6th Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment.
Killed in action 3rd/4th March, 1943, aged 32.
Charlie Johnson was one of twelve children raised at the railway house, Apesford Crossing, (off the Leek-Ashbourne Road) where their mother was the crossing keeper. He found work at the Michelin Tyre company in Stoke and eventually married a Potteries girl, settling down in Shelton. Charlie was in his early thirties when his call-up papers arrived and, after training, was sent with his battalion to northern Tunisia where the Allies had landed at the end of 1942.
By early March, 1943, Charlie Johnson and his comrades were occupying the small mining village of Sedjenane and the Germans were not far away. Although the village was not suitable for defence, the battalion commander had orders to hold it at all costs because of its strategic position in the area. Before long, German armoured cars and infantry were seen approaching the village and began to attack the defending soldiers, using dive-bombers, mortars, machine guns and shellfire. The Lincolns fought back and managed to hold their positions despite the odds, and the Germans eventually withdrew. The attack was soon renewed, however, and after bitter fighting against overwhelming forces, the Lincolns were forced to withdraw to positions five miles away. The battalion suffered 21 killed, 46 wounded and 98 missing. Charlie Johnson was amongst the dead.
The Tunisian campaign, code-named Operation Torch, began in November, 1942, following the Eighth Army’s success at El Alamein a month earlier. Field Marshal Montgomery had the Germans and Italians on the run and the landings in the north of Africa, supported by Montgomery’s forces pushing northwards, were intended to squeeze the enemy out of North Africa for good. Operation Torch was the first Anglo-American amphibious operation of the war and it would take over six months of vicious fighting in both hilly country and burning deserts before Tunis fell in May, 1943, and the Axis forces surrendered.
One of Charlie Johnson’s sisters, Edith, said of him: “He was very active and loved football. Even when he was married and left home, Charlie would often visit and take me and my younger brother for walks in the country. He’d only been in the army for eighteen months and abroad about eight weeks when he was killed. He was a good lad and especially good to our parents. We were all broken-hearted when he was killed”.
Charles is buried at Tabarka War Cemetery, Tunisia.