The son of the Reverend Arthur Johnson, historian and chaplain of All Souls College, Oxford, Johnson was educated at Winchester College and New College, Oxford, graduating with a first in History in 1897. He was President of the Oxford Union. He joined the Scottish Education Department as a junior examiner and in 1910 transferred to HM Customs and Excise as Assistant Committee Clerk.
He was commissioned into the Volunteer Force in 1889 and served with the 41st Squadron, Imperial Yeomanry during the Second Boer War. From 1907 to 1911 he was Brigade Major of the South Midland Infantry Brigade and from 1911 to 1919 he commanded the 9th (Cyclist) Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, which became the 1st/9th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment in 1915. He commanded the battalion in India, and then in Siberia during the Russian Civil War, for which he was promoted Colonel, mentioned in dispatches and appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Siberian War Honours of January 1920.
In 1919 he was called to the bar and returned to HM Customs and Excise as Committee Clerk, but was almost immediately transferred to HM Treasury as a Principal and promoted Assistant Secretary in 1920.
Johnson was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in the 1928 Birthday Honours and Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) in 1935.
- "No. 31732". 13 January 1920. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31732/page/
- Obituary, The Times, 3 March 1938
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