The WWI Soldier Who “Promised to be Home for Christmas” But Never Did

WWI soldier Private Charles P. Johnson promised his younger sister Mamie and his family in his letter that he would be home for Christmas to have a “jolly good time”. However, nine days just after he penned it, he became one of the countless soldiers who sacrificed their own lives for the war.

21-year-old Charles was serving with the British Medical Expeditionary Force stationed in Gallipoli. He wrote a letter to his younger sister named Mamie for her birthday even enclosing some poppy blossoms with it as his gift.

In it, he promised Mamie he would be home for Christmas as he wanted to have a “jolly nice time” with his family. Sadly, he was never able to keep his promise.

The Heartbreaking Letter

In his poignant last message to his family, he wished Mamie a happy birthday and apologized for not getting her anything. Nonetheless, he picked up some poppy flowers from the space between the trenches, the piece of ground soldiers call No Man’s Land. He had to pick the flowers in the dead of the night, though, with the snipers firing out at him but he assured his little sister he was safe when he got them as he crawled flat to where the poppies were.

He movingly added his hopes that she [Mamie] would treasure them. However, he promised in the last line of his message that he would be spending Christmas with the family and was looking forward to having a grand time with his loved ones. he affectionately ended his letter by sending his love and signing it with his pet name, Charlie.

The Difficult Death

When news about his death arrived on November 30, 1915, Charles Herbert and Amy Johnson, his parents were very heartbroken. Charles had been their only son.

The family received four pounds, four shillings, and three pence – equivalent to about £400 – as a settlement for his early death. Charles was, then, buried in Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery which is in situated Gallipoli, Turkey.

Mamie, Charles’ younger sister to whom he wrote his last letter promising to be home for Christmas, went on to become a school teacher. She passed away at the age of 89 in 1993.


Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE