Open main menu

William Johnstone VC (6 August 1823 – 20 August 1857) was a Royal Navy sailor and a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest 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]

William Johnstone
Born(1823-08-06)6 August 1823
Hanover, Germany
Died20 August 1857(1857-08-20) (aged 34)
Buried at sea
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchRoyal Navy
UnitHMS Arrogant
Battles/warsCrimean War
AwardsVictoria Cross

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

Victoria CrossEdit

Johnstone's Victoria Cross

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 tsar 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 the Arrogant.[2] In this action the officer and stoker were armed with just one pistol.[3][4]


He died on 20 August 1857 from self-inflicted wounds while 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][5]

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

Upon his death, his wife, Caroline, was "looked after by the Patriotic Fund," which was set up to cater for the needs of War Widows. The family lived in St. Germans, Cornwall. UK. A pencil sketch exists in the Imperial War Museum's catalogues pertaining to information on Victoria Cross winners.


  1. ^ a b c Arthur, Max (2004). "The Crimean War/1854". Symbol of Courage – A Complete History of the Victoria Cross (First ed.). London: Sidgwick & Jackson. p. 5. ISBN 0-283-07351-9.
  2. ^ a b c Royal Naval Museum Library (2005). "Biography: John Bythesea VC". Royal Naval Museum Library. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
  3. ^ "£100,000 tag on early Crimea VC". The Telegraph. London. 5 April 2007. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
  4. ^ "No. 21971". The London Gazette. 24 February 1857. p. 654.
  5. ^ William Johnstone on Find-a-Grave

External linksEdit