Shipmate Isobel Johnson, Crossed the Bar, 9 December 2014

It is with deep regret that the shipmates from Huntingdon & District Branch of the Royal Naval Association announce that shipmate Isabella Robertson Johnson, nee Lockhart, Crossed the Bar on Tuesday 9th December 2014, aged 97.

Isabella during World War II
Isabella during World War II

Isobel, as she was known by her shipmates, served in the NAAFI between 1939 and 1943 before joining the Women’s Royal Naval Service (or as our elder personnel know, the WRNS) as a cook. Isobel began her service at HMS Spartiate II, Balloch, Loch Lomond; this was a training base for WRNS from 1942 to 1944 before being renamed HMS Tullichewan (the base was in the surrounding grounds of Tullichewan Castle1 ) and used as a holding base for Combined Operations personnel in March 1944.

Tullichewan Castle circa 1943

An interesting statement reported on the Secret Scotland website2 indicates that a lot of WRNS ended up working at Bletchley Park (the forerunner to GCHQ and the station responsible for Ultra and Enigma codebreaking) during and after the war — Isobel and her family lived in Bletchley during 1951 and 1957.

In December 1944, Isobel was posted to Westcliff on Sea, Essex. As a Leading Wren she was a cook for the officers (presumably at the shore base, HMS Westcliff). Isobel’s daughter Brenda said that her mother remembered her time there and recalled ‘seeing the ships going past creating a diversion for the real D Day landings in 1944’3  – the training Isobel witnessed was more likely the lead up to VE day as D Day happened before she had joined HMS Westcliff.

Isobel would have witnessed a similar sight - the fleet at Southend on Sea
Isobel would have witnessed a similar sight – the fleet at Southend on Sea

After leaving the WRNS in 1946, Isobel ran a children’s home in Northants, she also spent over 20 years as Matron of an old folk’s home in Bedfordshire before retiring at the age of 65. This was not the end of her career though, Brenda said that 2 years later, Isobel ‘came out of retirement, due to industrial action, to help run a ‘naughty girls’ home for a few weeks.

Sadly, Brenda said that Isobel had ‘spent her whole life in the service of others without recognition.’ After joining the Royal Naval Association, Isobel was issued with her war medals (with the help of shipmate Graham Holt — now the President of Huntingdon & District Branch), but she deserved so much more.

Isobel Johnson and Spike Milligan having fun at the RNA Trafalgar Dinner, 2012
Isobel Johnson and Spike Milligan having fun at the RNA Trafalgar Dinner, 2012

Isobel’s funeral took place on Monday 5th January, her family and friends gathered at Cambridge Crematorium to say their last goodbyes. Shipmates Dick and Daphne Bacon joined shipmate Karl Webb in proudly representing Huntingdon’s Branch at the service and at the reception in the Black Bull, Godmanchester, on completion.

Isabella Johnson 1917-2014
Isabella Johnson 1917-2014

Isobel will be fondly remembered by members of the Branch; sadly she joins shipmates Spike Milligan (a good friend of Isobel) and Grove Dove who also Crossed the Bar this year. Rest in peace shipmates — you will be missed, but never forgotten.

  1. photograph of the castle is held on the Vale of Leven website: []
  2. for more details, see: []
  3. Date unknown, but ships trained regularly at Southend on Sea during WWII: []