Herbert Charles Johns, Army Service Corps

Medals awarded to Herbert Charles Johns, M2/048349, Army Service Corps.

My husband’s mother recently gave me these medals to try to work out how they got into her ‘box of bits’. I discovered that they were awarded to Private Herbert Charles Johns, M2/048349, Army Service Corps. He may be a distant relation on the Bird side of her family, but he is not a close relative. I have donated these to the Royal Logistics Corps Museum, but it would also be good to let any close family members know that they’ve found a permanent home. Herbert had quite a large family of six children, so he must have plenty of ancestors. It will be nice to think that the medals are somewhere where they could all access them.

Herbert was born in Thetford, Norfolk, on 24th Oct 1878. He married Gertrude Emma Louisa Bird, known as Emma, at St Mark’s, Lakenham, in 1903. Their children were all born in Norwich. They were:

  • Elsie Gertrude Beatrice Johns 1904
  • Gladys Evelyn Muriel Johns 1905
  • Edward Percival Northie Johns 1908
  • Reginald Norman Johns 1909
  • Arthur Herbert Johns 1911
  • William George Johns 1914

In 1911 the family were living at 33 Bartholomew Street, Thorn Lane, Norwich, and Herbert was working as a motor car engine fitter, making him a valuable future asset for the Army Service Corps. By February 1915 Herbert was a motor mechanic, employed by J Short, Bishop Bridge, Norwich, and his family were living at 32 St Johns Street, Rose Lane, Norwich.

Herbert attested in Norwich on 5th February 1915. He joined the Mechanical Transport section of the Army Service Corps at Grove Park on 6th February, and remained with the ASC (later the Royal Army Service Corps) for the duration of the war. He was just over 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighing 156 lbs, with good physical development.

Herbert embarked on the Dunluce Castle at Avonmouth on 29th Feb 1915. His medal card states that he arrived in France on 29th March 1915, but he must have been redirected almost immediately, because his medical record confirms that he arrived on the front in Alexandria on 12th April 1915. He remained in Egypt for the rest of the war.

Herbert was posted to the Base Depot of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force which served in Gallipoli and Salonika. Here he served as a trade fitter and motor repair hand, classed ‘good’.

Herbert was given a No.1 Field Punishment for using obscene language to an NCO on 22nd May 1915. On 11th June 1915 he was given a No.2 Field Punishment for misconduct on 4th June which included disobeying a lawful command given by a superior officer, giving an improper response to an NCO, bringing intoxicating liquor into camp, and breaking out of barracks. He was probably placed in fetters and handcuffs but was not confined and was still able to march with his unit. He was discharged from detention on 23rd June. There were no further problems for almost a year after this.

In July 1915 he was in Alexandria when he lost most of the sight in his left eye, due to injury to the uvea of the eye. This happened when a piece of steel entered his eye whilst he was working. He was treated for this at the Reception Station in Alexandria, then at the 17th General Hospital, the 27th General Hospital in Cairo, then at [Nazerik? illegible] in Cairo.

On 8th May 1916 Herbert was given three days close confinement for neglect of duty the previous day, not reporting an unusual occurence whilst acting as a sentry.

During the following few weeks he moved to Cairo. This may tie in with a hard-to-read entry in his record stating that he moved from the Base Depot to the Advanced Base Depot at Cairo with 770 or probably 790 [illegible] Mechanical Transport Company.

On 7th Sep 1916 he attended hospital in Cairo for a persistent fever (pyrexia of unknown origin). He was discharged on the 13th Sep 1916. On 29th Nov 1916 he attended hospital in Cairo for with dysentry. He was discharged on the 13th Dec 1916 and rejoined the MT Depot [at Gamsah?].

On 20th Jan 1917 Herbert was absent from morning parade until 11am and was given a three-day No.2 Field Punishment.

On 2nd Sep 1917 he left the [Gamsah?] depot and joined 772 Company at Salonica No.[1?] Depot. On 17th Sep 1917 he was give 10 days Field Punishment No.2 for hesitating to obey an order on the 14th September. He served this ten day punishment in prison in the Field Punishment Compound until 27th Sep 1917, when he rejoined 772 Company. He was medically examined on 11th Oct 1917 and classified category B1.

On 28th Dec 1917 Herbert was transferred to the No.14 (Egypt) Mobile Repair Unit. This was his final posting. On 26th December 1918 Herbert began the journey home, leaving from Port Said on the Troop Ship Canberra, and arriving in Southampton on 14th January 1919. He presented himself at Grove Park the next day. He was transferred to the 181 Reserve Depot Company and was discharged on 23rd March 1919, Class Z, with his home address still 32 St Johns Street. His discharge papers were slightly less than stellar, saying that he was intelligent, and his military character very good, but his sobriety and reliability were only ‘fair’.

Herbert was awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1914-1915 Star. He was granted a provisional pension on 24th Mar 1919 until further notice for loss of sight in his left eye from corneal opacity, which was attributed to his service. The provisional pension was extended on 29th Aug 1919, with a request to verify hospital record entries and obtain specialist recommendations. Further extensions to the pension were approved in November 1920, March 1921 and May 1921. The pension finally expired in July 1921, and the pensions authority stated that there were no grounds for any further award.

Herbert was still living at 32 St Johns Street and working as a motor engineer when the 1939 register was compiled. Emma was working as an office cleaner. Herbert died in Norwich in 1955 at the age of 76, and Emma died the following year.

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