Over­seas op­er­a­tions, World War II

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - HOT PROPERTY -

Many fam­i­lies watched their young men march off to war in Europe, Africa and the Asia-Pa­cific, serv­ing in the army, air force and med­i­cal corps.

Three brothers of the John­son fam­ily en­listed dur­ing the con­flict.

Wil­liam Leo John­son, who was ex­pected to take over the run­ning of the fam­ily prop­erty Drum­sara, en­listed as air crew with the RAAF in 1940. He flew Ob­server air­craft in the Battle of Bri­tain, but his air­craft went miss­ing in Oc­to­ber 1941.

Leo’s brother Rod­er­ick (Dick) John­son also en­listed, af­ter study­ing medicine. Dr John­son was on­board the hos­pi­tal ship Cen­taur on 14 May 1943 when it was sunk by a Ja­panese sub­ma­rine off the coast of North Strad­broke Is­land on its sec­ond voy­age back from New Guinea. Dr John­son was one of the 285 on board who died. The wreck of the Cen­taur was found in De­cem­ber 2009.

Dr John­son’s twin brother Bob was luck­ier than his brothers, in that he sur­vived the war. How­ever, he en­dured atro­cious con­di­tions in Pa­pua New Guinea, and fought on the leg­endary Kokoda Track. He was wounded and in­valided out of the army.

Of a pop­u­la­tion of 2900 in the Dou­glas Shire at the time, 24 were killed in World War II.

Young peo­ple from the Dou­glas re­gion have con­tin­ued to serve with dis­tinc­tion in more re­cent conflicts and peace-keep­ing mis­sions.

Bruce Craven saw ac­tion in Viet­nam, in­clud­ing the Battle of Co­ral in May 1968, the largest ground ac­tion by Aus­tralian sol­diers in that con­flict.

Wal­ter Gray took part in the Si­nai peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tion in 1983, pa­trolling the de­mil­i­tarised zone be­tween Egypt and Is­rael.

Sev­eral fam­i­lies in the district have sons and daugh­ters cur­rently serv­ing in Afghanistan.

Photo cour­tesyy Of Susie Stafford Photo cour­tesy Of Susie Stafford

Killed in ac­tion: Dick and Leo John­ston

In­jured: Bob John­ston

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