Langham, William. Died 16th Oct 1915

William Langham was born in about 1887 in Rugby.

He was the son of John Langham who was born in Rugby, c.1860. In 1881, John, described as a labourer and, with Sarah and a baby John, was living in a very crowded ‘licensed lodging house’ at 58 Gas Street, Rugby. On 25th July 1881 John Langham married Triniti Fletcher at St Paul’s Church, Warwick. When baby John was christened later that year on 7 October 1881, at Holy Trinity, Rugby, his mother’s name is recorded as ‘Tranette’, presumably a mistranscribed Trinity Langham, who would be recorded as John’s wife on all subsequent occasions.

Whether the Sarah named in the census was the same person as Trinity is unknown, it does not appear to be just a mistake name as the age and birthplace is different! Of course, it is possible that the enumerator made a gross error and he entered someone else’s details. Also, since this is a lodging house, the relationship of this family is just given as lodger. Sarah could be a relative of John, who was looking after the baby.

However by 1891, John Langham was with his wife, Trinity, who was born in Banbury, c.1865. He seems to have moved about in the intervening years, judging by the birthplaces of the children, and without obtaining birth certificates, it is uncertain who was the mother of the next three.   Louisa was born in Leamington in 1883; Richard Langham was born in Coventry in 1885 and William Langham was born back in his father’s home town, Rugby in 1887.   A John William died in 1887 A further child, George Henry Langham was Christened on 23 August 1889 at St Andrew, Rugby, the mother recorded as ‘Tranett’, presumably a mis-transcribed Trinity! George Henry died aged one in later 1890.

By 1891 the family were living at 11 Riley Court and John was a bricklayer’s labourer.

A further son, Albert Edward Langham was christened on 7 February 1896 at New Bilton, but died very soon afterwards, his death registered in the same quarter

By 1901 there were eight living children. The four youngest were all born in Rugby: Arthur Langham in about 1891; Lizzie Langham in 1893; Harry Langham in 1897 and Lillian Langham in 1899. The three eldest brothers, including 14 year old William were now all labourers at the cement works and the family was living at 18 New Street, New Bilton, Rugby. In 1901, William’s sister, Louisa, who was now 18, was no longer at home, as she had married William Burborough earlier in the year, he was also a labourer at the cement works, so may have been introduced to her by her brother and his workmate, William Langham.

In 1908, John Langham died, aged 53 (his death being registered in the first quarter). Very soon afterwards, and registered in the third quarter , his widow, Trinity Langham, married William Welsby in Rugby.

For the 1911 census William; his mother – still listed as ‘Mrs Langham’! – and his elder brother, Richard, had moved to live at 14 New Street, New Bilton. Not being familiar with the census rules, she has noted correctly that she was married, and that she had been married for three full years, which is indeed correct for her second marriage. However, she then incorrectly filled in the number of children from her first ‘marriage’, which whilst not needed and was struck through by the enumerator. However, it states that she had eleven children and that seven were still living.   It seems there are still some to identify!

In 1911, William, now 24, was still working as a ‘Labourer Cement Works’, this being at the Rugby Portland Cement Works as confirmed by an announcement about those joining up in the Rugby Advertiser.[1]

As was the case for a number of local men, including Walter Davis who would die a few hours later than him (see Rugby Remembers – 17 October 1915), William joined up, as a Private, No:11755, in the 5th (Service) Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Ox. and Bucks.). William was with ‘A’ Company when he was killed.

In summary, the 5th Ox. and Bucks. was formed at Oxford in August 1914 as part of Kitchener’s new army and placed under the orders of the 42nd Brigade in the 14th (Light) Division. The surviving Service Records for the Ox. and Bucks. suggest that there was a rapid response to the recruitment drive and they can be used to make an estimate of the place and date of attestation from the service numbers of other soldiers with surviving records.

With the number 11755, it is likely that William joined up on or before 2 September 1914, on which date Smith, No.11874 was ‘attested’ in Rugby. This date is further confirmed by a list of those who had joined up from the cement works in the local paper dated 12 September 1915.[2]

A summary of the earlier movements and actions of the 5th Bn. Ox. and Bucks. can be found in the description of the attack on Bellewaarde Farm on 25 September 1915 (see: Rugby Remembers for that date). They landed in Boulogne on 21 May 1915, however, whenever William actually ‘joined up’, he did not go to France until 1 October 1915, probably with reinforcements after the heavy losses at Bellewaarde Farm, when the Battalion was withdrawn to regroup and retrain, as mentioned in the Battalion Diary.[3]

The Battalion returned to a ‘Camp near Poperinge’ by 1 October, ‘… 46 other ranks were killed, six died of wounds, 249 were wounded and 136 were missing’. Two days later a draft of 200 NCOs and men, a ‘… very good looking lot of men’ arrived from 9th Bn. to provide replacements.

9th (Reserve) Battalion was formed at Portsmouth in October 1914, as a Service battalion for K4 and placed under orders of 96th Brigade, originally 32nd Division, but on 10 April 1915 it converted into a reserve battalion.[4] It seems quite likely that William had been initially in this battalion for training and was then included with the reinforcements.

However less than two weeks later they were in the trenches, as extracts from the Battalion Diary[5] indicated:

October 13th – Relieved the 8th K.R.R.C. in Railway Wood, Sector H.20 to A.2. (see location map on Rugby Remembers – 25 September 1915) … The shelling was still very heavy, and it became necessary to take shelter under the canal bank west of Ypres until 9p.m. As the shelling still continued, the C.O. decided to push on via the Dixmude Gate and Menin Road. At about 11.30p.m. the shelling ceased, and the relief was completed by 2.30 a.m. (14th).   Only one man was wounded.

October 14th – Fairly quiet. Enemy did some damage to our parapet with trench mortars, and there was a little sniping and hand-grenade throwing during the day.

October 15th – Much the same situation as yesterday. The mornings are generally foggy now, and the men can go on working as long as the fog lasts. In the afternoon there was a good deal of shelling. 1 man killed.

October 16th – Quiet morning. Between 3 and 4 p.m. a good many whizz- bangs and crumps were fired into Railway Wood. The men work all night, as there is much repairing to be done.   Casualties. 1 man killed and 7 men wounded.

It might be supposed that this one man who was killed was William Langham, whose grave, if any, must have been subsequently lost.

However, the CWGC lists 11 men from the 5th Ox. and Bucks. who were killed that day and have no known grave. This raises the question of accuracy of the casualties in the above account – or the dating by the CWGC – or whether some of the Battalion were, in fact, in action elsewhere. There is additional complication of the mine that was exploded under their position the next morning, which left the casualty count as 2 officers and 13 other ranks killed; 31 other ranks wounded; and 23 other ranks missing and buried by the mine. (see greater detail in tomorrow’s Rugby Remembers – 17 October 1915 and the loss of Private Walter Davis).

William had only been in France for just over two weeks. He was awarded the British and Victory Medals and the 1915 Star. He is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial and on the Rugby Memorial Gates.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

 

This summary was prepared for the Rugby Family History Group by John P H Frearson in October 2015.   Thanks are due to other members of the Group for copying data in the local newspaper

[1]       Rugby Advertiser, 12 September 1914.

[2]       Rugby Advertiser, 12 September 1914.

[3]       Record of the 5th (Service) Battalion, 1 August 1915 to 30 June 1916, at: http://www.lightbobs.com/.

[4]         http://www.1914-1918.net/oxbucks.htm

[5]       Record of the 5th (Service) Battalion, 1 August 1915 to 30 June 1916, at: http://www.lightbobs.com/.

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