Cyril Benton JOHNSON
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Unit: 1/6th Battalion SHERWOOD FORESTERS
Date of Death: 21 September 1917
Age: 27
Cemetery: Sailly-Labourse Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France

Cyril's local connections were that he was born in Marple and his father's solicitor's practice was in Stockport. However, for most of his upbringing, he lived in Buxton. Charles and Lizzy Johnson had two sons - Cyril born on 7 May 1890 and Brian, two years younger. Charles' practice provided the family with all the luxuries expected by the middle classes of the day. The 1901 Census shows they were able to employ five live-in servants - a nurse to look after the children, cook, waitress, housemaid and kitchen maid.

Cyril was educated first at Moorland House, Heswall before attending Charterhouse - the well known public school in Surrey. He went on to gain a BA at Christ Church, Oxford. He was a fine athlete and played football for the University team.

Around this time, the family moved to a different home in Buxton - "Hall Bank" and, in 1910, Cyril was commissioned as an officer into the 6th Battalion - the local Territorial unit of the Sherwood Foresters (more formally known as the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment). He had also decided to make his career in the law and was articled to a Mr Norton of Norton, Rose & Barrington of Old Broad Street, London. He as about to take his final examinations when War was declared in August 1914 and he was mobilised.

His service file still exists at the National Archives and gives many details of his War service. It also includes his original application form to become a Territorial officer. It's dated 22 December 1909 and the only piece of information that it tells the reader, other than what is otherwise recorded here, is Cyril's height - 5' 9".

He left Britain, with the Battalion, sailing overnight from Southampton to Le Havre on 25/26 February 1915. A few weeks later, he was promoted to Adjutant but, on 31 July, he was admitted to the Divisional Rest Station suffering with Pyrexia and didn't return to duty until 18 August.

In the spring of 1916, he had a couple of weeks leave to the UK and, shortly after his return, was "Mentioned in Despatches" for gallantry and distinguished conduct. He was then promoted to Captain. 1 July saw the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. Cyril would not see another day of that fighting as he was wounded by shrapnel and evacuated to No. 2 General Hospital at le Havre, before being transferred to 2nd Western General Hospital on Manchester's Whitworth Street.

Returning to duty on 30 October, he would temporarily take command of the Battalion in early December. This was only for a few days while more senior officers were on leave but very soon afterwards he was promoted to Major. In March 1917, he was again promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and took permanent command of the unit. He was, reputedly, the youngest man of that rank at the time. The next month, on 9 April, he was again "Mentioned in Despatches".

Late spring of 1917, saw him back in the UK on leave where, on 17 May, he got married. His wife was Dorothy Lord, the only daughter of Charles Lord, a Manchester solicitor. The marriage was registered in Chapel-en-le-Frith.

Perhaps there was a later period of leave as he is understood to have only returned to duty with the Battalion on 9 September. Two weeks later, he would be dead. His brother, Brian, was also serving with the Battalion as a Lieutenant and he was promoted to Acting Captain on the 14th. Dorothy had gone to live with Cyril's parents at Hall Bank and the dreaded telegram would come quickly with the news that Cyril had been killed. However, it would be Brian who would write home to tell the family what had happened.

The Battalion was moving forward to take over a line of support trenches at a position known as Hill 70, near the French village of Loos, when a German shell exploded nearby. Cyril died instantly.

By 1919, Dorothy had moved to a house called "Wood Edge", still in Buxton. She and other members of the family arranged for Cyril's name to be commemorated at St Giles' Church and, also, on the local War Memorial. However, by the time the War Graves Commission collated its casualty information Charles and Lizzy Johnson had retired to Wharfe Bungalow, Henley-on-Thames.

Some further information about Cyril, including a photograph, can be found in the book "Remembered" by `P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.

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