July 17, 2021. The four year search for a photo of WW2 soldier Gordon Frederick JOHNSON of Truro, Nova Scotia, who is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands is over! (To read the original story about the search, see https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/04/16/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-search-for-a-photo-of-gordon-frederick-johnson/)
… A letter to the editor proved successful….
On June 24, 2021, Pieter’s letter to the editor was published in the Truro News. The first we knew of it was when the phone rang one Sunday. The caller, Claudia Putnam, said a neighbour had dropped off the article while she was at church. Her father, Clyde McCarthy, was a half-brother of Johnson, and her brother Randy had a photo.
Thanks to the opening of the Atlantic Bubble and a medical appointment in Halifax, we were soon able to meet Claudia and Randy, and learn more about this remarkable soldier.
Randy explained that “…our father Clyde was very close to Gordon, who was known as Gordie…”
Randy and Claudia’s father was one of the children born to the second marriage of Gordon’s mother, Margaret. Randy explained that “…Gordon’s father was a miner working in Missouri when he got black lung from working in the mines. Margaret brought him back to Truro and he died in 1914, when Gordon was 3 years old...”
Gordon’s brothers, George Johnson and Clyde McCarthy (Randy and Claudia’s father), also served in WW2. Thankfully, both survived the war.
In researching further, Pieter learned that Gordon had joined the militia in 1927 and received an Efficiency Medal and Clasp in 1939 for 12 years of service. On October 13, 1939 he enlisted for active service with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.
He served many years as an instructor in the use of mortars in England, with the rank of Warrant Officer, and took a demotion to Sergeant in order to join his regiment in Italy. Instead, he was demoted and sent back to Canada as an instructor.
….’He had a very strong sense of duty’….
Gordon filed a grievance. “...He had a very strong sense of duty to his unit...” remarked Pieter. In early August 1944 he was back in the United Kingdom. On September 29, 1944 he rejoined the North Nova Scotia Highlanders in France.
On April 8, 1945, Gordon was killed in action near Zutphen while trying to retrieve an anti-tank weapon that one of the members in his platoon had left behind.
“…It’s worth repeating what had been said about him by a fellow soldier…” Pieter said. 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…”
Gordon’s mother died at the age of 93. His wife Hazel Pearl stayed in touch with the family but as the older generation passed away, contact between the families faded.
Thank you to Claudia Putnam and Randy McCarthy for sharing information and photos. Do you have photos or information about Gordon Frederick Johnson to share? Please email Pieter at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.
…Help needed to find two more photos …..
Your help is needed to put a face to two more members of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders for which a photo continues to be on the wish list:
- Allan G. COUTTS of Alberta
- Archibald Henry NELSON of Prince Edward Island
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© Daria Valkenburg