31 October 2014

Great War Centenary: Ben Langford

Ben Langford was my great-uncle, born on 4 June 1891 in Stretham, Cambs, the youngest of the eight children of Isaac & Emma (nee Quince) and christened on 25 July 1894 at St James’ church in the village.  In 1896 he and two older siblings, Kate & Freeman, went to live with their aunt Rose Ann Vaughan (nee Bigley) in Newnham Road, Ely.  By July 1897 all three were enrolled at the Market Street School and, in the 1891 census, the Vaughan family plus the three Langfords were living in Nutholt Lane, in the house next to the Vicarage.

In 1911, Ben was a 19-year-old bricklayer’s labourer still living with his aunt, and he completed the census form – which at least proves he could read and write, so that education wasn’t wasted!  And then came the Great War…….

Ben was living in Stretham but enlisted in Bedford, joining the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment.  On 4th October 1914 the 2nd Battalion embarked at Southampton, arriving Zeebrugge on the 7th.  After a lot of marching, they arrived at Ypres on 14th October and joined the 21st Infantry Brigade on the front line.  There followed ten days of heavy artillery and the brigade was ordered to “hold on”.

On 26th October the Brigade was relieved and moved back to rest….for one day, after which they moved forward again.  Much more shell fire and the Bedfordshires were ordered to cover the withdrawal of the 20th Brigade from the Ypres salient.  On 31st October there was more heavy shelling and the Bedfordshires withdrew to a new line at dusk.  The fighting was very fierce and there were many casualties, with the Battalion “losing their CO and many officers”.

And 23-year-old Lance Corporal 9921 Ben Langford.  The story is that he was in the trench and lifted his head to get a cigarette out of the breast pocket of his tunic.  He was shot by a sniper.

Ben has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres and the Stretham war memorials.

We will remember them.

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