William “Budge” Burgess in many respects embodied the true “Langton Spirit”. He turned out in the annual theatrical productions and was, at the time of his death, the greatest sportsman the school had ever produced.
He was active in all sports, particularly football and cricket. He played in the school 1st XI captained by Eric Sharp and, in the 1913/14 season, he scored 51 goals as centre forward for the school 1st XI and captained the cricket team, scoring two centuries.
After leaving school in the summer of 1914 he transferred to Goldsmiths’ Teacher Training College to read for a B.A.
He arrived in France on June 26th 1916, a few days before the “Great Push” on the Somme as a lieutenant with the 6th Berkshires. The Battalion found itself engaged at Mametz Wood and attacked the Northern section of the wood on the 19th and 20th July suffering heavily, occasionally from “friendly fire”. The Battalion dug in at 2.15 on the afternoon of the 19th to repulse the many German counter attacks. They were bombed and attacked constantly for the next twenty four hours but held their position until relieved on the 22nd, by which time they had lost 40% of their original number. This was the last major action on the Somme for the Berkshires and William Burgess was killed, almost certainly on the 19th, just 25 days after first landing in France. His body was lost on the Somme; initially buried in a shallow grave, and subsequently devastated as the battle continued to rage. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.
Archie Hardman joined the Langton in the latter part of the Nineteenth Century, becoming Head Boy in 1902. He ended his time at the school as Commander in Chief of the school’s cadet force.
Hardman played full back for the Langton football team and was a 1st XI cricketer, but upon leaving school he took up a position with a bank in Kensington. This he resigned in 1907 to retrain as a teacher, first at the Mathematical School in Rochester and afterwards at Sheffield Grammar School.
He joined the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in 1916 in time to take part in the Battle of the Somme where he received a gunshot wound in the shoulder at Mametz Wood, which invalided him back home.
In February 1917 he returned to his regiment in time for the Battle of Arras at Easter and by July 1917 he had been promoted to the rank of acting Captain. On October 4th the battalion set out for the objective of Reutel, near Passchendaele, negotiating a number of heavily armed pill boxes.
Reutel was taken by the battalion, but not before a fearsome enemy barrage and enfilade machine gun fire had decimated their number. Archie Hardman was killed in this action, aged 32. He was hit in the right temple by a machine gun bullet and death was instantaneous.
His body was never recovered from the battlefield and he is commemorated on the wall of the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing about two miles from where he was killed.
Captain Cyril Mackenzie
'Mac' Mackenzie proved to a very able sportsman at the Langton and played for both the school football and cricket teams, as well as winning a number of athletic events at the annual school sports day.
After leaving The Langton in 1909, Mackenzie joined the civil service and also the London Scottish Territorial Regiment. When war broke out he enlisted immediately into his regiment as a private. January 1915 found him on the Western Front. He wrote cheerfully home to declare that “I am all right except for a bit of cold on my chest and feet!”
By May Mackenzie had been promoted to Corporal. Shortly afterwards he was discharged from the London Scottish and commissioned Captain in the Liverpool Regiment, conveniently stationed at that time in Canterbury. February 1917 found him on the front line and he was wounded almost immediately. The Medical Board report of 21st July 1917 records that he was burned and blistered and his eyes were scorched.
On September 25th 1917 he returned to duty on the Passchendaele front around Poelcapelle. At 10 pm on Christmas Eve, Mackenzie went out on patrol with three other men to reconnoiter a pillbox. They crawled from the security of their trench towards the enemy line until, about 10 yards from the position, the enemy opened fire from three rifles and a machine gun. Mac was hit by a single bullet. He died on his way down to the dressing station. He was buried near the village of Elverdinge and his grave later grouped together with those known as Canada Farm.
Lieutenant Eric Sharp
Eric Sharp left the Langton in 1911 after a glittering school career which saw him as the captain of the school 1st XI football team and Champion Athlete. He was the only son of the Headmaster, John Henry Sharp.
When war broke out in 1914 he joined the Royal Fusiliers as a Private, but soon obtained his commission, being gazetted to the Buffs.
The battalion, however, was detailed for support at home, much to Sharp’s chagrin. He twice attempted to get back to his old battalion and then seized an opportunity to join the King’s African Rifles, shortly before they embarked for Africa.
On May 8th 1917, at Libembo, in what was then known as German Tanganyika, he took his platoon across an open space of about 100 yards to some rocks, where the enemy were thought to be concealed. He dashed the rocks, but found no-one. Later, a short distance away at Kitanda, he again made a forced march to the enemy camp and advanced to within about 20 yards of the enemy position giving orders to his men, the Askari tribesmen, to lie down. Suddenly, a murderous machine gun retort opened on the platoon. Sharp blew his whistle and charged, but, in a cruel twist of fate, the Askari failed to hear the whistle above the gunfire and, consequently, didn’t move in support. Sharp charged the guns to almost certain death. He was shot through the head and shoulder and was found when his men advanced later. Death was not instantaneous and he was taken to hospital where he died of wounds on May 22nd. He is buried at Dar es Salaam War Cemetery, Tanzania.