Military Wiki
William Johnstone
Born (1823-08-06)6 August 1823
Died 20 August 1857(1857-08-20) (aged 34)
Place of birth Hanover, Germany
Buried at Buried at sea
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Rank Stoker
Unit HMS Arrogant
Battles/wars Crimean War
Awards Victoria Cross

Leading Stoker William Johnstone VC (6 August 1823 – 20 August 1857) was a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He enlisted and served as John Johnstone.[1]

Of uncertain background, he may have been a Swedish Johannsen whose name was Anglicized as Johnstone. He is listed as being born in Hanover.[2]


He was 31 years old, and a stoker in the Royal Navy during the Crimean War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 9 August 1854 in the Baltic, Stoker Johnstone and a lieutenant (John Bythesea) from HMS Arrogant, landed on the island of Vårdö, Åland Islands off Finland in order to intercept important despatches from the Czar which were being sent via Vårdö to Bomarsund.[2] The two men spent two nights reconnoitring the island and on 12 August when the despatches arrived, they ambushed the five Russians carrying them. Two of the carriers dropped their mail bags and ran but the other three surrendered and were taken to Arrogant.[2] In this action the officer and stoker were armed with just one pistol.[3]


He died on 20 August 1857 from self-inflicted wounds whilst serving aboard HMS Brunswick in the West Indies.[1] He cut his own throat after attacking another man with a knife, and was buried at sea in the St Vincent Passage, West Indies.[1][4]

The medal

Johnstone's medal is displayed in the County Museum of Natural History, Los Angeles, California


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Arthur, Max (2004). "The Crimean War/1854". Symbol of Courage - A Complete History of the Victoria Cross (First ed.). London: Sidgwick & Jackson. pp. 5. ISBN 0-283-07351-9. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Biography: John Bythesea VC". Royal Naval Museum Library. 2005. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  3. "£100,000 tag on early Crimea VC". The Telegraph. London. 2007-04-05. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  4. William Johnstone on Find-a-Grave Note that the original says "West India", but this cannot be correct as St Vincent is in the West Indies.

External links

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