Johnston MC, Elliott

Johnston, Elliott

Military Cross


‘B’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles

Killed in action on Saturday 1 July 1916 (aged 28)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Thiepval Memorial, France (Pier and Face 15 A and 15 B)

Newtownards and District War Memorial

Strean Presbyterian Church Newtownards

Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) Roll of Honour 1914 – 1919 for

Belmont Presbyterian Church Belfast

North of Ireland Cricket Club Memorial Plaque

(includes those members of the Club who played Rugby Football)

Journey of Remembering Belfast Book of Honour

Campbell College War Memorial

Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) War Memorial

Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) Book of Remembrance


Elliott Johnston was born on 12 May 1888 at Hartford Lodge, Newtownards and he was the second son of Samuel and Isabella Johnston (nee Elliott) who were married on 2 May 1884 in Elmwood Avenue Presbyterian Church Belfast.  Samuel Johnston from Belfast was a son of Samuel Johnston, a gardener.  Isabella Elliott from Randalstown was a daughter of George Elliott, a teacher.

The Johnston family lived in Corporation North, Newtownards.

Samuel Johnston founded the Glen Printing and Finishing Works in Newtownards and he and Isabella had at least six children:

William Petticrew (born 3 February 1885 at 22 Lawrence Street, Belfast)

Edith Georgina (born 1 July 1886 at 22 Lawrence Street, Belfast)

Elliott (born 12 May 1888 at Hartford Lodge, Newtownards)

Ernest Clifford (twin born prematurely 18 April 1890 in West Street Newtownards)

Unnamed female (twin born prematurely 18 April 1890 in West Street Newtownards; died 19 April 1890)

Irene Beatrice (born 6 June 1893 at Hartford Lodge, Newtownards)

Elliott, Ernest and Irene Johnston were baptised in Strean Presbyterian Church Newtownards.

The Johnston family moved to Belfast where they lived at Ardenza, King’s Road and later at 1 Deramore Park.

Elliott Johnston attended Campbell College between 1903 and 1906; Nottingham High School; Caulfield College and Queen’s University Belfast (Faculty of Commerce) from 1910 to 1913.  He managed the stitching department in Glen Printing and Finishing Works before the outbreak of the Great War and he was Senior Half-Company Commander of Newtownards ‘D’ Company Ulster Volunteer Force.

Elliott Johnston served with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division – as Second Lieutenant from 13 September 1914, Lieutenant from 1 December 1914 and Captain from February 1916.  Elliott distinguished himself at the Dollymount School of Musketry in Dublin being graded 1st Class Instructor and was appointed Assistant Adjutant to the 13th Battalion.  It was noted that he was 5 feet 11 inches tall.

In June 1915, as a token of their esteem, the workers in the Glen Printing and Finishing Works presented Elliott Johnston with a service revolver, wristlet watch with a luminous dial, prismatic compass, map case, clasp knife and a combination knife, fork and spoon.

Initially Captain Johnston was reported as missing in action after the first day of the Battle of the Somme and there was little hope that he was still alive.  Colonel Savage wrote to Elliott’s father and in the letter he said, ‘Captain Johnston was leading two platoons of his company in the advance of 1 July.  The most I can discover about him is from Corporal Bailie of his company who was close to him near the second line of the German trenches when he was hit through the body above the hip and I regret to say he thinks he was killed.  The heavy machine gun fire across the spot prevented any help being given to him’.  Later it was reported that he had ben hit by a fragment of shell in the head.  Another report suggested that he had been taken prisoner. Captain Johnston’s death was ‘accepted for official purposes’ in December 1916.

Colonel Savage went on to tell Elliott’s father that on the night of 26/27 June Elliott had planned and executed a raid on the German trenches.  With three other officers and 100 men he had brought back thirteen German prisoners, one of whom was an officer.  During the raid, he had penetrated as far as the enemy’s support trenches in order to see their condition.  Colonel Savage wrote, ‘It was the most successful raid done by our Division’.  During that raid Lance Corporal John McCracken from Newtownards was killed.

For this conspicuous gallantry during operations Captain Elliott Johnston was awarded the Military Cross and it was presented to Elliott’s father by Brigadier-General Hacket Pain CB in a ceremony at Palace Barracks Holywood on Wednesday 25 April 1917.  It was reported in the Press that Elliott Johnston was the first officer in the 13th Battalion to be awarded a medal for gallantry.

The last letter sent home by Elliott Johnston was written on 30 June 1916 and it was delivered after he was killed in action.

Captain Elliott Johnston has no known grave and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France; on Newtownards and District War Memorial; on the Memorial Plaque in Strean Presbyterian Church Newtownards; in the PCI Roll of Honour for Belmont Presbyterian Church Belfast; on the North of Ireland Cricket Club Memorial Plaque (includes those members of the Club who played Rugby Football); in the Belfast Book of Honour (page 296); on the Campbell College and QUB War Memorials and in the QUB Book of Remembrance (Page 29).

[The North of Ireland Football Club (members played Rugby Football as opposed to Soccer) was founded by members of the North of Ireland Cricket Club and the North of Ireland Cricket Club Memorial Plaque commemorates members of both Clubs.  Members of the Football Club were also members of the Cricket Club but not all members of the Cricket Club were members of the Football Club.]