Bridge of Weir

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Lieutenant John Ritchie Johnstone

244 Squadron, Royal Air Force

lost at sea 14th August 1918

aged 19

Hollybrook Memorial, Southampton
Ranfurly Church Memorial, Bridge of Weir
High School of Glasgow Memorial
University of Glasgow Memorial

Son of James Johnstone and Mary Ritchie
Rocklea, Bonar Crescent, Bridge of Weir

His Life

John Ritchie Johnstone was born on 22nd September 1898 at 33 Kelvingrove Street, Glasgow, the last of four children born to James Johnstone, an iron merchant from Moffat, Dumfriesshire and Mary Ritchie, from Glasgow, who had married in Glasgow on 11th July 1890.

James (37) and Mary (35) had been living in 33 Kelvingrove Street since 1891, when their general servant was Mary Grainger (23) from Glasgow.

In 1901 James (47), Mary (45), and four of their children Helen, Allan, Annie and John (2) were still in 33 Kelvingrove Street. The family now also had four lodgers: Jane Cross, annuitant, and her son William; Hamler G Thomson a civil engineering apprentice from Ireland and Arthur B Scorer a mechanical engineer's erector from England. Agnes McPherson (20) from Beith, Ayrshire was employed as a servant.

By 1911 the Johnstone family had moved to 25 Herriott Street, Pollokshields, Glasgow. James was an iron and steel agent, eldest daughter Helen was an art student, Allan was a clerk in an insurance office and Anna and John (12) were at school.

John attended the High School of Glasgow between 1906 and 1914. From November 1914 to April 1916 he was a law student with Finlayson Auld & MacKenzie, 144 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, not far from his father's business address of 212a St Vincent Street. He was also a member of the University of Glasgow Officer Training Corps.

On 14th April 1917 he became a cadet in the Royal Flying Corps at Farnborough, gaining his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant on 25th October 1917 and qualifying as a Flying Officer on 27th February 1918. The Royal Air Force was formed on 1st April 1918 from the RFC and Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and John became a founder member. The minimum rank for pilots and observers in the RAF was Lieutenant so John got bumped up a notch. His home address in April 1918 was 33 Melville Street, Pollokshields, Glasgow. He was initially attached to 31 Training Squadron, Farnborough and on 16th July 1918, by then a qualified pilot, he was assigned to 255 Squadron, Pembroke.

At the time of his death the Commonwealth War Grave Certificate places him in 244 Squadron yet his service record ends with him in 255 Squadron. 244 Squadron was based at Bangor, North Wales and formed in part from transfers from 255 Squadron which was based at Pembroke, South Wales. Both squadrons were engaged in anti-U-boat operations flying De Havilland 6 aircraft. John was killed on 14th August 1918, lost at sea on a patrol from Bangor in his DH6, serial number B3021. His name is on the Hollybrook Memorial in Southampton, which commemorates almost 1,900 servicemen and women of the Commonwealth land and air forces whose graves are not known, many of whom were lost in transports or other vessels torpedoed or mined in home waters. The memorial also bears the names of those who were lost or buried at sea, or who died at home but whose bodies could not be recovered for burial.

His father James Johnstone died on 24th November 1924 at Rocklea, Bonar Crescent, Bridge of Weir at the age of 70, his widow Mary Ritchie inheriting his estate. They had moved to Bridge of Weir around the time John was killed, and became members of Ranfurly United Free Church in October 1918, which explains John's inclusion on the war memorial tablet to commemorate "sons of the congregation" that was unveiled on 24th October 1920 in Ranfurly Church.


1901 Census 1911 Census Birthplace
Name Age Name Age
Helen B8 Helen B18 Glasgow, Lanark
Allan T7 Allan T17 Glasgow, Lanark
Annie M4 Anna Mary14 Glasgow, Lanark
John R2 John R12 Glasgow, Lanark


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