Special stone for Victoria Cross recipient

Coun Scott Dickinson (Druridge Bay), left, Jackie Roll (Armed Forces Support Officer, Northumberland County Council) and Coun Dave Ledger (Armed Forces Champion).
Coun Scott Dickinson (Druridge Bay), left, Jackie Roll (Armed Forces Support Officer, Northumberland County Council) and Coun Dave Ledger (Armed Forces Champion).

A commemorative stone was unveiled at a ceremony in Widdrington Station on Sunday to mark the 100th anniversary of an act of outstanding bravery during the First World War by James Bulmer Johnson.

The Victoria Cross recipient enlisted with the Northumberland Fusiliers. He became Second Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion and on October 14, 1918, south west of Wez Macquart, France, he repelled frequent counter-attacks and for six hours, under heavy fire, held back the enemy.

The commemorative stone for James Bulmer Johnson.

The commemorative stone for James Bulmer Johnson.

When at length he was ordered to retire, he was the last to leave the advanced position carrying a wounded man. Three times subsequently, Second Lieutenant Johnson returned and brought in badly wounded men under intense enemy machine-gun fire.

The ceremony, organised by Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish Council and the county council, took place in the new memorial garden on land just outside the Co-op.

As well as the memorial, it has been designed as a place where people can remember loved ones.

Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish chairman Shelly Willoughby said: “It has been a long-standing passion of mine to have a place of reflection in the village as some elderly residents find it difficult to go to the church at Ulgham on Remembrance Day.

“It’s great that we have been able to transform these two pieces of land to create somewhere fitting for the ceremony to remember the bravery of James Bulmer Johnson.

“I would like to thank all those who supported the project.”

She gave a special mention of George Askew, a former Widdrington Sation and Stobswood councillor who died earlier this year, who “not only supported my initial project of a memorial garden, but spent many hours researching the Victoria Cross recipient”.

According to the order of service, James Bulmer Johnson was born in Stobswood on December 31, 1889. His parents were William and Jane Johnson (nee Bulmer).

He died in 1943 in Plymouth.

Ulgham resident Norris Atthey has contacted the parish council to question the date and place of birth, saying more evidence is required.

Coun Willoughby said the council is adamant that the information is correct as getting a commemorative stone in a particular location needs to be approved by the UK Government.

County councillors Scott Dickinson and David Towns gave the memorial garden financial support and the council’s Armed Forces Champion, Coun Dave Ledger, was also present on Sunday.

Coun Dickinson, who laid a wreath to help mark the occasion, said: “Well done to everyone involved. I was so proud to open the memorial garden and support all those who came together to create it.”

Coun Ledger said: “This is an excellent way to recognise and remember one of our local heroes.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to people who put themselves in the most dangerous situations and who show such bravery as Lieutenant Johnson did.

“I was deeply honoured to unveil this commemorative stone so that local residents can pay their respects and we must never forget those sacrifices given for our freedom.”

This is the third commemorative stone to be laid in Northumberland for soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross.