Frederick Marshall Johnston

(courtesy The Australian Surveyor, Vol. 20, No. 1, March, 1964)

Frederick Marshall Johnston was born on 19th October, 1885, at Perth, Western Australia, the son of H. F. Johnston, who was later to become Surveyor-General for Western Australia.

He was educated at Scotch College and the Perth Technical School and was appointed a cadet in the Department of Lands in 1901.

After passing the matriculation examination of Adelaide University he entered into, articles in 1908 with a private surveyor, D. C. White, who was engaged with the Depart­ment of Lands and Surveys on a contract basis. Following upon experience on rural subdivisions, mainly in remote and inhospitable areas, he passed the surveyors’ board examination in September, 1910 and became a licensed surveyor.

Frederick Johnston's career with the Western Australian Lands Department took him to the northern part of that State, where in 1912 he carried out surveys in the Kimberley region. In 1913 he proceeded to Kalgoorlie and made surveys in connection with the Trans-Continental Railway, the construction of which had commenced in that year. Towards the end of 1913 Frederick Johnston was transferred to Canberra where he engaged on feature and detail surveys for the development of the new national capital. In July, 1915 he returned to Western Australia to carry out further land surveys on the Trans-Continental Railway, and also on a proposed naval base near Fremantle.

Towards the end of 1916 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and, after service in Egypt, in 1917 arrived in England to be posted to the Engineers' Depot on Salisbury Plains. After the end of the war he attended the A.I.F. School of Survey at Southampton and in 1919 met and married Eileen Richardson of Chelsea before returning to Australia.

Upon discharge from the A.I.F. Frederick Johnston took up the position of Surveyor and Property Officer in Perth and in 1921 carried out surveys of a number of landing grounds selected for the operation of Australia's first commercial air service which was established between the towns of Geraldton and Derby, a distance of about 1,200 miles. In April, 1922 he transferred to Canberra and while stationed the resub-divided rural leases and continued with the detailed lay-out of that City. After several years at Canberra he was transferred to Sydney where his duties involved surveys and administration of land acquired for Commonwealth purposes.

In February, 1944, Frederick Johnston was appointed Commonwealth Surveyor-General and Chief Property Officer, Department of the Interior, Canberra. He became Chairman of the first National Mapping Conference held in 1945, the object of which was to co-ordinate the work of the various Commonwealth and State mapping authorities and which resulted in the establishment of the National Mapping Council. He represented Australia at the Empire Survey Conference held in London in 1947. Included in his other activities was that of membership of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Committee.

Frederick Johnston became Honorary Secretary of the Western Australia Institute of Surveyors in 1920, and later was elected to the Office of President of the Institution of Surveyors, New South Wales, in 1941-42. He was advanced to the status of Fellow of the Institution in 1936 and made a Life Member in 1959.

Freddie Johnston, as he was known to his contemporaries, was a colourful personality and a devoted member of the surveying profession and of the Institution. Last year he published a book entitled Knights and Theodolites, which dealt mainly with his family's connection with the surveying profession, particularly in Western Australia, where four generations of the family have played a notable part in the development of that State.

Freddie Johnston passed away on 24th December, 1963, being survived by his widow, one son and a daughter to whom the sincere sympathy of the Institution is extended.