Thursday 29 February 2024
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Grave of Derbyshire-born Royal Marine identified in the Netherlands

The headstone which marks the grave of a World War 2 Royal Marine (Mne) finally bears his name following a ceremony held yesterday (31 October 2023) in the Netherlands.

Geoffrey Albert Johnson’s recovered remains were buried at Geldermalsen General Cemetery as those of an unknown soldier of World War 2.

But, after new research was submitted and additional work undertaken by MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), his identity has now been confirmed, finally allowing for a headstone bearing his name.

The service was organised by JCCC, also known as the ‘MOD War Detectives’. Tracey Bowers, JCCC case lead said:

“Mne Johnson was so young when he chose to serve his country and he made the ultimate sacrifice. I would like to thank the researchers who submitted this case. I feel privileged to stand alongside them and Geoff’s family members at this poignant ceremony.”

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“Mne Johnson was born on 9 March 1924 in Woodville, Derbyshire. Before enlisting into The Royal Marines he lived with his parents Albert and Irene, and his occupation is listed only as ‘a general assistant’ in an unknown occupation.

“Mne Johnson’s nephew, Kevin Johnson, travelled to the service from the Caribbean island of Antigua and was joined by other family members. He said:

“We are very grateful to all who have helped bring this case to a conclusion. The family are humbled by the attendance of so many including the military who were here to support what was a very moving and fitting ceremony.”

The service was conducted by Reverend Philip Carroll, Chaplain for the Commando Training Centre, Royal Marines. He said:

“At this time when we are called to remember those glorious dead, those who have paid the price for our freedom.

“It is a great privilege to celebrate the Rededication of Mne Johnson, 78 years on from his sacrifice.

“Although a painful memory for his family and loved ones, we, especially the Corps, are given a chance to be proud of his great sacrifice. May he, and all of those casualties of war be given the acclaim that is rightly theirs.”

Geert Bekaert, Area Director for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, said:

“Mne Johnson joined 30 Royal Marines during a critical time in history. His dedication and sacrifice on Operation Mamba stand as a testament to his unwavering commitment to duty and freedom.

“Mne Johnson, along with many of his comrades, will be cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in perpetuity, ensuring that their memory lives on for generations to come.”

Screenshot 2023 11 01 at 14.55.32
t Benedict Cunningham reads during the ceremony (Crown Copyright).

Geoffrey Albert Johnson

Mne Johnson was posted to 30 Royal Marines (RM) in January 1945. With the war in Europe entering its last phase, and the urgent need for more infantry, it was decided to raise two RM infantry brigades. 30 RM, assembled at Dalditch, Devon, on 15 January.

The men then moved to Yorkshire for training in “bitter weather”, and in February moved again to Bergen-Op-Zoom in the Netherlands for 6 weeks of further intensive training. Soon afterwards they were in action.

On 22 April, 30 RM attacked across the River Mass on Operation Mamba. During the first stage they met with little opposition and so Alem Island was captured, but it soon became clear there were more enemy forces than expected. During 22 and 23 April, 3 Marines were reported missing – Johnson being one.

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