War Memorial Hall c1929
Johnston Hughston was born on 7 April 1892 in Shepparton, Victoria. His parents were Dr Robert Wilson and Grace Mary (née Smith) Hughston. He attended Scotch from 1908 to 1910. He was dux of Hamilton College in 1907.
Johnston was a medical practitioner when he enlisted on April 1915. He served in the 68th Field Ambulance, British Army with the rank of Major.
Johnston died on 14 September 1918 at Salonika, in Greece. He was 26 years of age.
Johnston, also called John and Jack, completed a medical course at the University of Melbourne in 1915. He and his brother Edward, as well as fellow Old Scotch Collegians Edward and William Rogerson, were among a group of 100 Australian doctors, all single and under 40, sent to England in 1915 to help support the New Armies being raised under direction of Lord Kitchener, Secretary for War. All of these Australian doctors, known as ‘Kitchener’s Hundred’, were volunteers for one year’s service with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), and over half of them were new graduates. Johnston was in this latter category. One historian questions whether newly graduated doctors were well suited to the difficulties of conducting sick parades and dealing with the wounded in army units. Johnston was commissioned a Lieutenant in April 1915.
After three months of training at Eastbourne in England, he went to France with the 68th Field Ambulance of the British 22nd Division in September 1915. The following month the division embarked from Marseille for Salonika in Greece. In April 1916, with his year’s contracted service concluded, he chose to continue in the RAMC. He was promoted to Captain that month. In May 1918 he was granted a furlough to return to Australia for a few weeks and to recover from malaria. After that he returned to Macedonia, where he was Mentioned in Despatches and promoted to Major.
On 3 August 1918 a spent shell fragment struck John in the chest. He was wounded again in September by shellfire at the Battle of Doiran, in which Greek and British troops attacked Bulgarian defences. His commanding officer wrote: ‘I was out with Major J.D.H. Hughston [sic – he was often given these initials, apparently erroneously] going round the two advanced dressing stations of which he had charge, when the Bulgars put a bunch of shrapnel over. The last of them caught him in the back. I dressed the wounds, and he was carried down the mountain by stretcher for some miles, then to casualty clearing station by motor ambulance. He was hit about 10 o’clock in the morning and died 19 hours later.’
The Scotch Collegian quotes an unnamed fellow Old Scotch Collegian and officer as saying: ‘For a long time Jack was the backbone of our ambulance: the men knew him for what he was, straight and true, a man who always did his duty; they would follow him anywhere. The army has lost a good officer, the men a good leader, and I a friend whom I could ill afford to lose.’
John’s commanding officer was also fulsome in his praise, estimating that within the ambulance unit, Johnston ‘was the most beloved officer.’ He called him ‘a splendid fellow, a born soldier, and easily my best officer.’ He declared that he had ‘never met a more gallant officer, or one in whom I could place such implicit trust.’ He believed that Johnston died as he would have wished, ‘fighting for the Old Country and for liberty.’ Grave Registration documents mention John’s mother and late father, and include the line: ‘A young Australian who freely gave his life when duty called.’ His mother, Grace, arranged for Johnston’s epitaph, from Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, to read: ‘Fear No More/ The Heat O’ The Sun/ Nor the Furious/ Winter’s Rages’.
Johnston Hughston is buried in the Sarigol Military Cemetery, Kristoni, Macedonia, Greece.
- Australian War Memorial – Roll of Honour
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
- Likeman, Colonel Robert, Australian Doctors on the Western Front, Rosenberg Publishing, Dural, 2014
- Mishura Scotch Database
- Scotch Collegian 1918 and 1919