April 16, 2021. Sometimes a soldier’s story is one that Pieter feels a personal connection to. This was the case when he was asked by the researchers at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands for help in finding a photo of WW2 soldier Gordon Frederick JOHNSON.
That was back in 2017 when help was requested to find photos of 6 soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regiment. After going through Gordon’s service file, Pieter was determined to find a photo. “….This was a responsible man, who took care of his men….” he said.
Gordon was born June 11, 1911 in Windsor, Nova Scotia, the son of James Gordon Johnson and Margaret Elizabeth de Wolfe. Later the family moved to Truro, Nova Scotia. Sadly, he lost his father when he was only 3 years old. He had 6 brothers and sisters, and after his mother remarried to John McCarthy, had 6 half-brothers and sisters.
In 1935, Gordon married Hazel Pearl Williams and was employed as a machinist. On October 13, 1939, with WW2 underway, he enlisted with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.
During the spring of 1945, it was clear to both sides that the war in Europe was nearing its end, but extreme resistance from the German army still resulted in many casualties during the liberation of The Netherlands. By now a sergeant, Gordon was killed in action near Zutphen on April 8, 1945 while trying to retrieve an anti-tank weapon that one of the members in his platoon had left behind. Going back to retrieve a weapon is exactly what Pieter would have done!
In ‘No Retreating Footsteps… the story of the North Novas’, Will Bird wrote that “…A PIAT was left by the canal by someone in D Company and Sgt Gordie Johnson went back to get it. He was killed by a sniper as he reached the spot. His passing was a sad loss…” A PIAT is an anti-tank weapon. (For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PIAT)
Gordon is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten. Pieter had no luck finding family members, so in 2018 when we were in Nova Scotia, he made a stop in Truro and went to the Anglican Church that Gordon had belonged to. Perhaps someone from the church office could help find family members, he thought. He was told that no Johnsons were left in Truro, but that there were McCarthys and someone from the church would try to find someone who might have a photo.
Unfortunately, finding a photo has so far been surprisingly unsuccessful, given that he had 6 siblings and 6 half-siblings, plus a wife.
Now an appeal for a photo of Gordon Frederick Johnson has gone out on YouTube, which you can watch here:
A huge thank you goes to post-production editor Wendy Nattress, who made this YouTube video a reality.
Of the 6 soldiers for which photos were sought, family members and photos of three were found, but three remain outstanding. In addition to Gordon Frederick Johnson, the other two members of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders for which a photo is on the wish list are:
- Allan G. COUTTS of Alberta
- Archibald Henry NELSON of Prince Edward Island
Can you help put a face to any of these men! If you have photos or information, please email Pieter at email@example.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @researchmemori1. As well, photos and stories are still being collected for the Atlantic Canada Remembers series, and for Canadian soldiers buried in The Netherlands.
You are also invited to subscribe to our YouTube Channel: On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ591TyjSheOR-Cb_Gs_5Kw.
© Daria Valkenburg