Full Military honours for D-DAY Veteran and Masters Athlete

EMAC founding member passes away.

James Johnston, NEMAA, was a well known and popular member of our road running fraternity, competing in a range of our events from 10km to the marathon.  He also made the annual trip to the Brugge International 25km and some European and World Masters biennial Track & Field Championships. 

As a 14-year old he left his native Berwick to join the Army as a boy Piper with the Cameron Highlanders, volunteering to join the Paratroopers and jumping with the 6th Airborne/22nd Ind Para Coy on D-DAY. He was a pathfinder for the Normandy landing on 6 June 1944. He left the Army in 1959 and like so many ex-Service personnel, valued his fitness and he always did have a love of running.

 It followed therefore that he would become a member of NEMAA, competing in the 5/10,000m and in our road running events, but it was the 1993 World Masters Athletics Track & Field Championships held in the lovely city of Miyaziki, Japan, that would resurrect a poignant memory. Toeing the M70 10,000m start line, alongside him was the unforgettable John Gilmore, a Japanese PoW survivor, who was born over the Border in Scotland and who was now competing with the Australian team.

Whether or not Gilmore could overcome the psychological barrier of ever been able to return to Japan again, was the subject of much pre-Championships speculation, not only amongst the Masters athletic fraternity, but the wider media and Psychologists. The sensitive Hosts would not allow the Starter to use a gun; a claxon was used to send the 25 men on their way.  Gilmore, then aged 74, remarkably went on to win in 42.20.87sec, defending his World M70 title. James was 6th in 46.19.90sec. Two British men born into poverty not too far away from each other, who had fought for Britain and Australia, who had seen and witness appalling conditions; were now brought together in peace and friendship through their lifelong love of athletics.  Gilmore took a fall in the 5,000m a few days later but still managed to win the bronze medal from 33 finishers. James finished 11th.

We had not seen much of James from 2014. Latterly he was living in a Care Home in Amble and was one of four passengers in a car, driven by a 34-year old woman when it collided with a pick-up truck at a notorious accident black sport, the New Moor Crossing near Edlingham in Northumberland.  He and another elderly passenger died at the scene. The other occupants and the two pick-up men were all Air lifted to hospital.  96-year old James received full Military honours at his funeral.  

We offer our condolence to his daughter Barbara and her family, his grandchildren, and the battlefield survivor was able to enjoy the company of his great grandson Oisin.     

Peter Chaplin, EMAC 1930-2019

We are sorry to report the passing of Peter, a founding member of EMAC and of Cambridge & Coleridge AC. He and his son did a huge amount of work for Masters and athletics generally in that area. He was an enthusiastic road runner, winning several BMAF races and organised one of our Cross-Country Championships.

His last venture abroad with us was to the European Non-Stadia in Regensburg in 2007. He finished 7th in the M75 10km in a smart 58.53sec. and with NMAC members Derek Howarth 3rd, Arthur Walsham 6th, they came home with team gold.

We send our condolence to his family.