John Henry Langton was a career soldier. Retired nearly 5 years by the outbreak of World War One, this old CSM answered Kitchener’s call for “Old Sweats” to rejoin the Colours and serve as instructors for the New Army of civilians that were volunteering for war service. John Langton would serve his Country with great distinction and end the war by bringing back his Battalion – the 4th Royal Welsh Fusiliers – to the Regimental Depot, in the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. Following is a short précis of his life:

17 June 1872 born Milton Street, Milton, near Sittingbourne, Kent.

John Henry Langton was the son of John Langton, a shipwright from Sunderland and Caroline Langton nee Butlin.

At this time John Langton senior was no doubt working his trade somewhere amongst the creaks of Milton which served as home to many of the Thames barges. When their son John was six months old they moved back to the Medway Towns and this is believed to have coincided with John Langton senior gaining employment in the Naval dockyard at Chatham.

29 Oct 1888 Enlisted in Rifle Brigade
(aged 16 but put two years on his age to join otherwise he was too old for Boy service and too young for full professional enlistment)

8 Dec 1888 Appointed L/Cpl

Jan/Feb 1890 – undertook course of Field Work at School of Military Engineering at Chatham.

1 May 1890 transferred to Royal Engineers (RE) as 24802 Sapper – eventually specialising in trade of electrician.

Aug 1890 Appointed L/Cpl

Sept 1892 promoted 2nd Cpl and proceeded to India.

Sept 1893 promoted Cpl (local)

1895 promoted Sgt (local)

Nov 1896 – returned to England and reverted back to Corps rank of 2nd Cpl

Oct 1896 promoted full Cpl

Jan 1890 promoted Sgt

1900 – 1902 Mentioned in Lord Kitchener’s Dispatches (MiD) for general good work in South Africa during Boer War (
by this time Langton was employed with a mounted RE Troop although when he transferred to mounted duties is unknown , possibly during his Indian service. An RE Troop performs same sapper duties but servicing cavalry brigades as opposed to infantry).

25 Oct 1902, at St Mark's, Gillingham: John Henry Langton, son of John Langton (Shipwright), aged 30 and a Sergeant in the Royal Engineers married Catherine Mary Stapley of 26 Adelaide Road, Gillingham, the daughter of John Stapley (merchant).  Witnesses were Edwin Henry Williamson and Edith Mary Coleman.

I believe John and Catherine had the following children:
Catherine Margaret born Aldershot 20.10.03;
John born Pretoria S.A. 29.12.05;
Lilian Florence born Middleburg S.A. 05.12.07;
Alfred J. Ronald born Simon's Town, S.A. 28.06.09;
George Ernest born Chesterton 13.09.11;
Evelyn Eleanor born Chesterton 12.02.14. 

1 May 1903 promoted Troop Sgt-Major

1906 – transferred to dismounted duties following injury and changed rank to Coy Sgt-Major

4 Jan 1910 – discharged to pension at 2/3 per day.

Service record: Medals – QSA & KSA (five bars), LSGC

Exemplary record (not once listed in whole of service)

Served in India, Aden and a 7 year posting to South Africa

Certificates: SME – Field Works, Electricity and electric light, swimming.

Hythe – Musketry & Machine Gun

Aldershot – Equitation

Between 1910 and the outbreak of the Great War John Langton settled his family in Willingham, Cambridgeshire, invested his pension and gratuity into land, tools and seed and embarked upon a Market Gardening career. During this time he joined the Cambridge Branch of the National Reserve.

Following the outbreak of the Great War and the huge numbers of inexperienced civilians that inundated army resources by volunteering for war service, John Langton rejoined for service on 17th September 1914. This was as a direct result of Lord Kitchener’s appeal for old soldiers to return to Colours as instructors. He was aged 45 years and 4 months. Given service number 47883, he was returned to his former rank of CSM and posted to 12th Divisional Signal Company, RE, stationed at Hounslow Barracks and then Aldershot.

