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Thursday, 22 June 2017

Remembering Private Charles Burton Langille—KIA June 22, 1917

Charles Burton Langille was born at Liscomb, Guysborough County on November 15, 1894, the second son and youngest child of David and Margaret Ann (Lang) Langille. Margaret passed away sometime after Charles’ birth, and as David worked as a sea captain in the local fishery, the children were dispersed to several local homes.

Sometime prior to 1914, Charles ventured west, finding work as a cook in British Columbia. He also enlisted with the 5th Canadian Garrison Artillery, a Victoria militia unit. Following the outbreak of the First World War, Charles commenced training with the 11th Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles at Vancouver, BC on February 25, 1915. One month later, he attested for overseas service with the unit, but was discharged as “medically unfit” on August 2.

Determined to serve overseas, Charles travelled to Calgary, AB and eight days later enlisted with the 50th Battalion. In mid-October, the unit travelled to Halifax and shortly afterwards boarded SS Orduna for the trans-Atlantic voyage. Upon landing at Plymouth, England on November 4, the 50th made its way to Camp Bramshott. One month after arriving in England, Charles was hospitalized for treatment of influenza and pneumonia. He remained under medical care for more than two months, finally rejoining the 50th’s ranks in early February 1916.

Following its overseas arrival, the 50th Battalion was assigned to the 4th Division’s 10th Brigade. The unit crossed the English Channel to France on August 9 and commenced regular rotations in Belgium’s Ypres Salient before month’s end.

In early October, the 4th Division relocated to the Somme region of France, where the 50th’s personnel participated in a series of attacks on Regina Trench, a German stronghold located along Thiepval Ridge. In late November, Charles was hospitalized a second time, on this occasion for treatment of enteritis. He spent two months recovering before rejoining the 50th's ranks near Carency, France in mid-January 1917.

On the morning of April 9, 1917, the 50th and its 10th Brigade comrades occupied support positions behind the 11th and 12th Brigade units as the Canadian Corps launched their historic attack on Vimy Ridge. The two Brigades faced the day’s most difficult assignment—removing opposing forces from Hill 145, the ridge’s highest location. While German soldiers withstood the early morning barrage and inflicted significant casualties on two 11th Brigade units, an early evening attack by two Companies of the 85th Battalion succeeded in securing the hill’s western slopes.

The following afternoon, the 50th’s personnel assisted in clearing German soldiers from the remnants of Hill 145, as the unit sustained the first significant casualties since its Somme engagements. On April 12, the battalion took part in a successful attack on “the Pimple,” an elevated location adjacent to Hill 145 and the final section of the ridge still in German hands.

Charles came through both engagements without injury, only to be hospitalized with a case of mumps on April 13. He returned to the 50th’s ranks at Château de la Haie on June 7 and five days later entered support positions with his mates. On June 19, the 50th relieved the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) in front trenches near Liévin. Two days later, Allied forces fired a combination of gas canisters and “Stokes shells” at a section of the German line opposite the 50th’s location. German forces responded with trench mortar and artillery fire, inflicting a total of 33 casualties on the battalion.

While Charles came through the exchange of fire without injury, he was not so fortunate the following day. While the 50th’s war diary described June 21 as “fairly quiet,” with “occasional shelling of front line and support areas,” the unit nevertheless suffered 20 more casualties, two of which were fatalities. Private Charles Burton Langille was one of the two “other ranks” killed in action during the day’s exchange of fire. He was laid to rest in Cabaret-Rouge Cemetery, Souchez France.

Pte. Charles Burton Langille's headstone.

Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed summary of Charles’ family background and military service, along with 71 other profiles of Guysborough County’s fallen First World War personnel.

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