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The E.J. Boys Archive

Added 24.12.2012 Minor edits 15.2.2014.


1609, Private James WILLIAMSON - 11th Hussars

Real name: "Oliver James Johnston"

Birth & early life

Born in Edinburgh.


Enlisted at Liverpool on the 23rd of November 1853.

Age: 20.

Height: 5' 8".

Trade: Clerk.


He is said to have been wounded at the Bulganak and to have died of his wounds. There is nothing to confirm this howeve, and confusion seems to have arisen between him and1374 John Henry, 11th Hussars, who was wounded there and subsequently died on the 19th of September 1854 following an amputation. (See his record)

In the Regimental History, one of the officers (Roger Palmer) claims that Williamson was the first British soldier to have been wounded in the Crimean War. (This "honour" was also accorded toSergeant Priestley, 13th Light Dragoons (see his record.)

The particular incident is said to have taken place at the Bulganak, just before the battle of the Alma.

According to the story by Roger Palmer:

"He rode out of the ranks, his leg shot off and hanging by his overalls. Coming up to me he said quite calmly, 'I am hit. May I fall out?"

1631 William Pennington, 11th Hussars, in his book, "Sea, Camp and Stage confuses the issue even further:

"Poor Williamson, whose foot had been shot off, died on board ship whilst on his way to hospital in Scutari. The necessary amputation after the loss of blood sustained on the field had proved beyond his strength."

This statement is from a man who considered himself a stickler for the truth.

"An aide-de-camp from the British Commander-in-Chief instructed Lord Cardigan to retire. It was well that we did so. The enemy again demonstrated, and renewed his artillery fire without any adequate result, with the exception that in my own regiment (11th Hussars) Private Williamson's foot with stirrup-iron was shot away. We learned later that the poor fellow died on board ship, after amputation of the leg, while on his way to the hospital at Scutari (pp.123-4)."

However, Williams[on?] is nowhere shown as a casualty and from his subsequent career and medal entitlement the story cannot possibly be true.

From Private to Corporal: 1st of October 1855.

Reduced to Private by a Regimental Court-martial on the 13th of March 1857.

Transferred to the 18th Hussars at Hounslow on the 28th of February 1858. Regimental No. 20.

To Hospital Sergeant from Private on the 1st of June 1858.

Allowed to revert to his real name of "Oliver Johnston" by War Office Authority, dated the 29th of August 1859.

Transferred to the Army Hospital Corps at Aldershot on the 31st of October 1860.

1861 Census

Eighteenth Hussars, Frimley, Aldershot

O Johnstone [sic], 27. married, Hospital Sergeant, born Scotland

S Johnstone, 25, born Northampton

A.J, Johnstone, 1, born Aldershot

Transferred back to the 11th Hussars as Hospital Sergeant (Supernumerary) on the 31st of December 1861.

Died at Norwich on the 1st of October 1863, while still serving.

Next of kin: Wife, Sarah Johnston.

Medals & commemorations

Entitled to the Crimean medal with clasps for Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman and Sebastopol.

Death & burial

Died at Norwich on the 1st of October 1863, while still serving.

Death registered

Oliver James Johnson (sic), December Quarter 1863, Norwich

Next of kin: Wife, Sarah Johnston.

(Click on image to enlarge)

He was buried under his real name of Oliver James Johnston in Earlham Road Cemetery, Norwich, on the 5th of October 1863. He was shown in the records as having been a Troop Sergeant Major in the 18th Hussars. No memorial stone appears to have been erected to him. The grave is No. 10/73, is next to that of Quartermaster Sergeant Gully, 13th Light Dragoons. (See his record.)

A memorial stone was erected to him, but the inscription is now unreadable except for his name, and that is very faint. (There is a photograph of this stone in the 11th Hussar file.)

References & acknowledgements

Death registration and newspaper article, and Census information for 1861, kindly provided by Chris Poole.

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