A hero and his cobber: a tribute to Pte. Frank Johnston, 55th Battalion AIF

Robert C. Johnston.

 

Pte Frank Johnston - Johnston familyON the night of the 19th-20th July, 1916, Frank fought in the Battle of Fromelles, the first major action involving Australians on the Western Front. He was severely wounded in the chest by machine gun fire, having one of his lungs shot out, and left for dead on the battlefield as the Australian attack faltered. Despite his terrible wounds, he not only managed to make his way back through no-man’s land to the Australian lines, but he also managed to carry or drag a wounded mate back with him.

Frank miraculously survived and was repatriated to Australia in early 1917, crediting his survival to a small bible he had tucked in his breast pocket which slowed down a bullet fragment that would have killed him. He again served in World War II as a corporal in the Sydney-based 7th Garrison. Born in Parramatta in 1879 and living till he was 87, Frank was heavily involved in the Cronulla RSL and swam every morning at Cronulla Beach pool, a gaping hole still visible in his back.

Fromelles by Robert C Johnston

In September 2008, members of the Johnston Family made a pilgrimage to Fromelles in France to pay tribute to the courage of Frank and the men he fought beside. The Johnstons were deeply affected by the “Cobbers Statue”, depicting an Australian soldier carrying his wounded mate to safety. Flanked by Australian flags, this statue perfectly symbolises Frank and his mate, and so many others.

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