On August 29, 2017, the Coldwater Legion lowered its flags to half-mast in honour of Private James Langley of Coldwater, who died of wounds received in action 100 years ago while serving on the front lines in France.
James Murray Langley was born in Lovering, near Coldwater, on March 20, 1897. As his mother died when he was still young, James was raised by his uncle Arthur and aunt Florence (Carter) Langley.
On February 12, 1916, James and dozens of other Coldwater young men enlisted with the 157th Overseas Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force during a recruiting drive in Coldwater. He was 18 years old and single. On his Attestation Form he is described as 5 feet 9½ inches tall, with brown eyes and brown hair. He identified his religious denomination as Church of England, and his trade as farmer, with no previous military experience.
Private James Langley, regimental number 644018, sailed to England on the S.S. Cameronia, arriving on October 28, 1916. After training in England for several months, he landed in France on April 4, 1917, where he joined his front line unit, the 116th Canadian Infantry Battalion, part of the 3rd Canadian Division.
On August 15, 1917, only four months after the battle of Vimy Ridge, Canadian troops, including James' unit, the 116th Battalion, launched a successful assault on Hill 70, near Lens, capturing the high ground overlooking the city. On the night of August 28, Private Langley was detailed for a working party tasked to dig a "jumping off" trench in an area near Lens. As the men were being placed by Engineers sappers, a burst of enemy machine gun bullets severely wounded Private Langley. He was immediately placed on a stretcher and taken to the nearest dressing station. From there he was evacuated to No.9 Canadian Field Ambulance, where he died the following day.
Four years later, his aunt Florence received the awards her adopted son was entitled to: the 1914-1918 British War Medal; the Inter Allied Victory Medal; a Memorial Plaque (a bronze medallion often referred to as "Dead Man's Penny"); and a scroll from King George V.
Private James Langley is buried at Pas de Calais, Fosse No 10 Communal Cemetery Extension near Sains-en-Gohelle, France. He is commemorated on page 271 of the First World War Book of Remembrance, located inside the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower in Ottawa.
We will remember him.