30TH JUNE 1916 AGE 36


Joseph Johnston was a reservist with the King's Own Scottish Borderers, which means he had already had a career in the regular army and was serving his time in the reserve, normally five years. He had married in 1912 and was working with the firm of Barr and Stroud, optical engineers in Glasgow, when the war broke out. He rejoined immediately. In his capacity as a returning soldier, probably an NCO, he went to the 16th Battalion Highland Light Infantry, a New Army battalion often known as the Glasgow Boys Brigade Battalion.
After helping to train them, Johnston went with the battalion to France in November 1915. He was killed on the eve of the Somme attack, one of two soldiers killed whilst the battalion were still bivouacking in Bouzincourt. At the end of the following day the battalion had suffered 20 officer and 534 other rank casualties out of the 25 officers and 755 other ranks who had gone into action.
Johnston's brother, Lance Corporal John Douglas Johnston, was on the reserve of the Scots Guards. He returned to his regiment when the war broke out and crossed to France with the 2nd Battalion, landing in November 1914. He was killed in action in an attack on the German trenches at Fromelles on 18 December 1914.
Joseph Johnston's inscription was chosen by Mrs M Mills, 18 Sheppard Street, Springdown, Glasgow. I don't know who she was. Johnston's wife remarried and became Mrs Gilmartin, but she must have been dead before the inscription was chosen as she is referred to as the late Mary Ellen Johnston. However, John Johnston's inscription, 'Memories dear', was chosen by his mother and she too lived at 18 Sheppard Street, Springburn, Glasgow. I would suggest therefore that Mrs M Mills was a sister and that she and her mother chose the inscription - 'We can't forget' - not, as most people said one way or another, we'll never forget but we can't forget.