Tributes paid to Warwick war veteran
Tributes have been paid to a 95-year-old decorated war veteran who kept Warwick marching on Remembrance Sunday for 43 years.
Bryan Walker Johnson and his twin brother Gerard Stansfield Johnson were born in Kings Norton in Birmingham to Arthur and Emily Johnson (Nee Walker) in December 1921.
Bryan married Sheila Wilkins in 1955 and they had one son. He lived in Leamington since the 1950s and joined the army in 1941 as part of the Royal Armed Corp.
He then went on to serve in the 5th Royal Tank Regiment and took part in the landing on the Normandy beaches on D-Day.
During his service Bryan was the commander of the first tank which went into the town of Bethune in France, which signified the start of the liberation.
Bryan’s brother Gerard died during an RAF raid over Holland on February 8 1945.
He was a Flight Lieutenant in the 97 Squadron in one of the pathfinder air crafts. Gerard had the role of being the Navigator.
Gerard had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar.
After returning from the war Bryan joined the Warwickshire and Worcestershire Yeomanry and went on to help create the yeomanry museum, which is housed in the basement of the Court House in Warwick.
He ran the museum on his own as the curator for 30 years.
He was also a fully trained pharmacist and had worked for Boots the chemist in Corporation Street in Coventry for more than 30 years.
The war veteran was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1980 as part of the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List that year.
For his bravery and service in the army Bryan was also presented with the Légion d’honneur medal from the French Government and over the years he was the principal guest at Bethune when the town celebrates their liberation.
The veteran’s bravery was brought to the attention of the Warwick branch of the Royal British Legion by Warwick Town Council through the yeomanry museum last year.
On Remembrance Sunday, November 13 2016, Bryan was presented with a special Somme 1916 Poppy Lapel Pin in appreciation for his services and dedication to his country and to Warwick.
After being the Remembrance Sunday parade marshal for 43 years, he decided to hand the baton of Parade Marshall on last year.
Bryan was admitted to Warwick Hospital on Monday after a fall and died in the early hours of Tuesday morning. His wife and son are also deceased.
Nobody knew about Bryan’s brother Gerard until 2009 when he was on a trip with the Yeomanry Museum to Arnhem in the Netherlands.
A spokesman from the Warwick Yeomanry Musuem recalls the visit with Bryan. They said: “He asked if we could fit in a visit to Eindhoven (Woesel) General Cemetery, where at the age of 89 he told the assembled 50 people of his brother as he stood at his grave.
“He said goodbye at the end saying to his brother that he probably wouldn’t be able to visit him any more due to his age. There wasn’t a dry eye in the group.
“He went quietly to everyone in the organisers group and personally thanked us, then apologised to and thanked all in the group for allowing him to have this time.
“He was the most humble man I have ever met.”
Terry Thompson, who works at the museum, was also very close to Bryan. He said: ”Bryan was Bryan - quiet and reserved when he chose to be.
“He was in every way the true embodiment of a Yeoman - service, commitment and dedication.”
Mike Vallance, chairman of the Warwick branch of the Royal British Legion, said: “Bryan Johnson was one of the men of this county who answered his country’s call in World War Two to fight for our freedom.
“He landed on the Normandy beaches on D-Day and fought across France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.
“He was truly part of our greatest generation and he and his public service will be sorely missed.”
Later this year Bryan was due to get more recognition for his dedication to Warwick.
A spokesperson from Warwick Town Council said: “We are very sad to hear about Bryan. We were going to surprise him in May and present him with the Freedom of the Town.”
The Honorary Freedom of Boroughs Act 1885 gives councils in England and Wales the power to award the title of honorary freeman to people who have served the long served their towns and boroughs.