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James Johnston

Updated: Nov 8, 2023


76478 L/Cpl

‘B’ Company, 17th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Reg), 117th Infantry Brigade, 39th Division

Age: 23

Date of Death: 30.7.17

Buried: Menin Gate Memorial Panel 39 to 41

Family history: Son of James and Jane Johnson of Union Terrace, Polmont. He had four brothers and a sister all listed as living at their parents address. Before enlisting, aged 21, in Glasgow on 21 October 1915 he was employed as a Clerk at Whiterigg Colliery. His brother Peter was serving with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. James was transferred to the 15th Training Reserve Battalion at Woolwich on 26 October 1915.


Training Reserve

As a conscript James was allocated to the 15th Training Reserve Battalion (TR). On 1 September 1916 there was a reorganization of the Reserve Battalions, before this the infantry battalions contained one or more reserve battalions of regular or new army battalions. With the introduction of conscription in early 1916, the system could not cope with the influx of recruits and the new centralised system of the TR was put in place and local recruitment was abandoned. They were organised into new brigades. Each battalion was allocated a block of 4,000 numbers with the form of the number being TR/6/17168 in the case of James Johnston. This showed the number of the of the District the Recruitment Office was in (6), there were 12 Districts, and the recruits unique number (17166). James was posted to the training depot at Woolwich.


The Guards, Irish and Territorial battalions did not convert to TR battalions nor did the Special Reserve and Extra Reserve battalions of the regular army, the 3rd and 4th battalions of a regiment, were also not part of the TR. The units insignia and uniform were also different. The cap badge was a General Service badge on a red disc and the letters TR as a shoulder title. Although this changed in June 1917 and again in December 1917.


The Scottish Command had three brigades 9th, 12th and 18th and the men wore a Glengarry rather than a service cap with the 9th Brigade wearing kilts and hose.

All the recruits were not allocated to a particular regiment when the time came for them to be posted. In May 1917, this changed when units of the TR became Graduated or Young Soldier battalions and once again connected with a specific regiment. James was posted to the Sherwood Foresters on 11 January 1917 and was issued with his new service number 76478 and rank of Private. He was promoted to L/Cpl on 12 March 1917.


The action leading to his death

The Battalion was resting at the Canal Bank preparing to go forward to their assembly positions at Hill Top for the attack on the German lines on 31 July 1917, the opening day of the Third Battle of Ypres.

(Linesman Map showing frontline positions)


The War diary notes:


The entry for 31 July records that there were casualties on 30 July while moving up to their assembly point. The War Diary lists the casualties and James is listed with those killed in action.


Medals Awarded:

The British War Medal, Victory Medal.


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