His Attestation paper description his physical appearance at Sep 1914:

Height – 5’9½

Weight – 168lbs

Chest – 38 “

Chest Expansion – 2”

Eyes – Blue

Hair – Brown

Religion – Church of England

29 Jan 1915 – promoted Warrant Officer II class

9 Mar 1915 – promoted Temporary Second Lieutenant with RE and posted 203rd Field Coy at Cambs (joining 203rd 15 March 1915).

Aug 1915 – promoted Temporary Lieutenant RE in same 203rd Field Coy.

5 Nov 1915 – promoted Captain RE and sent to Reading to assist in raising and instructing 237th Field Coy RE. With no end of to the War likely, John Langton volunteered for overseas service with this Field Coy.

1 May 1916 – proceeded overseas (to France and Flanders) as Second in Command 237th Field Coy, RE (41st Div)

Feb 1917 – transferred to 4th Royal Welsh Fusiliers (Pioneers) (4/RWF) as second in command. His Battalion Commander was actually wounded on this day and John Langton finished the day in temporary command of the 4/RWF.

Battalion War Diary for 4 Feb 1917: Major J H Langton RE arrived from 41st Divisional Engineers to take up duties with 4/RWF as 2 i/c. Lt-Col WCW Hawkes slightly wounded by HE shrapnel near Woodgate House, also Lt HR Weeks, who was with the CO at the time. Both to hospital. Major JH Langton took over command.

28 Feb 1917 – promoted substantive Major (Temp).

June 1917 – awarded DSO “for conspicuous organising ability” in connection with the Messines Ridge attack. (London Gazette 1 Jan 1918).

18 Dec 1917 Battalion War Diary notes John Langton was Mentioned in Dispatches (MiD) by Sir Douglas Haig. Citation read for “gallant service on the Western Front” –
my notes suggest this was in connected to the action at Bourlon Wood.

March 1918 – following the Operation “Michael” offensive of 21st March 1918 by the German army, John Langton was MiD when he “kept back large numbers of the enemy with a handful of men, it is said, [he] saved a regiment from destruction”.

25 Sept 1918 – promoted Acting Lieutenant-Colonel, commanding 4/RWF

7 Nov 1918 – John Langton returns to England on leave –
and was most likely at home when the Armistice was announced.

8 Nov 1918 – MiD by Sir Douglas Haig (London Gazette 3 Jan 1919)

18 May 1919 – Embarked with 4/RWF (actually the balance of those men that had not yet returned to the UK) to return the battalion to the Regimental Depot in Wales.

During his service in F&F he served in the 12th, 35th, 41st and 47th Divisions and (according to his obituary in the local paper) was present at the battles of Vimy Ridge, Messines, Cambrai, Bourlon Wood, Passchendale, 21st March and then the offensive of the last 100 days (Aug – Nov 1918). Twoice during the war he was recommended for the CMG and a total of four times Mentioned in Dispatches.

1919 – Assumed command of RE Depot at Gosport.

December 1920 – Demobilized.
(I have taken this date from JHL correspondence but believe it may have actually been December 1919)

It is regrettable that after the war this courageous old soldier was treated badly by the State. His pension was increased from 2/3 per day to 4/-. John Langton then maintained a campaign concerning pension entitlement in his brevet-rank, for which the War Office was not technically responsible but morally obliged. John Langton’s accounts suggested he lost over £2000 and his last opportunity of being young and fit enough to build his market gardening business.

1920 – Aged nearly 50, John Langton went into business as a greengrocer in Canterbury St., Gillingham. Later he was a founding owner of the Ubique bus undertaking. At some point John Langton became the licensee of the Prince of Orange in Chatham High Street.

Mid-1920’s – Gillingham Borough Councillor for Conservative Party, Westward representative.

1928 – began the year residing at 21 Canterbury St., Gillingham but then took the decision to return to Cambridgeshire as a publican.

c. 1940 – instrumental in forming Home Guard in Willingham, Suffolk (was himself a Major in HG until resigning to return to Medway)

1944 – returned to Medway.

1954 or 1955 – Awarded Meritous Service Medal.

Jan 1956 – Died aged 83 (address 354 Canterbury Street). His body was cremated and his ashes interned at Charring, Kent.