Johnston, Thomas (Tommy)
No. 19038, ‘B’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Killed in action on Thursday 16 August 1917 (aged 20)
Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium (Grave VII. E. 10)
Ballywalter and District War Memorial
Ballywalter Parish Church of Ireland Church (Holy Trinity)
Family grave headstone in Whitechurch Cemetery Ballywalter
Thomas Johnston was born on 14 March 1897 in Ballywalter and he was the eldest son of Thomas and Mary Ann Johnston (nee Murphy) who were married on 31 December 1891 in Ballywalter Parish Church of Ireland Church. Thomas Johnston (aged 24) was from Ballywalter. Mary Ann Murphy (aged 19), a servant from Ballywalter, was a daughter of William John Murphy, a fisherman.
The Johnston family lived at The Warren, Springvale, Ballywalter.
Thomas Johnston worked as an agricultural labourer and he and Mary Ann had at least twelve children (including two sets of twins):
Elizabeth (born 26 January 1893 in Ballywalter)
Agnes (born 4 March 1895 in Ballywalter)
Thomas (Tommy, born 14 March 1897 in Ballywalter)
Annie (born 10.00 pm 29 October 1899 in Ballyobegan, Ballywalter)
Robert (born 10.15 pm 29 October 1899 in Ballyobegan, Ballywalter)
William John (born 3.00 am 31 July 1902 in Springvale, Ballywalter)
David (born 4.00 am 31 July 1902 in Springvale, Ballywalter)
Hugh (born 7 December 1904 in Springvale, Ballywalter)
David (born 30 March 1907 in Springvale, Ballywalter)
James (born 21 February 1909 in Springvale, Ballywalter)
Mary (born 13 May 1911 in Springvale, Ballywalter)
Walter (born 11 December 1913 in Ballywalter)
Prior to the outbreak of the Great War, Tommy Johnston worked as an agricultural labourer.
Tommy Johnston enlisted shortly after the outbreak of the Great War and he served with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division. Rifleman Tommy Johnston was wounded in action during the Battle of the Somme.
Rifleman Tommy Johnston was posted as missing in action on 16 August 1917 at Langemarck during the Third Battle of Ypres and, a year later, his parents received official confirmation that he must be presumed to have been killed in action on or since that date. They placed a For King and Country notice in the Newtownards Chronicle and it contained the verse:
For his King and country well he stood,
Unknown to coward’s fears;
In battle strife he shed his blood
With the Ulster Volunteers.
When alone in my sorrow and bitter tears flow,
There stealeth a dream of the sweet long ago,
Unknown to the world Tommy stands by my side,
And whispers: ‘Dear mother, death cannot divide’.
Rifleman Tommy Johnston was 20 when he died and he was buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium.
At the time of Tommy’s death one of his younger brothers was also on active service.
Rifleman Tommy Johnston is commemorated on Ballywalter and District War Memorial and in Ballywalter Parish Church of Ireland Church (Holy Trinity). He is also commemorated on the family grave headstone in Whitechurch Cemetery Ballywalter. Tommy’s father died on 12 February 1941 and his mother died on 24 December 1942.