 5th May 1916 when- ‘Again they have a smack at our stables and luckily got the horses away in time. 8” howitzer again- women, children, old men running out of homes, some very pitiable sights. Night out in charge of teams- heavy bombardment by our artillery’.
Two days later the section was moved two and a half miles further behind the lines, safely out of range of the German artillery.
On the 8th June 1916 Percy wrote- ‘Poor old Freddy hit- walked into Estaires 4 ½ miles to try to see him, lobbed home wet and tired”. Freddy was 183 Sapper Frederick Sheldon Johnson, one of the original enlistees of August 1914. He was a plumber from Petersham, aged only nineteen years of age when he enlisted as the Company’s trumpeter.
Freddy was one of the ex-militia engineers, serving with the 6th Field Company Engineers before enlisting. His service record indicates that he served at Gallipoli and after returning to Egypt he remustered as a driver alongside Percy at Serapeum on the 1st March 1916. Shortly after arriving in France he was remustered as a sapper on the 14th May 1916.
According to Freddy’s service records, on the 8th June 1916, corresponding with Percy’s diary entry, he was wounded. Freddy received shell wounds to both arms (fractured), his back and left thigh. The wounds were serious and within five days he was transported to England for further hospitalisation. On the 31st August 1916 he boarded the New Zealand Hospital Ship ‘Marama’ in Southampton for his return to Australia.
Freddy was discharged on the 26th December 1916 in Sydney and did not serve again. He had spent barely three months on the Western Front. Percy missed out on seeing Freddy in hospital on the day he was wounded but tried again the following day; setting out on horseback he ‘rode into Estaires and had a yarn with him’.
Photo kindly provided courtesy of Robert Frederick Johnson (son) from Private Collection.