Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Private Reginald Johnston of Fairford

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I am working on a series of blog posts and radio shows that will look at some of the Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts, follow this link.

UPDATE: More information on the burial of Reginald Johnston.

Reginald Joseph Winfield Johnston was the second-youngest of seven children of a pioneering family in the of Fairford, Manitoba area. When he enlisted with the 107th Battalion at Winnipeg on January 19, 1916.

20-year-old, unmarried Johnston listed his occupation as "homesteader".

Top: February 17th, 1916, Winnipeg Tribune
Bottom: 107th Marching, Aug 1916. (Pilot Mound WWI Museum/ WFP)

The 107th Battalion was recruited by a popular local war veteran and Lt. Col. named Glenyon Campbell. He was a draw at public recruitment events and even took out personal ads asking people to join him.

In fact, when was it was announced that the 79th Brandon Battalion, which Campbell recruited for, would be going overseas without him so that he could raise another local battalion, the 107th, it was reported in the Winnipeg Tribune in December 1915 that at least 200 men from the 79th applied for transfers.

Campbell made use of the network of Indian Agents to also spread the word and, as a result, the 107th was notable for its large number of Aboriginal and Metis recruits. (Johnston was, seemingly, Metis.) Recruits came from places like Roblin, Kelwood, Brandon, Gilbert Plains and Winnipeg.

Top: 16th Battalion badge (source: eBay)

After arriving in England, Johnston was transferred to the 16th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Canadian Scottish). He was killed in action during the Battle of Hill 70 on August 15, 1917.

Johnston's body was not found until a munitions clearing exercise in the small town of

of Vendin-le-Vieil, France in 2011 discovered skeletal remains. The Department of National Defence's Casualty Identification Review Board determined that they were Johnston's.

Johnston will be buried August 24, 2017, in the Loos British Cemetery in Loos-en-Gohelle, France. Five members of his family will be in attendance for the ceremony.

Battle of Hill 70, Casualty Identification National Defence
Attestation papers and military file Library and Archives Canada

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