Personal info

  • Name: Dudley Graham JOHNSON
  • D.O.B: 13th February, 1884
  • D.O.A: 4th November, 1918
  • D.O.D: 21st December, 1975
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Acting Lieutenant Colonel, The South Wales Borderers, attached 2nd Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment

Battle of the Sambre, France 4 November 1918

4 November 1918

More details about:
The First World War 1918 

By the beginning of November 1918, Germany was on the verge of military and political collapse. On 4 November the Allies launched their last major offensive of the war. First, Third and Fourth Armies were ordered to push eastwards towards Mons, Mauberge and Avesnes. To maintain its advance, Fourth Army had to cross the Canal de la Sambre, a formidable obstacle, as the Canal was from 35 to 50 feet across, though the locks at Landrecies, Ors and Catillon were only 17 feet wide. However to aid the crossing, the sappers had prepared a large number of rafts on petrol-tin and cork floats. 75th Brigade, 25th Division, of which 1/8th Battalion The Royal Warwickshire Regiment formed a part, attacked Landrecies on the Canal from a position south of the Faubourg Soyères, north-west of the town. Lance Corporal W Amey distinguished himself by his gallantry in the fighting here. Though the main bridge was blown up by the Germans, the Battalion succeeded in taking the lock and crossing the canal. To the south-west, 96th Brigade attacked the canal north of Ors with the support of 218 Field Company, Royal Engineers. Acting Major A H S Waters, RE, and Sapper A Archibald helped construct a floating bridge for 2nd Battalion The Manchester Regiment. Second Lieutenant J Kirk managed to cross the canal on a raft to afford covering fire with a Lewis gun until he was killed. This bridge was soon destroyed by German artillery fire. Acting Lieutenant Colonel J N Marshall, 16th Battalion The Lancashire Fusiliers, superintended the repair of another bridge north of Ors, and was killed attempting to lead his men across it. It was during the battle for the canal at Ors that the poet Wilfred Owen was also killed. Further south, around Catillon, three crossings were planned. That over Lock No 1, east of Rejet-de-Beaulieu, nearly two miles south of Catillon, was allocated to 2nd Brigade. There was stiff German resistance but Major G de C E Findlay, 409 (Lowland) Field Company, RE, succeeded in bridging the dykes and lock and Acting Lieutenant Colonel D G Johnson, assisted the engineers and then led his men of 2nd Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment, across the canal. The Germans had not only failed to prevent the British from crossing the Sambre, but by the end of the day the Fourth Army had forced them back about three miles along a fifteen-mile front.

Citation

 For most conspicuous bravery and leadership during the forcing of the Sambre Canal, on the 4th November, 1918. The 2nd Infantry Brigade, of which the 2nd Bn., R. Suss. R., formed part, was ordered to cross by the lock South of Catillon. The position was strong, and before the bridge could be thrown a steep bank leading up to the lock and a waterway about 100 yards short of the canal had to be crossed. The assaulting platoons and bridging parties, R.E., on their arrival at the water-way were thrown into confusion by a heavy barrage and machine-gun fire, and heavy casualties were caused. At this moment, Lt.-Col. Johnson arrived, and, realising the situation, at once collected men to man the bridges and assist the R.E., and personally led the assault. In spite of his efforts heavy fire again broke up the assaulting and bridging parties. Without any hesitation, he again reorganised the platoons and bridging parties and led them at the lock, this time succeeding in effecting a crossing, after which all went well. During all this time Lt.-Col. Johnson was under a very heavy fire, which, though it nearly decimated the assaulting columns, left him untouched. His conduct was a fine example of great valour, coolness and intrepidity, which, added to his splendid leadership and the offensive spirit that he had inspired in his battalion, were entirely responsible for the successful crossing. 

Fourth Supplement to The London Gazette of 3 January 1919. 6 January 1919, Numb. 31108, p. 305

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