Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Johnstone, John Lorimer Gibson (1881–1968)

by John Atchison

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

John Lorimer Gibson Johnstone (1881-1968), soldier and solicitor, was born on 4 March 1881 at Armidale, New South Wales, seventh child of Scottish-born Dr Thomas Johnstone, Presbyterian minister, and his wife Eliza, née Glass, from Singleton. Educated at The Armidale School, he was later prominent in its development, becoming treasurer, president of the old boys' union, member of council and honorary vice-president.

Johnstone was articled in 1899 to Albert Whitby Simpson, founder of Armidale's oldest law firm. After World War I he became a partner in A. W. Simpson & Co., solicitors, with Eustace and A. W. (Jack) Simpson. He retired from the partnership and active work on 16 November 1962. 'J.L.G.' had been a foundation member and early president of the Tamworth and North-West Law Association.

From the school cadets Johnstone had enlisted as a bugler in the New South Wales Lancers. In 1905 he was commissioned second lieutenant, 6th Australian Light Horse Regiment, which became the New England Light Horse in 1906 and the 5th Light Horse (New England) in 1912; he was promoted lieutenant in 1906 and captain in 1912. Johnstone enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 25 August 1914 as a sergeant and embarked from Sydney with the 1st Field Artillery Brigade Ammunition Column; his unit served with the British artillery at Cape Helles, Gallipoli, from April to December 1915. He then served on the Western Front from March 1916 until the Armistice. Commissioned second lieutenant in May 1916, he was transferred to the 1st Divisional Artillery's Heavy Trench-Mortar Battery. He was promoted lieutenant next September and temporary captain in June 1917 and commanded the battery after being mentioned in dispatches. While still serving with the A.I.F. he was confirmed as captain, 12th Light Horse, Australian Military Forces. His A.I.F. appointment ended in April 1919.

On 10 August 1920 Johnstone married a masseuse, Noémi Marie Genevieve de Lepervanche at Neutral Bay, Sydney. Johnstone resumed his legal practice and continued service with the 12th Light Horse; he was promoted major in 1923 and lieutenant-colonel in 1927 and was commanding officer of the regiment in 1927-33. In 1936-40 he commanded the 2nd Cavalry Brigade and was granted temporary rank of brigadier in 1938. Taken on strength, 2nd Australian Motor Brigade, in 1941, he retired with the honorary rank of brigadier in June 1942.

The interest of this gentle, slightly built man in his fellow ex-servicemen was shown in his inaugural presidency of the Armidale and Dumaresq Shire Repatriation Committee, a position he held until 1964, and in his foundation membership and presidency (1952) of Armidale Legacy Club. He was director in 1921-66 and for many years chairman of the New England Mutual Building and Investment Society. Cricket, golf, tennis and shooting were among his active interests. Survived by his wife, one son and four daughters, he died at Armidale on 27 July 1968 and was cremated after a service at St Paul's Presbyterian Church.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Rolls, A Million Wild Acres (Melb, 1981)
  • Armidale Historical Society, Journal and Proceedings, no 25, 1982
  • London Gazette, 1 June 1917
  • Armidale Express, 29 July 1968
  • Johnstone family records (Heritage Centre, University of New England and Regional Archives)
  • private information.

Citation details

John Atchison, 'Johnstone, John Lorimer Gibson (1881–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/johnstone-john-lorimer-gibson-6864/text11891, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 16 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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