Johnston, Hugh Norman

Regimental Number: 18514
Rank: Private
Branch: 9th Battalion

Norman was born in Goderich, Ontario on March 14, 1887. He came across the Edson Trail in 1912 with his father, David Alexander Johnston, and five brothers. Norman enlisted in the Canadian army in September of 1914. Three of his brothers – William Earl, Willis David, and Charles Bell – also served overseas.

Norman sailed on the S.S. Zealand, arrived in Plymouth, England on October 14, 1914, and continued on to the Salisbury Plain in Southern England for another four months of training in the cold wet, foggy & muddy conditions. In February 1915, the 1st Canadian Division crossed the Bristol Channel to France, and then travelled by freight railway cars for three days – a 500 mile journey to Steenwerck, which was 20 miles west of Ypres and began front-line service. He was transferred to the 3rd Battalion on February 2, 1915 as the 9th had dispersed. In the first week in April, the Canadians gained a sector of approximately five thousand yards long in the Ypres salient. On their left were the French troops on the right were the British. On April 22, 1915, Norman was at the front for the “Second Battle of Ypres”. Following an intensive artillery bombardment, the Germans released 160 tons of chlorine gas which drifted into the French and British trenches. The Canadians were the only division that was able to hold the line.

On April 23, 1915, Norman suffered a gunshot wound to his chest, which fractured his rib and punctured his left lung. Norman was reported missing on May 11, 1915, though on July 13 a letter he had written to his sister was published in the Grande Prairie Herald. He had been taken prisoner and hospitalized in Germany from April 24 until June 30. From that point on he was a prisoner of war and held at Camp Roeselare and Stendal. Norman was released when the war ended and arrived back in England on January 2, 1919. In April he returned to Canada and traveled back to his homesteads in the South Peace (23-71-3-W6 and 25-71-3-W6). He moved to Edmonton in May of 1928 to work as a plainclothes detective. Charles died in Edmonton on August 8, 1942 and was buried in the military section of the Edmonton cemetery.

Source: Centennial Celebration Edson Trail p. 113; Smoky River to Grande Prairie p. 18; information and photograph courtesy of Wanda Zenner