JOHNSON, Leonard Edwin
(Service number 32517)

First Rank Sergeant Last Rank Sergeant


Date 17 December 1875 Place of Birth Nelson

Enlistment Information

Date 25 July 1916 Age 40 years
Address at Enlistment Secretary Minister Railways, Wellington
Occupation Private Secretary (NZ Govt)
Previous Military Experience Temuka Rifles - about 2 years
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs Grace JOHNSON (mother), Port Nelson
Religion Church of England
Medical Information

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Reinforcements, J Company
Date 16 February 1917
Transport Navua
Embarked From Destination
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Rifle Brigade

Military Awards

Service Medals 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 14 December 1918 Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations

Private Secretary


Date 20 March 1927 Age 50 years
Place of Death Wellington
Cause Suicide
Memorial or Cemetery Karori Crematorium, Wellington; ashes interred Karori Cemetery
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Leonard Edwin Johnson was born on 4 December 1875 at Nelson, the fourth son of James and Grace Eliza (née Freeman) Johnson. L. E. Johnson started his working life as a compositor and journalist, employed for some time by both the Temuka Leader and the Timaru Post. He served with the Temuka Rifles for about two years.

About 1906 he was appointed private secretary to the Hon. Sir William Hall-Jones, then Minister of Public Works, with whom he served for some years. Thereafter he served in the same capacity to the Mister of Lands, the Minister of Agriculture, and with Sir William Herries, the Minister of Railways. While he was with the last-named, he offered his services for the Great War, enlisting on 25 July 1916 at Trentham. Then 40 years old and single, he named his mother as next-of-kin – Mrs Grace Johnson, Port Nelson. Sergeant L. E. Johnson embarked per the “Navua” with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 16 February 1917.

For some time Johnson was an instructor and in charge of the commercial division of the re-educational scheme for disabled New Zealand soldiers established at Oaklands Park. It was mid-1918 when he departed for France, after being presented with a handsome gold English hunter watch by the students.

Sergeant Johnson was discharged on 14 December 1918 in England, to allow him to return to New Zealand. Returning by the “Oxfordshire”, he arrived back on 2 February 1919. He resumed his private secretary role to politicians, being private secretary to parliamentarian O. J. Hawken when he (Johnson) ended his life. Leonard Edwin Johnson died, tragically, on 20 March 1927 at Wellington, aged 51. “One of the best-known and most-liked of private secretaries”, he had been stressed and chose to throw himself off the top of the new Parliamentary buildings, falling over 50 feet to the gravel courtyard below. He was cremated at Karori, Wellington, where a services stone marks his grave. His next-of-kin at death was is brother and administrator, Mr J. A. Freeman Johnson, Greville Harbour, D’Urville Iland, French Pass. This brother received his medals – British War Medal and Victory Medal.

“Mr Johnson was well-known in political circles all over the Dominion as a cheery, bright personality, liked by both confreres and members of Parliament. Ministers thought highly of him.” His oldest brother, James Alfred Freeman Johnson was called up, and three others – Harry Graham Johnson, George Albert Johnson and Ralph Johnson – may have been drawn in the ballots.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [03 September 2021]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [03 September 2021]; Karori Crematorium record (Wellington City Council) [03 September 2021]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [03 September 2021]; Timaru Herald, 9 August 1918, Evening Post, 3 February 1919, Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser, 22 March 1927 (Papers Past) [21 May 2018; 03 September 2021]

External Links

Related Documents

Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to

Not assigned.

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