William James Johnson

From Our Contribution

William James Johnson
Johnson William James 1.jpg
Johnson William & Andrew.jpg
Personal Information
Date of Birth 27 Feb 1916
Place of Birth Armadale, Western AUstralia
Death 11 Dec 1971, aged 55
Place of Death Gosnells, Western Australia
Age at Enlistment 24 years old
Description 5'8" (1.73m) tall ; ; fair complexion ; green eyes ; brown hair
Occupation Labourer
Religion Church of England
Address Seventh road, Armadale, Western Australia
Next of Kin Mother , Mrs Laura Bishop
Military Information
Reg Number WX1891
Date of Enlistment 4 Mar 1940
Rank Private
Unit/Formation 2/11th Australian Infantry Battalion
Military Movement
1st Departure from Australia
Journey Dates 20 Apr 1940 ‒ 19 May 1940
Transport Details HMT Y3 Nevasa Fremantle to El Kantara, Egypt
Journey Dates 10 Apr 1941 ‒ 12 Apr 1941
Transport Details SS Pennland Alexandria, Egypt to Pireaus, Greece
Journey Dates 25 Apr 1941 ‒ 26 Apr 1941
Transport Details SS Thurland Castle Megarda Greece, to Suda Bay Crete
Journey Dates 10 May 1945
Transport Details plane Germany to England
Return to Australia
Journey Dates 4 Jul 1945 ‒ 19 Sep 1945
Transport Details HMT B2 Liverpool to Sydney
Post War Details
Fate POW Crete June 1941
Returned to Australia
Monument(s) The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial Ballarat Botanical Gardens
External Monument(s) The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial Ballarat, Victoria
Medals 1939-45 Star
Africa Star
Defence Medal
War Medal 1939-45
Australian Service Medal 1939-45
Greek Commemorative War Medal 1940-41

Pre War

War Service

Enlisted at Subiaco and taken on strength of General Reinforcements 2nd AIF. Granted leave 16-17 Mar 1940, 22-25 Mar 1940, and 30-31 Mar 1940. Transferred to 2/11th Australian Infantry Battalion on 3 Apr 1940, and he proceeded on pre-embarkation leave from 8-15 Apr 1940.

Boarded HMT Y3 Nevasa on 20 Apr 1940 and sailed for Kantana in Egypt, arriving on 19 May 1940. After arriving in the Middle East, the 2/11th trained in Palestine and Egypt. In Palestine on 30 Sep 1940 he was charged with sitting down while on sentry duty, and was fined 5/- (50 cents). A decision to reorganise Australian infantry brigades along British lines, with three battalions instead of four, meant the 2/11th was now part of the 19th Brigade, but it remained part of the 6th Division. The battalion went into action for the first time at Bardia on 5 Jan 1941 and, as part of the Allied advance into Italian-occupied Libya, it subsequently fought at Tobruk on 21-22 Jan 1941. Here on 21 Jan 1941 Bill had been charged with drunkenness for which he was fined £2 ($4). The battalion went on to secure Derna airfield on 25 Jan 1941, and it was advancing to the south of Benghazi when the Italians surrendered on 7 Feb 1941.

On 10 Apr 1941 they embarked on the SS Pennland in Alexandria harbour for Greece. The Allied forces, however, were unable to hold back the attacking Germans. The 2/11th withdrew from its initial positions at Kalabaka and remained on the move until it occupied rearguard positions at Brallos Pass a week later. It fought and slowed the Germans there on 24 April and then continued its withdrawal to Megara, where most of its men were evacuated by sea on the night of 25 Apr 1941 aboard SS Thurland Castle. The battalion landed on Crete the next day. It was subsequently deployed with the 2/1st Battalion to defend Retimo airfield, which was held tenaciously for ten days following the landing of German paratroops on 20 May. German successes elsewhere on Crete, however, made surrender inevitable. Many 2/11th soldiers attempted to escape from Crete but only a relatively small number ultimately succeeded; most were taken prisoner.

On 4 Jun 1941 Bill was listed as Missing, believed to be a prisoner of war, captured in Crete. This was confirmed on 28 Oct 1941, and it was said that he was interred in Stalag VIIA with his POW Number being 92299. In April 1943 authorities were advised that he was now held at Stalag VIIIB. Released from captivity, Bill deplaned in England on 10 May 1945 and was sent to the 1st AIF Transit Camp UK, and on arrival was granted proficiency pay. Bill was AWOL from 11:00pm on 9 Jun -3:30pm on 13 Jun 1945, for which his punishment was 4 days confined to barracks and he also forfeited 4 days pay.

Originally listed to return to Australia aboard troopship J11 on 14 Jun 1945 it seems that the reason for his AWOL was to marry, as on 20 Jun 1945 his NOK status changed to wife - Mrs Sylvia Eleanor Ivy Johnson from Middlesex. On 4 Jul 1945 he boarded troopship B2 for Sydney which arrived there on 19 Sep 1945 - no mention of Sylvia at this point. Travelled to Perth where on 24 Sep 1945 he entered the 109th Australian Convalescent Depot at Point Walter, where by 8 Nov 1945 all steps required for his discharge had been met, and he was demobilised by Western Command, Karrakatta on 9 Nov 1945.

Post War

Electoral Roll entries: 1949 Seventh road, Armadale, labourer; 1958 - 1968 Southern River road, Gosnells, farmer.


Sylvia made application to the Greek Government for the Greek Commemorative Medallion after Bill's death.

External Links