Dad part of true band of brothers

Midland Reporter - - News - Lau­ren Pe­den

CHID­LOW res­i­dent An­nette Ryan said her dad Al­fred Lau­rence John­ston was a hum­ble man who rarely spoke of war or any of his achieve­ments.

“He didn’t like to talk about the war and when he did it of­ten brought tears to his eyes,” she said.

“He said that war was a ter­ri­ble thing with no win­ners.”

Born in 1898, Dr John­ston grew up in Green­mount and at­tended Guild­ford Gram­mar School by train or pony and cart.

He lied about his age and en­listed in World War I to serve with four of his brothers.

Mrs Ryan, a re­tired nurse, said her dad’s de­ci­sion was also partly due to the sud­den death of his fa­ther in a shooting ac­ci­dent.

“He wanted to do his bit for the coun­try along with his brothers – the five boys came back, so none of them were killed,” she said.

She said it was nearly not so af­ter a shell landed near Dr John­ston as he drank from his water bot­tle on his 18th birthday.

“It was a dud – and the best birthday present he ever had,” Mrs Ryan said.

Dr John­ston rode the lead horse in a team of draught horses pulling How­itzer field guns through muddy fields.

A sol­dier in 103rd How­itzer Bat­tery in France, he also oc­ca­sion­ally helped fire the gun by pulling the rip­cord trig­ger.

“He also had a help­ful mule named Ho­race,” Mrs Ryan said.

By World War II he had a med­i­cal de­gree from Melbourne Univer­sity and a Fel­low­ship with Eng­land’s Royal Col­lege of Sur­geons.

“That’s where he met mum (Les­ley El­ph­ick); she was at uni learn­ing vi­olin,” Mrs Ryan said.

The two mar­ried in 1939 and Dr John­ston first saw his el­dest daugh­ter Les­ley-Frances when she was two years old.

“They got de­mobbed at Rot­tnest and mum came to meet the ship and she had my sis­ter in a lit­tle bon­net… Dad cried when he saw her,” she said.

He had en­listed in the Sec­ond 3rd Field Am­bu­lance at Gaza as a Cap­tain and Ma­jor.

He served on a troop ship with two other doc­tors from 1940 to 1941, tak­ing sup­plies and re­in­force­ments to the Mid­dle East and bring­ing back wounded Aus­tralian, Bri­tish, Rhode­sian and Italian sol­diers and pris­on­ers-ofwar.

“Be­cause they car­ried troops, the ship had no Red Cross pro­tec­tion later be­came a and came un­der enemy fire,” Mrs Ryan said.

Dr John­ston learnt flu­ent Ara­bic while in the Mid­dle East and took his beloved cello with him.

“Cel­los are a huge in­stru­ment and it went ev­ery­where through­out all of World War II,” she said.

“I’m sure it was a great com­fort to him as he loved to play.”

Al­fred’s brother, Cap­tain Edgar John­ston, was awarded the Dis­tin­guished Fly­ing Cross for brav­ery as a pilot in World War I and was di­rec­tor of Civil Avi­a­tion in World War II.

An­other brother, Sid­ney, was in the 10th Light Horse Bri­gade and served at Gal­lipoli.

Once home, Dr John­ston worked as a doc­tor in Clare­mont, where he raised his chil­dren Les­ley-Frances, Lau­rence, Jen­nifer, and twins Har­ley and An­nette.

“We lived in Clare­mont on the river where he had his surgery in Vic­to­ria Av­enue… we had horses, chooks, ducks and ev­ery­thing else but we also had all those things on an or­chard called Wil­ura in Mun­dar­ing,” Mrs Ryan said.

Dr John­ston died in 1977 aged 79.

Mrs Ryan will com­mem­o­rate An­zac Day with a gun­fire break­fast at Chid­low Vil­lage Green, morn­ing tea and ex­hi­bi­tion at the Vil­lage Hall and lunch at Chid­low Tav­ern.

Pic­ture: Bruce Hunt d468262

An­nette Ryan re­flects proudly on he r fa­ther’s wartime achieve­ments.

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