Bishop Frank Johnston (1891-1963)

Francis Featherstonhaugh Johnston, known as Frank, was born on 21 April 1891 in Lambeth. His father was Walter Mowbray Johnston (born 1859), Commandant of the Tirhoot State Railway Volunteer Rifles which he raised during the Afghan war of 1879. Frank’s mother, Fanny Louisa Ellen Dunne, was the daughter of Charles Augustus Dunne, Superintendent Indian Customs Service for 38 years. He retired in 1881.

Frank started work as a Reporter, and then for five years was a clerk in a solicitors office, living in Farnham, Surrey and in Hastings. In 1912, he went to Hatfield College, Durham where he took a course in Theology. After ordination, he served his Title under the Rev. W.S. Brownless, Vicar of Fishponds, Bristol. In 1914, he joined the Army as a Chaplain, and served in France, Gallipoli and Palestine under General Allenby.

While at the Ras-el-Tin Hospital in Alexandria, he met Gladys Katie Head, a Queen Alexandra Nursing Sister. She was the daughter of Frederick John Head and Kate Melville. She was born on 13 October 1891 and died on 23 March 1971.

Frank and Gladys were married on 2 June 1919 in the Moasca Military Chapel, Alexandria. In 1920 he left the Army, and became Chaplain at Port Said where he served from 1920 to 1933. While there, they had two children, Marion Islay (1920), and Francis Noël (1921).

In 1933 he was made Archdeacon in Egypt by Bishop Gwynne, and served in St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral at Kasr-el-Dubarra. He was instrumental in getting the new All Saints’ Cathedral built (designed by Adrian Gilbert Scott) on the bank of the Nile. It was consecrated in 1938, and was filled with Service men throughout the war. Frank served there all through the Second World War, and was awarded the CBE in 1944. In 1947 he moved to Alexandria, and when Bishop Allen left, he was appointed Bishop in Egypt. He was consecrated Bishop on St. James’ Day, 25 July 1952 in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Based on a review of old correspondence from those days, it is clear that there were many people who felt that Frank should have been appointed as Bishop in 1946 to replace Bishop Gwynne who had resigned due to ill-health. Frank was remembered very fondly by thousands of people who attended services in the Cairo Cathedral during the war years.

Frank and Gladys were expelled from Egypt on 16 November 1956 during the Suez crisis after 38 years of service to the Church in Egypt. He was never allowed to return, but for the next two years he visited British troops and Churches in Libya, Cyrene, Cyprus and other parts of his Diocese. When it became clear that he could not return to Egypt, he resigned as Bishop, and on 14 November 1958 he was appointed Vicar of Ewshott and Assistant Bishop of Guildford. On 30 April 1963, he resigned the living in Ewshott due to ill-health, and on 1 May 1963, they moved to Annandale, 62 Busbridge Lane, Godalming. Frank continued as Assistant Bishop of Guildford. Later that year, on 17 September, while preaching at the Arnhem Memorial open air Service at Aldershot, he collapsed and died of a heart attack. He is buried with Gladys in St. Martha’s Churchyard on the Pilgrims Way.

A number of articles were written about Frank:

Historical Note: The same day that The Egyptian Gazette carried the story “Bishop Johnston dies”, it also carried a story “Troops control Jakarta after anti-British riots; Embassy gutted“.