770453 58 Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery
Cyril Johnson, known as Jim as he disliked the name Cyril was born in Sudbury in May 1913. He was the son of Alfred James and Ethel Johnson. His father was employed as a sheet metal worker. Jim was one of 12 children and the family lived in Gregory Street. Jim’s father was injured in the First World War and should have had a limb removed but wouldn’t. Because of this he couldn’t claim a pension and used to make paper flowers to sell to provide food for the large family.
Before the war Jim was employed as a motor mechanic/welder and both he and his brother Joe were members of the Territorial Army based in Sudbury. Jim was married to Vilma Kathleen Smith at Sudbury Registry Office on 11th December 1937 and they lived with their two eldest daughters in School Lane. Sadly Jim never knew his youngest daughter as she was born a month after he was killed.
During the evacuation of Dunkirk Jim saved his brother Joe’s life by holding him up in the water whilst under enemy fire for 5 hours before they were rescued. Later in the war he was sent to North Africa and his daughter’s last memory of her father as a small girl, was watching him walk up the alley in School Lane with a cigarette, with a ‘thumbs up’ to her mother meaning I’ll be back, waving and blowing kisses.
Jim served alongside 2 of his brothers, Joe and Arthur. On 8th May 1943 Jim and his brother Joe were by their gun when someone called for help as their gun had jammed. Jim went to assist but the gun exploded killing him and 3 others. It is believed to have happened only a few hours before the ceasefire. Jim was aged 30. He lies buried in a grave alongside the other 3 casualties in Massicault Cemetery, Tunisia. Sergeant Thomas Johnson, also a Sudbury man but no relation to Jim was one of those also killed.
Jim’s brother Len Portfleet lost his life serving with the army in Greece in 1945 and is remembered on the Great Cornard War Memorial.
This is a poem written by Jim’s daughter and dedicated to her father.
Daddy’s Not Coming Home
As a child I used to see,
If my dad would come back to me.
I’d wait at gate, at door, in vain.
Daddy’s not coming home again.
He promised that he would soon be back,
That day he left – with bag intact.
I waved and smiled, and shed a tear,
He promised he’d always be near.
As days and months turned into years,
I wondered why he’d disappeared.
No one spoke, or told me why,
No one said my dad had died.
All through life I’ve dreamed to see
Where daddy was, if not with me.
I know he rests with comrades true
In a peaceful garden, amongst many hues.
I went myself not long ago, to tell him
How I’d dreamed.
To ask him why he’d given his life
And not come home to me.
I knelt before his peaceful grave.
I wept, and then I knew,
how he and many others
Gave their lives for me and you.
As I left I told him I would be back,
Again I saw a young man, his back-pack still intact.
He smiled and said, ‘My darling, can’t you see,
One day you’ll be coming home – here with me.
Josie (Jo Cooper)
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