Alexander ‘Al’ Thomas Johnston was a 19-year-old brass polisher in the publishing department of the Sydney Morning Herald when he enlisted on the 4th September 1914, one month after war was declared. Al lived with his parents and family at 69 Lower Fort St Dawes Point. He had six sisters, and two brothers, Sydney and William, who enlisted as well.
Al left Sydney on 11 February 1915 and was in the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April with the 3rd Battalion. He had become good mates with another soldier in his battalion; John Moggach, a Scottish born Canadian.
Al was Killed in Action sometime between 7 and 12 August 1915, during the Battle of Lone Pine. His body was never found. The uncertainty of the date of his death gives some indication of how bloody that battle was and how hard it was to rescue injured men. Some may have survived if they could get back to the lines, but several days laying wounded in No Man’s Land, killed many who otherwise may have lived.
4,600 Australians were committed in this battle, almost half became casualties. After the battle, the dead were so thick on the ground that Captain Harold Jacobs of the 1st Battalion, remarked "the trench is so full of our dead that the only respect that we could show them was not to tread on their faces, the floor of the trench was just one carpet of them”.
John Moggach wrote from Gallipoli to Al’s family expressing his sympathy and visited them in January 1919. He became part of the Johnston family and married Al’s sister Georgina in June 1919. They had six children and their 3rd daughter, 18 year old Norma, enlisted in the Australian Women’s Army Service in World War 2.
Al’s brothers survived the war.
Lest We Forget