(Service number 7/73)

First Rank Trooper Last Rank Trooper


Date 12 March 1888 Place of Birth Woodside, Taieri

Enlistment Information

Date 14 August 1914 Age 26
Address at Enlistment C/o W. Black, Fairlie
Occupation Shepherd
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Hugh JOHNSTON, Croydon Road, Waipuku, via Stratford, Taranaki
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information 5 foot 6 inches tall, weight 160 pounds (73kgs), chest 34-38 inches, dark complexion, hazel eyes, black hair, teeth fair, small fleshy mole on back right side of neck.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation Main Body
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Canterbury Mounted Rifles (8th SCMR)
Date 16 October 1914
Transport HMNZT 11 Athenic
Embarked From Wellington, New Zealand Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Canterbury Mounted Rifles (8th SCMR)

Military Awards

Campaigns Egypt & Gallipoli
Service Medals 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations


Date 30 May 1915 Age 27 years
Place of Death Walkers Ridge, Dardanelles, Turkey
Cause Killed in action
Memorial or Cemetery Canterbury Cemetery, Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey
Memorial Reference 1.B.3
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

John was born at Woodside, Taieri, on 12 March 1888, to Hugh and Helen Agnes (nee Thompson) Johnston. He was educated at the West Taieri School and left a few days before his fifteenth birthday. In 1911 he was a labourer at Otokia on the Taieri Plain and when war broke out he was working as a shepherd for Mr W Black at Fairlie.

John enlisted at Timaru on 14 August 1914, his papers describing him as being single, aged 26 years, Presbyterian, 5 foot 6 inches tall, weighing 160 pounds (73kgs), with a chest measuring 34–38 inches, having a dark complexion, hazel eyes, black hair, teeth only fair, and a small fleshy mole on the right side on the back of his neck. His father Hugh, who was dairy farming at Croydon Road, Waipuku, Taranaki, was nominated as his next of kin. John left Timaru with the Mounted Contingent from the Show Grounds on 15 August for the camp at Addington. Addington Showground’s had been set up as a Mobilisation Camp for the Canterbury Military District. Here the men were to live under canvas and carried out training under the instruction of officers and non-commissioned officers who had gained their experience in the Territorial’s. Range practice was held at Redcliff’s, and the mounted men rode throughout the local area and hills. At the beginning of September due to bad weather, the camp moved to the Metropolitan Trotting Club’s grounds next door for a few days, before again moving to Plumpton Park Trotting Ground at Sockburn on 7 September.

On 23 September 1914 the 8th (South Canterbury) Mounted Rifles boarded HMNZT 11 “Athenic” in Lyttelton and proceeded to Wellington where the ships berthed until it was judged safe to depart. The delay was caused by the presence in the South Pacific of enemy warships, and the lack of a suitable naval escort powerful enough to protect the convoy. In the meantime the Mounted Rifles disembarked and entered camp at Trentham. Finally on 16 October 1914, after the arrival of HMS “Minotaur”, the Japanese warship “Ibuki”, and the escorts HMS “Psyche” and HMS “Philomel”, Trooper Johnston boarded HMNZT 11 “Athenic” again and sailed across the globe in convoy with these escorts and nine other transports, namely: HMNZT 3 “Maunganui”, HMNZT 4 “Tahiti”, HMNZT 5 “Ruapehu”, HMNZT 6 “Orari”, HMNZT 7 “Limerick”, HMNZT 8 “Star of India”, HMNZT 9 “Hawkes Bay”, HMNZT 10 “Arawa”, and HMNZT 12 “Waimana”. This convoy was made up of 8,500 men, and about 4,000 horses, which made its way to the Middle East by way of Hobart, and Albany where they joined the transports convoying the First Detachment of the Australian Imperial Forces. Together they proceeded via Colombo, Aden, and finally arrived in Alexandria via the Suez Canal to disembark the soldiers on 3 December 1914. On the way, convoy escort HMAS Sydney was detached to respond to a distress call, finding and defeating the German cruiser Emden at the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The soldiers on the convoy celebrated with a half-day holiday from duties and training. Their usual activities of physical training, rifle practice, sports etc, continued through the voyage, and they noted the food was better than in the camps, although spoiled at times by “unskilled but good intentioned cooks”. On arrival in Alexandria they travelled by train to Zeitoun Camp where they settled into a routine of more training and the odd spot of sightseeing and sport. The men trained in the desert near Cairo, preparing for a yet to be chosen battle assignment. Brief action occurred in February 1915 when Turkish troops in Palestine attacked the Suez Canal, with some ANZAC soldiers involved.

In the meantime the scene for the soldiers next campaign was playing out. Early British/French naval attacks on the Dardanelles waterway failed to open a way to Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman Empire. On 18 March 1915 three battleships were sunk and others damaged in the attempt. As a result an attack by land forces on the Gallipoli Peninsular was planned to clear Turkish artillery, allowing naval forces through. The ANZAC troops in Egypt were assigned to become part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, tasked to capture Gallipoli, starting to land on 25 April. By 9 May 1915 the Mounted Rifles were required as reinforcements, so left for the Dardanelles aboard HMT “Grantully Castle”. They landed at ANZAC Cove on 12 May where they were to fight as infantry, and over the next four months, were to suffer more than half of their total casualties in the war. The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade was responsible for the defence of the northern perimeter of the ANZAC beach-head, holding a sector from the position known as Walker's Top down the ridge line to the sea, a line which included positions on Russell’s Top and Walker’s Ridge. It was here at Walker’s Ridge on 30 May that John was killed in action.

John was initially buried in the Canterbury Mounted Rifles Cemetery at Aghue Dere, under the beach at Walker’s Ridge. After hostilities finished he was re-interred in the Canterbury Cemetery at ANZAC Cove. Canterbury Cemetery is one of the central cemeteries in Anzac and was made after the Armistice. It contains the graves of 27 Commonwealth Servicemen of the First World War, five of them unidentified. 20 of the graves are of men of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles (mostly the Canterbury Mounted Rifles). After the war John’s father was sent a plaque and scroll, along with John’s 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medals, to commemorate his service.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [11 May 2020]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [11 May 2020]; School Admission record [11 May 2020]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [11 May 2020]; New Zealand War Graves Project at; New Zealand ANZACs in the Great War 1914-1918 (University of New South Wales) at; "Trooper John Johnston", A Street Near You at [September 2020]; "South Canterbury Men. Mounted Contingent" in the Timaru Herald 15 August 1914 p7, and "Roll of Honour" in the Dominion 17 June 1915 p6, courtesy of Papers Past at [September 2020]

External Links

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG; Ted Hansen, SC branch NZSG

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