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Havrincourt bell

Havrincourt bell

  • Height   184 mm
  • Width   229 mm
  • Weight   9 kg
  • Note   C
Bell inscription

In Memory of George Albert Johnson.
Given by Annie Ethel and
Flora Christina Johnson.

The ‘Havrincourt’ bell is dedicated to the memory of Sergeant George Johnson who died at the Battle of Havrincourt in 1918.

Prior to joining the war effort, George worked as a building contractor and lived in Willis Street, Wellington. The youngest son of Island Bay residents Charles and Mary Johnson, he grew up in Wellington and was well known in sporting circles, being a keen cricketer, rower and football player. 

George enlisted in mid-1916 and departed New Zealand in November. He arrived in England in early 1917 and, after some time at Sling Camp, was sent to the Western Front where he joined the 2nd Battalion, Wellington Infantry Regiment.

On 19 June, George suffered a gunshot wound to his hand, the result of routine trench warfare near La Basseville in Belgium. He returned to his battalion a week later but was admitted to hospital with exhaustion about a month afterwards. George soon recovered and after surviving the Passchendaele offensive and receiving several promotions, he eventually became a sergeant in May 1918.

In mid-September, the New Zealand Division took part in the Battle of Havrincourt. It was during this offensive that George was killed in action, on 13 September 1918. He is buried at Metz-en-Couture Communal Cemetery, in France.

For several years following the end of the war, George’s family placed memorial notices in the local newspaper on the anniversary of his death. His sisters Flora and Annie gifted the bell in memory of their brother. Both were probably financially independent after inheriting several Wellington properties upon the death of their father in 1922. 

Flora also visited her brother’s grave, probably in the 1960s. A photo of his headstone is pasted inside her passport held at the Alexander Turnbull Library.

Further information

Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph record – George Johnson

Commonwealth War Graves Commission record – George Johnson