'B'Johnson

Albert JOHNSON was born in 1908 at Farringdon near Alton in Hampshire England His father was Arthur George Johnson originally from Grantham in Lincolnshire. Johnson was a skilled motor mechanic and in 1928 he had become chauffeur and travel secretary to the President of the International Olympic Committee in Brussels.
In May, 1940, all British subjects were advised to leave Belgium and he and other personnel travelled to the south of France only to discover the Spanish border was closed. Unable to escape Johnson worked ostensibly as their gardener-handy-man to the Belgian family of Elvire De Greef ("Tante Go") and her husband, daughter Jeanine, son Freddy and the dog Gogo who had all also left Brussels to escape the Germans but had been unable to travel further.
When the "Comet Escape Line was established, the De Greef home in Anglet became the last safe house before the crossing of the Pyrenees. He spent most of his time with that organisation being known as Jonion (French pronunciation of Johnson) and was code named 'B'.
It was "B" who guided Scottish soldiers Cowan and Conville the second and third Comete line evaders over the Pyrenees making a total of 13 trips with a total of 122 men to freedom. This was between June 1941 and March 1943. He was in the end arrested by the Germans, but Elvire de Greef used her husband's knowledge of the black-market dealings of the Germans and a threat to expose them resulted in his release after only one day. It was too dangerous for "B" to stay in France so he left for Spain and worked for MI9.

After the war he appointed to the Awards Bureau, a branch of MI9 in Paris where he met and married in Devon in April 1946 Wendy J. Chamier who also worked for the Paris Awards Bureau. They then returned to Paris until October 1946 when the Bureau was disbanded. then went back to live in Devon where they had three children. They found life in Devon stifling and in 1951 it was Australia's request for British immigrants that provided the catalyst for the family to move to Australia.
They left England in July, 1952 and finally ending up in Tasmania and living in Opossom Bay some 40 km south of Hobart. B found a job with the Hydro Electric Company he later worked for the Statistics Bureau and commuted to Hobart each day.
B then started to feel more stomach pains which he had experienced prior to leaving England but it was not until March, 1953, after an exploratory operation that cancer was diagnosed. By October of that year B's condition had got worse so they moved to Hobart to be nearer medical help. B died in St John's Hospital, Hobart on the 3rd of February, 1954 aged just 45.

Albert Johnson in 1944



Albert Johnson in 1946





Thanks to Ian Johnson, Janine De Greef, Michael Moores Le Blanc, Roger Stanton and Bob Horsley for information.

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© John Clinch 2004