LANGLEY, Leonard Francis

No.6296, Private, Leonard Francis LANGLEY
Aged 32

2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment
Died as a prisoner of war on Saturday, 24th November 1917

An Old Contemptible

Leonard Francis Langley was born in 1885 in Ashley (Newmarket Q3-1885 3B:522), baptised in Ashley on 21st August 1885, son of William and Louisa LANGLEY (née SERJEANT).
There is confusion over birth dates since his German headstone gives 10th July 1886, the family had 6th June 1886, neither of which tie in with the above

1891 census...Aged 5, he was at Chapel Row, Ashley with his father William LANGLEY [41] an engine driver; his mother Louisa [39], brothers Bertram [15] and George [13] (both farm labourers), sisters Beatrice [9] and Mabel [7], brother Alan [3] and sister Rosetta [1]. All were born in Ashley.

1901 census...Aged 15, a farm labourer, he was at Chapel Row, Ashley with his father William LANGLEY [51] traction engine driver; his mother Louisa 50 brothers George [22], Charles [5] and Alan [13] and sister Rose [11].

1911 census...Aged 26, a farm labourer, he was at Chapel Row still, with his parents and brother Charles. His sister Beatrice May [29], now Mrs CARTER, was there with her son Oliver [2]. Two of his siblings had died. His brother in law Oliver CARTER senior was at home in Vine Terrace, Exning.

His brother in law Oliver Carter was killed in Belgium in 1917 in the King's Liverpool Regiment

His younger brother Charles Langley was killed near Cambrai in 1917

He enlisted in Bury St.Edmunds. From his number he enlisted late in 1902 and would have been on the Reserves. It is not known at present when he rejoined the battalion, which arrived in Dublin in September 1913.
Leonard was one of the very first local men to arrive in France at the start of the war. The 2nd Suffolks were split into two drafts and the first left Dublin on 13th August. Since his medal card shows he entered the theatre on 15th August he must have been on the SS Lanfranc as the SS Poland did not sail from Dublin until 14/15th. Unfortunately his Army records had not been found so there was no way of telling where or when he was taken prisoner, whether he died of wounds or illness even, or so I thought. Happily his grand-daughter had been researching and discovered he was captured at Le Cateau on 26th August 1914. So not only was he one of the first to arrive in France, he was amongst the first to be taken prisoner.

In 2014 the International Red Cross scanned and placed on line many records they had of prisoners of war and this enabled further details to be discovered. He was interned at Dyrotz (Kriegsgefangenenlager Mannschaftslager) Prisoner of War camp for Other ranks at Wustermark just west of Berlin. German records state he took his own life when suffering great pain, and was buried at Brunne, some 20 miles NW of the camp and his grave was eventually concentrated to Berlin.

The stand of the 14th Brigade (2nd Suffolks, the Yorkshire Light Infantry and the Argylls) at Le Cateau gave the 2nd Corps the chance to slip away, the chance to retreat un-pursued. That was the defining moment, when the Germans had to pause.
To put it into perspective, a British battalion by and large consists of just over 1,000 men, and at Le Cateau the 2nd Suffolk suffered over 700 killed, wounded or captured. In fact the roll call on 27th found only 111 men, but some stragglers did eventually catch up.

Dyrotz Camp..English, Russian and French prisoners on roll call

Leonard's headstone at Brunne and his present one in Berlin

photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Leonard Langley is buried in Berlin South West Cemetery, Brandenburg grave 3:E:4

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details