Reverend Cecil Langdon
Chaplain 4th Class
Attached to the 11th Battalion Border Regiment
Born in 1882 in Hastings, to Augustin William Langdon and Catherine Henrietta Langdon.
His father Augustin was a Barrister-at-Law, Lincoln’s Inn.
Cecil had four brothers, Edmund, Henry, John & William, along with one sister Mary.
Within the 1891 census still living in Hastings, Cecil was listed as a scholar
Educated at Selwyn College, Cambridge and Ely Theological College, ordained in 1905; appointed Curate at Hove Parish Church; curate in charge of St Alban’s, Brighton in 1910.
On the 1st January 1911 Cecil married Elisabeth Mercer at Bexhill-on-Sea, living in Brighton, Sussex, with his profession listed as Clergyman for the Church of England in the 1911 Census, and by 1915 Incumbent Horeham Road, County of Sussex.
Elisabeth and Cecil had two sons: August John born April 1913 and Thomas Cecil born February 1916.
He was gazetted Captain., Chaplain to the Forces November 1916, and theatre of entry was France. Awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
During his service he was attached to the 11th Border Regiment.
Today Cecil is resting in peace here at Gwalia Cemetery, so I set about researching him.
The 11th Border Regiment were attached to the 97th Infantry Brigade forming part of the 32nd Division, when reviewing the Order of Battles for the 32nd Division the Third Battle of Ypres was not listed as one of their Battle Honours, interestingly how was a Chaplain resting in peace in Gwalia Cemetery with a date of death recorded as 31st October 1917? Within the UK De Ruvigny Roll of Honour it stated he was killed in action at St Julien, 31st October 1917.
Accessing the war diaries for the 11th Battalion, and the Headquarters of the 97th Infantry Brigade, along with the war diary for the General Staff of the 32nd Division, the only piece of information eluding to the Ypres Salient during October 1917 were three field companies, the 206th, 218th & 219th of the Royal Engineers debussing at Brielen.
For October 1917 specifically around & including the date of the 31st, within the war diary for the 11th Battalion they were at Roubrouck which is near to Wormhoudt, still in my mind I’m asking why was Cecil at Gwalia?
Certainly, towards the end of November 1917 the battalion were in the Ypres Salient at places such as Hill Top Farm, Wurst Farm and Bellevue.
No full Divisional History was written for the 32nd Division, only a book titled “Artillery and Trench Mortar Memories, 32nd Division” by A B Scott RE, of which I don’t have in my collection, neither the regimental histories for the Border Regiment.
Friends back in England kindly had the book “Artillery and Trench Mortar Memories” and the regimental histories of the Border Regiment, specifically the 11th Battalion within his collection.
“This from the Diary of The Rev. R.E. Grice-Hutchinson, M.C. Chaplain to the 32nd Divisional Artillery: – Wednesday, October 31st “I went up to the C.C.S.’s in the morning, which is a longish way away, to see the wounded, but there were only a few in. I found a note from the senior Chaplain when I got back and it gave me a shock when I heard that poor Langdon, who is attached to the Borders, had been killed at St. Julien. He had apparently gone up with some Infantry officers for a walk – they must have been sent on a reconnaissance, the Infantry being fully 20 miles back – and was struck by a bomb and killed instantly.”
In the 11th Battalion Border Regiment war diary on the 3rd November 1917 in the Roubrouck area, the entry reads as follows “Church parades. Memorial service to the late Chaplain Langdon C.F. at 2.00pm.
Effects of his will in 1918 going to his wife, his widow, Elisabeth, the princely sum of: £1681 18s & 2d
Friday, 7th December 1917 – Sussex Express
“Don’t Mind Me”
Reverend Cecil Langdon’s Last Words
In a letter received by Mrs Langdon concerning the death of her husband at the front, Lieutenant Colonel Tweedy says: – “We tried very hard to get your husband’s body back to us, to enable the men he loved and who loved him to be present at the funeral, but unexpected difficulties intervened, and he was buried in Gwalia Military Cemetery, near Poperinghe, by the Corps Chaplain.
“We held a memorial service in the field, which would have helped you greatly to bear your burden had you been present to see the marks of extreme love demonstrated by all ranks. The men gave up their Sunday afternoon’s leisure to be present, and the attendance was not confined to members of his own church, many Roman Catholics, including R.C. Chaplain, attended: In fact, everyone who had become acquainted with him and his works was there, regardless of tenets or creed, which I think can be no finer testimony to your husband’s nobility of character and great works.
“He was a great deal more than a Chaplain to us, he was a brother, a fighting comrade: he ran our mess, organised our sports, provided recreation and amusement, and dealt with the hundreds of inquiries from people at home in reference to killed and missing men. His tragic end has left an ache in the hearts of all who knew him, and his place in our thoughts will never be usurped by anyone. I feel certain that the work he loved to do amongst us will bear ripe fruit and make all of us better and stronger men. Your boys have been left to a wonderful heritage in the knowledge that their father was one of the best and bravest of men. He died almost immediately, but had time for just one sentence, in which the man showed himself far better, than any words of mine can describe. As soon as he fell men rushed to pick him up, but he waved them aside and said, “Don’t mind me, look after the others.” A fitting epitaph of the passing of a very gallant gentleman.”
His epitaph today reads: “With Christ which is far better.”
Taken from Philippians within the New Testament:
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. So what shall I choose? I do not know. I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better indeed.”