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Charles Robert Johnson

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Charles Robert Johnson (c1859-1931)

1931 Obituary[1]


It is our sad duty this week to record the passing of a colleague and friend of very many years’ standing. Lieut.-Colonel Charles Robert Johnson, the Secretary and a Managing Director of Engineering, died from heart failure in the early hours of the morning of Thursday of last week, the 26th ult. Colonel Johnson was in his seventy-second year, but had enjoyed such excellent health generally, and appeared so well the day before his fatal seizure, that the event carried the added poignancy of being entirely unexpected. He was in active discharge of his duties until the last and was present in the office until about 5.30 p.m. on the evening before the attack, leaving apparently in his usual good spirits and health. He was taken ill in the night, however, and passed away in the early morning.

Colonel Johnson’s professional career was entirely bound up with the publishing side of this Journal, with which he had been connected for 52 years, coming to the office in a junior position in the year 1879. He had been with the Journal some fourteen, years when, in 1893, he was promoted to the position of Manager and Secretary. He became a Director in 1911 and a Managing Director in 1917. Colonel , Johnson’s activities covered the general direction of the publishing side of the business and the many external relationships which are necessarily established between a journal of this kind and various trade associations were mainly conducted by him. In these relationships his upright character and scrupulous respect for any agreement into which he had entered earned for him the respect of all those with whom he was brought into contact. Among the tributes to his memory that we have received, We value especially those testifying to his high standard of publishing ethics, which have come from some of those with whom he worked on trade bodies. He was always intensely loyal to the traditions and high ideals set by the late Dr. Maw and Mr. A. T. Hollingsworth in the conduct of this Journal.

Apart from private and personal relationships,, the welfare of this Journal was certainly Colonel Johnson’s first interest in life, and for very many years he absented himself from the office only for short holidays. This major interest did not, however, prevent him from having wide activities outside the office. His connection with the old Volunteers and the Territorial Army may be placed first among, these outside interests. He joined the 2nd (South) Middlesex Volunteer Rifle Corps as a rifleman on March 5, 1885, belonging to Messrs. Coutts (No.'2)> Company, and being promoted to"'Colour-Sergeant; on April 12,1892. At a later'date probably in 1896, he was gazetted 2nd Lieut, and posted to No. 1 Company. At the time of the change over from the Volunteers to the Territorial Force, the 2nd (South) Middlesex changed from a Rifle Corps to a Line Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment and Major Johnson, as he then was, was transferred with the officers and men. A year or two later, he became second-in-command under Lieut.-Colonel A. St. Leger Glyn and when Colonel Glyn retired, Major Johnson was promoted to Lieut.-Colonel in command of the Battalion. He was holding this rank and position at the outbreak of the war.

On mobilisation, Colonel Johnson took the Battalion to its war station at Sheerness, from where it was subsequently transferred to Sittingbourne. Towards the end of 1914, the Battalion was ordered to India, and on medical grounds, Colonel Johnson was transferred to the Reserve Battalion of the 10th Middlesex, afterwards called the 2nd/10th Middlesex, which was then in process of being formed. He was largely responsible for the raising of this unit and for providing suitable officers; but, to his great disappointment, when this Battalion was definitely selected for foreign service, he was again, for medical reasons, prevented from going abroad, and about Christmas, 1914, was placed on the retired list. The Ist/lOth Battalion remained in India for the whole' period of the war. The 2nd/10th served in the Gallipoli landing at Suvla Bay and afterwards in Egypt and Palestine.

Colonel Johnson was awarded the T.D., Territorial Decoration, for twenty years good service in the Territorial Army. After his retirement, Colonel Johnson’s enthusiasm and patriotism would not allow him to rest, and he joined the Special Constabulary.

With his increasing years, some arrangements had been made recently to relieve Colonel Johnson of a section of the more routine parts of his duties in the office; any greater leisure which this may have given him, however, he promptly took steps to utilise in some active way, and he was elected a member of the Westminster City Council last October. He had been an Income Tax Commissioner since 1924. He usually found it possible to take some useful part in any organisation with which he was concerned and, an old-standing member of the Constitutional Club, he acted on the House Committee over many years. He was a Freemason and Past Master of his Lodge. He had been one of the Honorary Stewards of Westminster Abbey (formerly known as Sunday Evening Stewards) for some 35 years or more. He was appointed, as was at the time the practice, by the then senior steward. At that time the duties of the stewards were primarily to seat the congregation.and take charge at the special Sunday evening services held in the nave during the months of June and July, but which have been given up since the war. The stewards also acted at special services suoh as musical festivals, state funerals, &c. They were requisitioned for the funeral of Queen Victoria at St. George’s Windsor, and there seems no doubt but that Colonel Johnson acted on that occasion. The stewards were subsequently appointed by the Earl Marshal to act as Gold Staff officers at the coronation of His late Majesty King Edward VII, and again at that of H.M. King George V. They are also requisitioned for all Royal weddings and funerals, State services, and the services in connection with the Order of the Bath. At all, or most, of such services falling within his period of office, Colonel Johnson was present.

In spite of the many activities to which we have referred, the welfare of this Journal was always the first interest in Colonel Johnson’s thoughts. In no sense did increasing years lessen that interest; never did he 'desire the full leisure which his long service had earned and which ho might have employed so usefully., His wish was to remain in active work to the last. This wish was fulfilled, and certainly to him applies the Psalmist’s phrase, “ Man goeth forth to his work, and to his labour, until the evening.” In spite of his allotted years he carried his full burden of administration and management to the end, and leaves behind him an example of- application and right dealing which must make his memory a pride to those who were nearest to him."

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