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Johnston, I.

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Rev. J.J. Black Conducts Memorial Service

Ian Wallace Johnston honoured in death by impressive gathering

A memorial service was held in Cambridge St. United Church on Sunday morning for Ian Wallace Johnston, son of Mr. and Mrs. H.S. Johnston, Bond St., who was killed on August 8th, in the Battle of Normandy. The service was conducted by Rev. J.J. Black, assisted by Dr. F.H. McIntosh.

i>His worship the May and representatives of the Town Council attended the service. A Sermon on the Sympathy of Jesus was preached by the Minister. Before the brief sermon, the Minister gave the following address, followed by two minutes of silence, a Memorial Prayer by Dr. F.H. McIntosh, and the singing of Ian’s favourite hymn, “My Own Sear Land”, 512 in the United Church Hymnary.

Dear Friends—At this point in our service we pause for a few moments in proud and sorrowful memory of another of our brave lads, Lance Sergt. Ian Wallace Johnston, who has given his life in the service of his King and Country in the Battle of Normandy. Ian was killed on August 8th, and it was my sad duty along with a friend, to take the sorrowful news to the family.

Ian enlisted in 1940, while a student at Queen's University, Kingston, in the faculty of Engineering. He was attached to the 1st Canadian Survey Regiment, later being transferred to the 2nd Canadian Survey Regiment. He received his military training in Peterboro, Kingston, Montreal and Petawawa, going overseas in the Fall of 1940, where he received further training and gained valuable experience in the Intelligence Test Department.

Ian was one of a group of boys around the Church, a member of Miss Falvelle’s class, all of them fine boys, and Ian was one of the best. I have received several letters from him since going overseas, all of them beautifully written, betraying his interest in historic places, his love of the beautiful in poetry and architecture. During his furloughs he visited many cathedrals in the British Isles and collected books and materials about them, which he sent home, to be read at leisure, when the struggle was over. That he cannot do now, yet I believe God can make, out of the wreck of such hopes and dreams, something finer, richer and stronger than we can now perceived.

Perhaps the best tribute I can pay to his memory this morning is to quote you some excerpts of letters from his chums who knew him best:

As a man I have known no finer; if he had any faults they escaped me; when others would have weakened I know Ian’s behavior, always to be one of real credit to a fine and happy environment in which he was brought up… As he worked hard, played hard, it was natural that he should fight hard for Canada. I have prayed earnestly that he might be spared a hero’s death, but such was not to be.

A Queen’s lady student wrote-- I knew Ian well, he really was one of the finest boys whom I have met and I felt proud to be one of his friends; others through very highly of him too… Of all the boys I know overseas, it seemed the least possible that Ian should die, at any rate he never will in our hearts… Two years ago now I received a letter from John Matheson, a Queen’s boy, then a Lieut. in the RCA in England. He sent me 3 snaps of Ian and said, ‘These snaps I took recently of one of the finest soldiers and most thorough gentlemen I know over here’

Another boy from our Church, himself in the RCAF, wrote: -- I have known Ian for over 20 years, a long time for boys who are not a great deal older than that themselves. I think of Ian as one of the finest fellows I knew from Lindsay.

I received a letter from one of his best friends who said: I think I shall miss Ian more than any other of the boys, because to me he was just about the best you could find in the country. I only hope when it came it was quick and painless, but we must resign ourselves and prepare for more.

His Lieut. wrote Aug. 19th, two days after his death, this beautiful and comforting letter, which I read and take the liberty to quote:

I knew your son better than any other officer. He was in my section. I would like you to know that throughout his training and during our short period of fighting he made himself irreplaceable. He was admired and liked by all who came in contact with him and without exception he was considered by all to be a man, a good soldier, and a gentleman… Although it will be small comfort to you to have lost so much, I think that you would like to know that your son died on the most decisive and important battlefield in the world. So that all who survive this war may never be subjected to conditions we have seen in this country. I think also you would like to know that he died instantly without any pain. His name will go on the honour roll of the battle, which will go down in history as one of the most decisive of the war. His memory will remain in the hearts of all who knew him

Most of us here this morning knew Ian well and feel he is worth of the tributes of his friends. I recall the day he went away; he came to say good-bye – we knelt together and I commended him to the care of the Heavenly Father. He wrote me later asking for the words of the prayer, but the exact words I could not remember. He was one of a group of boys who came around the parsonage. How often I listened to their talk and ideas as they grew up, and one can only think proudly of them all.

Their love of life, conditioned by a sense of duty; their eagerness to fulfill their personal responsibility in the hour of their country’s need; their willingness to face self-sacrifice, even in death itself, is to me too great for words, too splendid for praise. This crisis revealed people of this generation are: splendid in faithfulness, glorious in their unselfishness, magnificent in their courage. With such qualities resident in our boys and girls, we are not going to despair about the issues of the struggle, or the building of the better world, when it is over.

We commend the sorrowing loved ones to God – in a sorrow that must be mingled with pride, when they think of the quality of his life, the radiance of his spirit and the sacrifice of his all, on the altar of duty and service to his fellow men.

He who lived valiantly has passed,

Why should we grieve?

Why should we break our hearts like this

If we believe?

Surely he lives more valiantly

Than ever before

Freed for the sweet adventuring

of heavenly days

Lightened to go exploring

Down the glory ways

He who lived valiantly has passed

Why should we grieve?

Why should we break our hearts like this

If we believe?

Media Type:
Genealogical Resource
Item Types:
Date of Publication:
Aug 1944
Date Of Event:
8 Aug 1944
Personal Name(s):
Ian Johnston ; Ian Wallace Johnston
World War II Service Files
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.35012 Longitude: -78.73286
Copyright Statement:
Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
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Johnston, I.