L/Cpl William Edwin Johnson

Lance-Corporal William Edwin Johnson


Unit : No.2 Platoon, 9th (Airborne) Field Company

Army No. : 2075438


"Johnny" Johnson was a member of the 9th Field Company and participated in the invasions of Sicily and Italy. In the former operation, on the night of the 9th/10th July 1943, the then Sapper Johnson fell in with a group of stragglers under the command of Brigadier Hicks. He and Corporal Lake were ordered to destroy an Italian ammunition dump, and although they did not have the correct apparatus with them to achieve this, they improvised one using captured grenades, a hastily constructed detonator, and an extremely hazardous trigger mechanism in the form of the two men falling back to a relatively safe distance and taking a shot at it with their rifles before diving for cover. Either one or both shots found their mark; in any case the dump immediately went up with a great bang.


At Arnhem, Lance-Corporal Johnson fought at the Bridge throughout the duration of the battle. No.2 Platoon reached it on Sunday night and by 08:30 the following morning had established themselves in buildings on the western side of the bridge, under the ramp. At some stage during the battle, Johnson and a friend, "Taffy", who was later killed in action, crawled into the basement in total darkness to find somewhere to sleep. They found what they thought were some boxes and settled down inside them. In the morning, they awoke to find that they were lying in coffins; the building they were in was an undertaker's.


During the late evening of Wednesday 20th September, the remnants of the Platoon were ordered to gather in the grounds of Brigade HQ for a last stand. Johnson was with this group and reached their destination, where, despite carrying a shrapnel wound, he manned the German machine-gun that the Platoon had captured and, in the words of his Commanding Officer, Captain O'Callaghan, "put up a magnificent show holding off the enemy infantry". Johnson was captured with the remainder of his Platoon during the following morning, and he spent the remainder of the war at Stalag XIB at Fallingbostel.


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