Hunt for descendants of Worksop war hero as centenary exhibition launch looms

editorial image

Councillors are trying to trace the descendants of a Great War hero from Worksop who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his outstanding bravery.

Nottinghamshire County Council hope to track down surviving relatives of Sergeant William Henry Johnson so his acts of heroism can be celebrated as part of a new exhibition.

The Worksop solider, one of six Nottinghamshire men who will be featured in the exhibition, was recognised for single-handedly charging at and taking out two German machine-gun nests at Ramicourt in 1918.

His Victoria Cross citation fin the London Gazette reads: “When his Platoon was held up by a nest of enemy machine guns at very close range. Sgt. Johnson worked his way forward under very heavy fire, and single-handed charged the post, bayoneting several gunners and capturing two machine guns.

“During this attack he was severely wounded by a bomb, but continued to lead forward his men.

“Shortly afterwards, the line was once more held up by machine guns. Again he rushed forward and attacked the post single-handed. With wonderful courage he bombed the garrison, put the guns out of action, and captured the teams.”

William served in the Home Guard during World War II, but while serving in a searchlight unit, he sustained a serious injury and had to have his leg amputated.

Later he was admitted to hospital at Sheffield for further treatment and had to have a second foot amputated shortly afterwards.

But he didn’t recover from his injuries and died on April 25 1945, shortly before the end of the Second World War.

He was buried at Redhill Cemetery, Arnold with full military honours. His Victoria Cross and other medals are on display at the Sherwood Foresters Museum at Nottingham Castle.

The upcoming exhibition is part of a wide range of activities planned by the authority to mark the Great War centenary and will tour libraries and other public buildings across the county from this summer.

This will include the creation of a new Great War Memorial for the county, bearing the names of more than 14,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians from Nottinghamshire who lost their lives in the First World War.

Councillor Kay Cutts, leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “The Victoria Cross is reserved only for the most outstanding, exemplary acts of bravery, with just 628 awarded during the five years of the Great War.

“When you read about the incredible acts of heroism carried out by these Nottinghamshire men, it is understandable why they should be recipients of the highest possible military honour.

“I am delighted that we will be honouring their bravery with a special, touring exhibition this year so that more people from all parts of the county can learn about and be inspired by their amazing and often emotional stories.

“We would very much like the descendants of these men to be part of the launch of the exhibition, although we are under no illusions this will be a difficult task with so much time having passed and with some of the men having moved to different parts of the UK by the time of their death. We hope local people and the media can help us in our search - I am sure their ancestors are extremely proud of their actions and it would be great to hear and share the families memories about the life and times of these heroic men.”

Councillors are also trying to trace the descendants of:

Sapper William Hackett, Sneinton

Colonel Sir Charles Geoffrey Vickers, Nottingham

Captain Albert Ball, Lenton

Lance Corporal Wilfrid Dolby Fuller, Kirkby

Private Samuel Harvey, Bulwell

If you are a descendant of any of Nottinghamshire’s Great War Victoria Cross recipients, contact Neil Bettison, Community Officer at Nottinghamshire County Council on 0115 977 2051 or email neil.bettison@nottscc.gov.uk

Further information about the Victoria Cross and the Nottinghamshire recipients from the Great War is available at www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/culture-leisure/heritage/the-victoria-cross