Johnston, Alfred (No. 20/498)

Johnston, Alfred


No. 20/498, 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles

Died of wounds on Friday 4 October 1918 (aged 19)


Dadizeele New British Cemetery, Belgium (Grave III. E. 16)


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Newtownards and District War Memorial

Regent Street Methodist Church Newtownards


Alfred Johnston was born on 13 July 1899 in William Street, Newtownards and he was the only surviving son of James and Agnes Johnston (nee Melville) who were married on 16 January 1889 in Newtownards Roman Catholic Church.  James Johnston (aged 26) of West Street, Newtownards was a son of Patrick Johnston, a bell maker.  Agnes Melville (aged 27) of Greenwell Street, Newtownards was a daughter of James Melville, a labourer.

The Johnston family lived in Canal Street, Newtownards; in Ballysallagh and at 40 William Street, Newtownards.

James Johnston worked as a general labourer and he and Agnes had 12 children, six of whom died in infancy – leaving Alfred and his five sisters:

Mary Lizzie (born 29 March 1889 in Newtownards Workhouse; her father was in Glasgow)

Amelia (born 19 December 1890 in Canal Street, Newtownards)

Ethel (born 6 May 1893 at Ballysallagh)

Florence (born around 1895/1896)

Alfred (born 13 July 1899 in William Street, Newtownards)

Madge (born 29 June 1902 in William Street, Newtownards)

James Johnston died in the 1900s.

In his youth Alfred Johnston was a member of 1st Newtownards Boy Scouts, under Scoutmaster Hugh Maddock.  He enlisted on 5 July 1917 and, after training at Newtownards Camp, went to the Front on 3 April 1918.

Rifleman Alfred Johnston served with the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Alfred Johnston was wounded in action on 4 October 1918 during the Allied offensive against all sections of the German line and he died in a dressing station as a result of shrapnel wounds to his right arm and leg.  In a letter to Alfred’s mother from 110th Field Ambulance the Wesleyan Chaplain, the Rev Ernest Gimblett, expressed his sympathy.  He assured her that the doctors had done all they possibly could but they were unable to save him and Alfred died peacefully at 5.30 pm on 4 October 1918.

Rifleman Alfred Johnston was 19 when he died and he was buried in Dadizeele New British Cemetery, Belgium.

Alfred Johnston’s mother and sisters placed a For King and Country notice in the Newtownards Chronicle and it contained the verse:

Sleep on my dear and only son

While tears of sorrow fall:

Eyes weep on earth, but thou art safe

Where Christ is all in all.

And this loved spot which saw thy birth,

You never more shall see on earth;

Yet Christ has made a home for thee

To live through all eternity.

Rifleman Alfred Johnston is commemorated on Newtownards and District War Memorial (surname spelt Johnstone) and in Regent Street Methodist Church Newtownards.