Anzac Day: Chidlow resident recalls dad’s time in WWI

Anzac Day: Chidlow resident recalls dad’s time in WWI

CHIDLOW resident Annette Ryan said her dad Alfred Laurence Johnston was a humble man who rarely spoke of war or any of his achievements.

“He didn’t like to talk about the war and when he did it often brought tears to his eyes,” she said.

“Sometimes on long trips with my brothers he talked.

“He said that war was a terrible thing and there are no winners.”

Born in 1898, Dr Johnston grew up in Greenmount and attended Guildford Grammar School by train or pony and cart.

Lying about his age, he enlisted in World War I to serve with four of his brothers.

Mrs Ryan, a retired nurse, said her dad’s decision was also partly due to the sudden death of his father in a shooting accident.

“He wanted to do his bit for the country along with his brothers – the five boys all came back, so none of them was killed,” she said.

She said it was nearly not so after a shell landed near Dr Johnston as he drank from his water bottle on his 18th birthday.

“It was a dud – and the best birthday present he ever had,” Mrs Ryan said.

Dr Johnston rode the lead horse in a team of draught horses pulling Howitzer field guns through muddy fields.

A soldier in 103rd Howitzer Battery in France, he also occasionally clambered back to help fire the gun by pulling the ripcord trigger.

“He also had a helpful mule named Horace,” Mrs Ryan said.

By World War II he had a medical degree from Melbourne University and a Fellowship with the Royal College of Surgeons in England.

“That’s where he met mum (Lesley Elphick); she was at uni learning violin,” Mrs Ryan said.

The two married in 1939 and Dr Johnston first saw his eldest daughter Lesley-Frances when she was two years old.

“They got demobbed at Rottnest and mum came to meet the ship and she had my sister in a little bonnet… Dad cried when he saw her,” she said.

He had enlisted in the Second 3rd Field Ambulance at Gaza as a Captain and later became a Major.

n More, page 5