Lance Cpl. B. Langton


UNIT: 2nd Yorkshire Regiment

NUMBER: 8173


DATE OF DEATH: 10th December 1915

CEMETERY OR MEMORIAL: St. Pierre Cemetery, Amiens, France

AGE: 29

Benjamin Langton was born in Kingston-upon-Thames and was the only son of Fred Langton, an ironmonger. His Mother, whose name was Christiana Elizabeth died before the War in 1910. He was married to Hannah who had moved to Fir Vale House, Fir Dale, near Sheffield, by the end of the War. Benjamin and his father ran a hardware store in what is now Friarage Street. The shop frontage is still recognisable at the entrance to what is now the Tithe Barn Public House and Restaurant. He was named after his grandfather, who lived at Waverley House, Knaresborough.

Benjamin was married, by special licence, on Tuesday 13th October 1914, at All Saints Church, Northallerton. The service was performed by the Revd. Samuel McKinnon Thompson, the vicar of Northallerton, who was destined to lose his son , Charles, later in the War. His wife Hannah was the second daughter of Mr. Abraham Peacock, a Northallerton builder and contractor. The best man was a Mr. Harry Palliser, and a reception was held at the Mason's Arms. Benjamin's Regiment was stationed at Guernsey at the time, and he clearly had a very short honeymoon as he rejoined his Regiment on the Thursday, only two days after his wedding.

He had been a soldier before the outbreak of War in 1914, having enlisted in the Yorkshire Regiment in September 1905, just before his 19th birthday. At the time of his enlistment he was described as being 5ft 6ins tall with fair hair and light blue eyes. He was working as an ironmonger's assistant in his father's shop, and his record states that he was "rather knock-kneed". His entry in the enlistment register also states that he was "discharged by purchase". This entry seems strange as he did not leave the army until 1913, but if it is correct, it was clearly not money well spent. Like all recent ex-soldiers, Benjamin was on the Reserve List when War was declared in August 1914 and was therefore recalled into the Army after only 18 months of civilian life. During his previous Army career he had served in South Africa, Egypt and India.

He was wounded on 12th March 1915 whilst serving with 2nd Yorkshire Regiment, as a Private, at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in the same engagement in which Private Harry Holmes, of Northallerton, was killed. He sent the following letter to his Grandfather, in Northallerton, while he was recovering in hospital in Ramsgate, and which was published in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 27th March 1915.

" I was wounded on the 12th inst. by shrapnel during an advance. My company was making towards some trenches the Germans had been driven out of. The shrapnel bullets caught me on the left shoulder, but it appears to be only a flesh wound, and is going on very well.

This hospital is worked by a Ladies Voluntary Aid Society, and they are all very kind to us. They give us every attention: in fact it is like coming out of hell straight to heaven. I shall not forget those last three days fighting in a hurry. The roar and boom of our guns combined with the swish of the shot and the rattle of the rifles was deafening.

On the 10th our Regiment with the remainder of the Brigade marched out of ___________ at 2.30 am to a small village into some shelter trenches. At 7.30 am our artillery started their bombardment and gradually got into action, and the sound of the guns got fearful. At one time we had 541 guns in action.

About 8.30 am we heard the 8th Division had taken one lot of German trenches. We got the order to advance across the fields to the trenches about 9.30 and we had a few casualties going across as we were under maxim and rifle fire most of the way. After staying in our trench until about 12.30 we advanced again to another German trench, most of the Germans being taken prisoners rather than face our bayonets.This trench was connected by a network of communication trenches to their rear ones. In one of these corner trenches our bombers did good work and a party of three bombs captured about 50 Germans who had been popping at us. They were banging at us one minute and when they saw they were in for a warm reception they shoved up the white flag. We defended the trench all day and at night we got out and dug some shelter trenches and got in them.

Just after dawn on the 11th the enemy started a counter attack, but it was soon repulsed. During the day the bombardment went on as heavy as ever, and we again extended our front. On the morning of the 12th the Germans set up a very heavy counter attack, but we kept on repulsing them. Towards noon our artillery fire got too hot for them and they retired from their front trench again leaving a lot of prisoners. Our Regiment then advanced again, and it was during this one with my company that I got hit.

The German trenches are awful in places, their dead being left piled up in some parts of them. Our lyddite had coloured the sides a pale greenish yellow. They had left ammunition,helmets and clothes behind in their flight.

Our casualties, though they are large, cannot be nearly so heavy as the Germans.

We think this the beginning of the end for sure."

For Benjamin these last words were to prove tragically prophetic. He must have recovered from his wounds and returned to France shortly afterwards. He fought in the Battle of Loos in September/October 1915. During the following winter, he developed frostbite in his foot and was again taken into hospital. This time, however, blood poisoning set in, from a septic toe. He was operated on, without success, and he died in hospital on 10th December 1915, aged 29.

He is recorded as a Corporal on the Northallerton Memorial, but as a Lance Corporal on his family headstone and in the Official CWGC records.