Member Stories - SGT Mark Johnson-20 September 1958-25 December 2013
SGT Mark (Johno) Johnson Last Post
On Christmas night I was given the sad news that my old mate Mark Johnson had passed away.
Mark was a current and long serving member of the Battalion and a member of the Association Management Committee. As such it is only fitting that I offer the following tribute to his service and my own recollections of this fine soldier.
Firstly I would like on behalf of the Association to extend our sympathy to the family for the loss of their husband, son, brother and father.
I know that Gaye, Brian, Val, Kim, Paul were pleased to see so many serving and former members of the Battalion at Mark’s funeral.
In recent days all those who knew Mark would have been remembering times they spent with him and the effect he had on their lives. Mark was a thinker and a doer, light hearted and witty but passionate about politics and the things he believed in. He was a good bloke to have beer with or to have at your side in times of trouble.
For my own part, Mark and I first became mates in the late 80’s where we both served in A Company. During exercise K89, Mark was assigned as my signals man in a 6 man patrol I led in the area to the east of Weipa.
It was my first remote area command and I relied heavily on Mark’s experience and technical skills and he became someone I knew I could rely on and trust.
At one point during the exercise we were required to set up an observation post at a major road intersection. Whilst encamped in this location a group of pig hunters rolled up and blazed away at a large boar that had been probing our defences the night before. When we alerted them of our presence they decided to entertain us with a stunning display of fire power. As the bullets whizzed around us and overhead it was feared that two of our members in a forward observation post may have been hit and possibly killed during this reckless fusillade. Thankfully this turned out not to be the case, and they were found still at their post, with a large dead pig lying 3 metres in front of them. This became known as “The Hambush”.
I remember Mark’s quiet discipline during this event and determined efforts to re-establish communications with HQ which were hampered by sunspot activity and weather conditions. He was a true professional.
Although, when an hour latter another hunter turned up to plink away at the pigs carcass, Johno’s patience wore thin and we were treated to an animated display of Johno’s thoughts on pig hunters and their parentage .
Mark continued to serve in the Unit and his talent with telecommunications, photography and information technology made him a real asset to an organisation tasked with intelligence gathering in northern Australia.
Mark has also made a significant contribution to the Association, he has used his talents to gather and present information on the Battalion’s history. Mark had a deep commitment to ensuring that the stories of those that had served under The Battalion’s colours in times of war would not be forgotten. In particular Mark was passionate about the Unit’s actions on the Western Front in WW1 and a group of us were planning to visit those sites with him as our guide in 2016.
As a member of the Management Committee Mark was tasked with recruiting former members in the Cairns area to join the Association.
Many of us from the 80’s-90’s cohort had continued to get together on social occasions and Anzac Day long after having been discharged.
Mark was one of the serving members that encouraged our informal boys club to join the Association so as to fill the thinning ranks on ceremonial occasions and promote the good work of the Battalion. Some months ago Mark encouraged me to seek a position on the Association Management Committee.
When I considered the high calibre of the people already on the committee, the service records of the previous President’s and the two decades that had passed since I had served in the Unit I found the prospect somewhat daunting. But Johno said he would be there to help me out, and that promise of support from him was a contributing factor in my decision to accept the nomination for President.
True to his word Mark did provide me with priceless advice, technical support and the odd withering look and subtle nudge in the right direction, just as he had done all those years ago.
We are going to miss him, and though it will be more difficult without him we will continue to promote the good work done by Soldiers like him, and motivated by his memory to commemorate the service of all who have served under our Colours.
Lest we forget.
President 51st Battalion Association.
He fulfilled the role of Patrolman for a number of years and his promotion history is as follows:
Promoted to CPL - 4 Dec 91
Promoted to SGT - 14 Dec 97
He has held a number of appointments from Patrol 2IC through to Patrol Comd. He spent time on Continuous Full Time Service in the late 90's and again in 2001/2 as the Int CPL.
For the past 12 years has been employed in the MGI Cell.
An avid photographer, he has captured the faces and history of 51 FNQR that will stand the test of time and always be something that will keep Johnno's spirit active in the Battalion for years to come.
SGT Johnson has been a valuable member of the Battalion for over 27 years and along the way has remained a positive and committed member who has always had the Battalion's best interests at heart.
LTCOL Matthew Silver
CO 51FNQR 2012-2014