Colonel Kenneth Tebbet Johnson

Service number 520571, WX259
Ranks Held Lieutenant, Major
Birth Date 1920-03-29
Birth Place Australia: Western Australia, Perth
Death Date 2007-04-07
Death Place Australia: Western Australia, Perth
Final Rank Colonel
Service Army
  • 2/11th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Royal Australian Infantry Corps
  • Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Second World War, 1939-1945
Gazettes Published in London Gazette in 1962-01-01
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1962-01-11

Kenneth Tebbet Johnson (known as KT) was born on 29 March 1920 at Perth in Western Australia to Henry and Gertrude (née Wells). He graduated from Perth Boys School and subsequently commenced night school at Perth Technical College in 1936. Whilst undertaking night school he entered the employment of Cook’s Travel Service before gaining a position with City Mutual Life Assurance Society.

Johnson attempted to join the Royal Australian Navy in 1936 but was rejected due to his age. He responded by enlisting with the 16th Infantry Battalion in January 1937 under a false date of birth. He subsequently worked and studied whilst serving with the voluntary forces until the outbreak of the Second World War prompted his enlistment with the 2/11th Infantry Battalion on 3 November 1939. He spent the next five months training in Western Australia and New South Wales during a period that included attendance at the first Officers’ Training School organised by the 2nd Australian Imperial Force and several promotions culminating in the rank of lieutenant in March 1940.

Johnson embarked from Fremantle on 20 April 1940 and disembarked at El Qantara in Egypt a month later. He joined the 2/11th Battalion in action for the first time at Bardia on 5 January 1941 followed by a similarly short foray at Tobruk on 21 January before advancing to Derna days later, where his unit suffered heavy casualties capturing the aerodrome. His remaining involvement in the Western Desert Campaign passed without incident, and in early April he mustered with the 2/11th Battalion in preparation for deployment to Greece.

The 2/11th Battalion disembarked at Athens on 11 April 1941. Johnson spent the next five days travelling across much of the country following faltering attempts to advance into position only to turn back and begin a hurried withdrawal from advancing German forces. On reaching Kalamata, he joined around 20,000 Allied troops assembled near the port and on adjacent beaches, and was evacuated to Crete on 26 April. In the brief but brutal Crete Campaign that followed, he suffered multiple gunshot wounds during a sustained strafing attack by German aircraft on 23 May. Whilst convalescing at a dressing station he was taken a prisoner of war a week later.

Johnson arrived at Stalag VIII-B in Lamsdorf on 2 September 1941, and was sent to Oflag VI-B in Dössel six weeks later. He was transferred to Oflag VII-B in Eichstätt in September 1942, where he spent the majority of his internment. He was amongst a group that departed for Stalag VII-A just north of Moosburg on 14 April 1945, but was forced to return to Oflag VII-B after the group suffered heavy casualties during an attack on the first day of the march. On the next evening he once again departed for Stalag VII-A and marched into camp on 23 April, where he was liberated by US forces six days later. After two months in England he was repatriated to Australia, arriving in Sydney on 8 August 1945. He was discharged from service on 4 October of the same year.

Johnson married Nancy Mercer on 16 August 1946 at St. Margaret’s Presbyterian Church in North Perth. Around this time he returned to pre-war pursuits, resuming night school at Perth Technical College and employment with City Mutual Life Assurance Society, a company he remained with until his retirement. He also returned to the Citizen Military Forces for an extended period of service that included command of the 28th Infantry Battalion and an appointment as honorary aide-de-camp to the Governor General, retiring with the rank of colonel in 1972.

Johnson was awarded The Australian Efficiency Decoration (gazetted 18 September 1958), earning First and Second Clasp to the award for additional service. He was also awarded the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (gazetted 1 January 1962) for his contribution to the military. Johnson later coordinated the publication of a history relating to his former unit titled “The 2/11th (City of Perth) Australian Infantry Battalion, 1939-45”.

Kenneth Tebbet Johnson died on 7 April 2007 at Perth, Western Australia.



Date of birth 29 March 1920 Perth, Western Australia
Date of capture 30 May 1941
Date of fate 14 May 1945
Date of death 07 April 2007 Perth, Western Australia