Patrick Francis Langton , born in 1897 in Teddington Surrey, was a bricklayer living at 6 Hove Street in Hove, East Sussex, before becoming a Private in the Royal Sussex 12th Battalion 39th Division (service number SD/2370).
He died at The Battle of Boar’s Head at Ferme Du Bois France, the deadliest battle for the Royal Sussex Battalion, on the 30th of June 1916, also known as ‘the day that Sussex died’. Patrick Francis was 19.
At the time of the 1911 census, Patrick Francis’ parents, John Langton (50 years old), a Cycle Engineer, and his Mother Ada E. Langtono (37 years old) are recorded to have been married for 14 years with three children.
Patrick Francis was the eldest at 13 years of age at the time of the census, followed by his sister Madge at 11 years and brother Fredrick at 9 years.
The family is recorded to have worshiped at All Saints Church Hove Sussex (parish records not available). Patrick Francis is not recorded to have married.
All Saints Church, Hove, circa 1910
Private Langton was posthumously awarded The Victory Medal and The British War Medal. He enlisted in the British Army on 15 March 1915 in Hove Sussex.
Soldiers at a Sussex Camp
On 1st November 1915 the 39th Division moved from Aldershot to Whitley Camp to complete its training. Rifles were issued in January 1916 following which the infantry began musketry courses and during February the artillery carried out gunnery practice on Salisbury Plain. (War Records)
Sussex Regiment in Training
The following extracts depict the events of The Battle of Boar’s Head that lead to Patrick Francis’ death.
The 12th battalion war diary reads:
‘On 29th June 1916 ‘Two companies marched for Richburg and Vielle Chapelle and joined the rest of battalion in the front line at Ferme Due Bois. (The Battle of Boar’s Head) Artillery bombarded enemy trenches from 2pm to 5pm. 12th Battalion attacked enemy front and support lines and succeeded in entering same.
The support line was occupied for about half hour and the front line for four hours. The withdrawal was necessitated by the supply of bombs and ammunition giving out by heavy enemy barrage on our front line and communication trenches preventing reinforcement being sent forward.’
12th Bn Royal Sussex Regiment (image credited to Paul Reed)
Operation orders were attached to the diary. The battalion was relieved by the 14th Hants at 10am and marched to Les Lobes after resting at Richburg.
Lieunant Frank Walter Moyel wrote on the ICRC INDEX CARD for Private Langton: ‘At 3am on June 30th June 1916 some minutes before the attack. The bay Private Langton occupied with [text illegible] was blown in with bombs and heavy artillery – this I saw myself, as I was in the next bay. We had to go forward. I did not see him after.’
The concentration report attached to Private 4975 Earnest Leonard Mepham states: ‘The British uncovered a mass grave containing 84 Unknown British Soldiers and 5 Unknown British Officers who all died on 30th June 1916′
An unnamed soldier of 12TH Battlalion from Eastbourne gave an eye witness report:
‘We paraded to go over the top the next morning. We said the Lord’s Prayer with our chaplain who addressed a few words to us and gave us a blessing. All night we were hard at work cutting the barbed wire in front and carrying out bridges to put over a big ditch in front of our parapet.
The time we went over, guns started a terrible bombardment of the enemy’s trenches.. As soon as this started the enemy sent up a string of red lights as a signal to his own guns. I got a fragment of shell on the elbow about five minutes before our men went over… They blew our trenches right in, in several places’
Patrick is Commemorated alongside the other Hove Residents who Fell during The Great War on The Hove War Memorial, the Hove Library Great War Memorial, and the All Saints Church Memorial plaque, the same church his family is recorded to have frequented.
WW1 Memorial Plaque from All Saints Church, Hove, East Sussex
Patrick Francis is also commemorated on The Loos Memorial:
‘Private Langton SD 2370 12TH Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment. 39th Division. Killed in action on the RUE De Bois 30th June 1916 son of John and Ada Langton of 6 Hove Street Hove. Born Teddington and enlisted in Hove.’
Every Man Remembered writes:
‘Patrick was one of the many casualties in the unsuccessful attack by the 116th. Brigade on The Boar’s Head, near the Rue De Bois at Richebourg. It was a hastily planned action designed to distract the Germans from the main Somme Offensive on 1st. July 1916. A staggering total of 135 of Patrick’s Comrades from the Battalion also Fell on this day’.
In more recent times the following post on the ‘Great War Forum’ in January 2016 records the discovery of Patrick Frances’ ‘death penny’:
‘A very surprising discovery for me at the Ankara Antika Pazari today. I discovered a ‘death penny’ for Private Patrick Frances Langton. CD 2370. This is the first example I have ever seen here. The only information from the dealer was that he picked it up some years go on sale in Ankara. I don’t collect these, but I found that could not simply walk by and accept the idea of it just sitting there, and so I bought it…’
This research was completed by Veronica Wright of The Orange Lilies project.