Without doubt, the Johnson family was wealthy. Their income derived from John Johnson’s management of the calico bleach works of Henry Marsland Ltd. The works has been long demolished but was on the site of the Stockport town centre Sainsbury supermarket. In about 1899, he bought Brinnington Hall and, when the Census was taken in 1901, was living their in some opulence with his wife, Sarah, and their four children – Sydney (then aged 9), Marjorie (8), Cyril (3) and Katherine (5 months). There were also three live-in servants – Agnes Wrench, a cook; Mary Thomas, housemaid and Lucy Wrench, a nurse looking after the children. At the time the Hall would have looked out over open countryside but it was demolished before World War 2 to make way for the housing estate. It was on the site of the present St Paul’s Primary School.
Cyril was educated at Sedbergh, a boarding school near Kendal, where he was a member of the Officer Training Corps. He then joined the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst to train as a career officer gaining his commission on 28 February 1917. Within a few days, he had left the UK and joined his Brigade in Belgium.
7 June 1917 was the opening of the important Battle of Messines. Cyril and his Battery were on the northern edge of the attack area near the village of Vlamertinge. They were in action all day, supporting the infantry attack and, generally shelling the enemy’s communication trenches to prevent reinforcements coming forward. About midday, the Germans did manage to assemble troops who made a determined counter-attack to try to retake their lost ground. The Battery fired heavily on these troops breaking up the attack. During the day, Cyril was killed and four of men wounded – two so badly that they died a short while later. No doubt, the Battery position had been targeted by the German artillery.