Johnson George L/Cpl 4453144

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Personnel Entry

L/Cpl George JOHNSON - Headstone - Fossvogur Cemetery
L/Cpl George JOHNSON - Headstone - Fossvogur Cemetery

Name Johnson George
Army number 4453144
Rank L/Cpl
Date of birth Born Sunderland 1920/21 - exact date not yet known.
Age 19
Unit Enlisted in The Durham Light Infantry 24/2/39 as a Regular soldier. Posted 10th Bn DLI - possibly when the Battalion was established in September 1939. DIED at SEA 15/9/40 en route to Iceland on the Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS CHITRAL while serving with 10th Bn Durham Light Infantry.
Platoon or other sub-unit
Task or role
Joined Brigade Date not yet confirmed but possibly 1/9/1939.
Prisoner of War
Died/Killed in action Died at sea, found drowned in his bath on board HMS CHITRAL - 15-Sep-1940 - en route to REYKJAVIK.
Home address Resident of Durham City. Son of Edith Eveline Forbes, Walker. Buried Grave C3. 24, Reykjavik (Fossvogur) Cemetery.
Source table 10DLI

Thanks to the advice and guidance from the Rootsweb Mariners Forum it was possible to access the Index of Deaths at Sea, which confirmed that L/Cpl JOHNSON died aboard HMS CHITRAL, which was acting as escort to HMT Ulster Monarch (which was conveying A,B C, and D Companies of 10th DLI), and was also carrying Battalion HQ and HQ Company of the 10th DLI. Thanks to the invaluable help of Mrs L. Harris of the Rootsweb Forum, and with the assistance of National Archives at Kew, it has been possible to access the Ship's Log of HMS CHITRAL. The cover of the log, and the entry for September 1940, together with L/Cpl JOHNSON's Death Certificate are set out below, with acknowledgement to National Archives, from their file ADM 53/111787.

Cover of Ship's Log
Page from Ship's Log
Cause of death certificate

HMS CHITRAL after conversion to an Armed Merchant Cruiser
SS CHITRAL before conversion

Details on the ship are as follows, courtesy of the Clydebuilt Ships Database:-

SS CHITRAL Built by Alexander Stephen & Sons Glasgow, Yard No 504 Engines by Shipbuilders Port of Registry: Glasgow Propulsion: Two four cylinder quadruple expansion steam engines, 13000 ihp, twin screws, 16 knots

Launched: Tuesday, 27/01/1925

Built: 1925

Ship Type: Passenger Liner Ship's Role: UK/Australia service Tonnage: 15248 gross; 8756 net; 10300 dwt Length: 547ft 0in Breadth: 70ft 4in Draught: 30ft 3in

Owner History:

Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company London Status: Sold for Scrapping - 15/04/1953 Web site:


10/1923: Ordered. 27/01/1925: Launched by the Hon. Elsie Mackay, daughter of P&O Chairman Lord Inchcape. 12/06/1925: Ran trials and delivered to The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, London. As built she could carry 203 First Class and 103 Second Class passengers. CHITRAL and her sisters CATHAY and COMORIN were designed for the Australian run, and their delivery enabled P&O to restore the fortnightly Australian mail schedule, but they were also used on other routes and lacked the reserves of speed really required by a mail steamer.

03/07/1925: Left London on her maiden voyage to Australia via Marseilles, Suez, Aden, and Colombo. 1930: Fitted with Bauer~Wach low~pressure exhaust turbines and Wyndham heaters to augment her speed and improve fuel efficiency. 1933: Carried the (dismantled) gunboat HMS SANDPIPER from Southampton to Shanghai for service on the Yangtse. 1935: Transferred full~time to UK/Far East service. 30/08/1939: Requisitioned by the Admiralty for service as an armed merchant cruiser and converted by her builders. Her after funnel was removed and seven 6~inch and two 3~inch guns were fitted. 14/10/1939: Working up at Scapa Flow when HMS ROYAL OAK was torpedoed. 20/11/1939: While serving on the Northern Patrol received news from the captured German merchantman BERTHA FISSER of the approach of the battlecruisers SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU. 23/11/1939: Rescued 10 survivors from P&O’s RAWALPINDI, also serving as an armed merchant cruiser, sunk by SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU. 09/1940: Made three trooping voyages to Reykjavik as part of the reinforcement of the garrison in Iceland. 11/11/1940: Sent to search for survivors of the armed merchant cruiser JERVIS BAY sunk by the German warship ADMIRAL SCHEER. 09/1941: Transferred to the East Indies Fleet and remained in the Indian Ocean until the end of 1943. 10/04/1944: Redelivered from Admiralty. Converted to a troopship by the Maryland Dry Dock Company, Baltimore, USA, during which her second funnel was replaced. 14/09/1944: Left Baltimore for voyage New York/Clyde with US troops. 17/09/1947: Returned to her owners and reconditioned in London by R & H Green and Silley Weir Ltd. She returned to her pre~war black hull and funnels, not adopting P&O’s newer white livery. Her mainmast was removed and her forward well was plated in. 30/12/1948: Re~entered the Australian trade carrying 740 emigrants on outward journeys in extremely spartan conditions. 1950: Assisted with the repatriation of Dutch nationals from Indonesia. 02/1953: Last sailing for Australia beset by mechanical problems including enforced conversion from quadruple to triple expansion in 36 hours. 22/03/1953: Arrived in London for the last time. 02/04/1953: Sold for £167,500 to British Iron and Steel Corporation (Salvage) Ltd. Handed over for demolition to W H Arnott Young & Co Ltd, Dalmuir.

Previous update by Paul Strathdee with additional data from Bruce Biddulph. Photo from the above web page. Previous update by John Newth Last updated: by George Robinson from the original records by Stuart Cameron