Denton a village in South Norfolk, England

Richard Harry (Dick) Johnson 1919 – 2003

From the Parish News – December 2003

Some of the 'more mature' Denton residents will remember Billy and Dick Johnson who farmed Darrow Farm until 1974 when Billy died aged 84 years. The farm had been farmed by the Johnson family for over a hundred years. - Dick's grandfather, Frederic Harry and his wife Jenny were farming there at the turn of the century. They had five sons and two daughters. The oldest son Harry helped his father on the farm, and later moved to Suffolk, Lewis took the farm in Reydon, Frederic joined the Merchant Navy and Edwyn farmed at Ivy Farm, Alburgh. Many locals will remember his daughter Nellie, who married Jim Flaxman. Billy, after serving as apprentice with an agricultural engineering firm in Burgh Apton decided to emigrate to Canada with two of his cousins. One daughter, Ruth, emigrated to Russia where she became a governess, married and stayed in Russia. The other child Mary, drowned while gathering flowers on the bank of a pit near the farm aged 5.

Frederic died in 1914 and Billy reluctantly returned from Canada to take over the tenancy of the farm. He was married to Kathleen Potter in 1917, a teacher at Denton School, they had two children Dick and Ruth. At the age of five, Dick went to live with his maternal grandparents in Long Stratton to go to school, as it was considered too far for a small boy to walk daily to Denton school, eventually when seven, he was given a small bicycle and cycled home on Friday afternoons after school returning on Sunday evening. This continued until he was twelve, when he returned home and went to Bungay Grammar School. At this time Ruth was due to start school, but she went to Alburgh School which was not only closer than Denton, but at that time Billy took his milk daily to Homersfield station and dropped her off, but she still had to walk home with some other children who lived up Broad Road to keep her company as far as Wash Lane. Dick left school at 15, and worked on the farm with his father.

He joined theTerritorial Army in 1938 and was called up at the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939. After two years of service in Britain, he was sent to Singapore with the 4th Royal Norfolk Regiment and on the 14th February 1942 he was captured by the Japanese, with many more lads from this area. He was held in the 'Changi' and 'River Valley' camps in Singapore until October 1942 when he was taken to the 'Tarso' camp in Thailand where he was forced to work on the Tonsho-Konsyok and Kanu railways until May 1944. He was then taken to a coal mining camp where he remained until August 1945. When the war with Japan ended he was repatriated.

After his war service he returned to Darrow Farm working with his father and took an active part in the village activities. He was particularly well remembered playing the drums with the concert party. In 1951 the year his mother died, Dick married Mary Hupton, a nurse, the daughter of Harold and Mildred Hupton who farmed Beck Farm. They lived for a while in a caravan at Darrow Farm, before moving to Sunbeam Cottage, during this period their three children, Roger, Kath and Peter were born. They later moved to Hempnall Green, prior to Shelton and finally to Watton. For seven years after leaving the farm he worked for David Cairn, rearing guinea fowl and poultry. For the last three years Dick suffered with a long illness, but he faced his condition bravely and remained active until the last year when his health steadily deteriorated until his death on 20th October,

Before they left Darrow Farm the owners, Mr and Mrs Young built the present modern house for Billy to live in, as the old Elizabethan farmhouse had become rather dilapidated, but Billy refused to move and stayed there until he died, the old house was then pulled down.

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