Henry Walter Mungham

Henry Walter Mungham was my 2nd Great Uncle, older brother to my Great-Grandfather, James Charles Mungham, and Albert Mungham who I profiled in the early summer.

Born in England and immigrating to Canada with his family when he was 11, Henry was the oldest of Harry Mungham and Ellen Perring’s eight children.  Harry enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on September 17, 1915, just over a year after Britain and consequently Canada declared war on Germany. He was 18 years old.

Portrait of Henry Walter Mungham in Uniform

Henry Walter Mungham

Henry joined the 45th (Manitoba) Battalion, sailing for England in March of 1916.  The 45th was used as a reserve battalion to reinforce other groups, and in May of 1916, Henry was reassigned to the 31st  (Alberta) Battalion, and sent to join them in France.  The 31st was part of the 6th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Canadian Division.

The summer into the fall of 1916 was the famous Somme offensive, a time where the remaining trappings of 19th century warfare gave way to the full-on industrialization of battlefields. The 2nd Canadian Division, including the 31st battalion, became most directly involved in this part of the conflict in September 1916 with the Battle of Fleurs-Courcelette. On the morning of September 15, 1916, the men were ordered to go “over the top” of the trench after a series of artillery fire was meant to clear the way. Zero hour was 6:20am.

In the immediate aftermath of this battle, Henry was listed as “wounded and missing.”  His family was informed, and this remained his status until June of 1917 when he was “declared, for official purposes, to have died on or since September 15, 1916.”  This status was changed yet again in February of 1918, when he was deemed to have been “Killed in Action on September 15, 1916.” Henry was 19 years old.

Henry’s remains were never found, and he is memorialized at the Canadian monument at Vimy.  I remember seeing pictures of my Grandmother, Henry’s niece whom he would have never met, standing beside his name at the memorial when she had the opportunity to visit it. She would sometimes say that her uncle died at Vimy, Canada’s most famous battle, but of course this was not the case.  As mentioned above, Henry’s brother Albert also enlisted, though never went overseas, a blessing for a family that had already lost a son.

I am honoured to share the commemorative certificate from the Commonwealth Ware Graves Commission for my uncle here.  I dedicate this post to my Grandmother and Henry’s niece, Mary Ellen Rajotte (nee Mungham), who passed away earlier this month.

Sara Gladys Langton and Richard Sackville Cresswell

Sara Gladys Muriel Langton was my first cousin 3 times removed.  We are both descended from Francis Langton and Sarah Bishop who were her Grandparents, and my 3rd Great Grandparents.  She is second cousin to Martha Richmire (who I posted about in February), and first cousin to Emma Maud Law (who I posted about in December) and to my Great Grandfather Joseph James Foster who I will write about toward the end of the project.

Sarah Langton

Abbreviated family tree of Sara Gladys Muriel Langton

The youngest child of Francis Langton and Sarah Bishop was Albert Edward Langton.  His father was 51 and mother was 45 when he was born in 1866, older parents even by today’s standards.  His oldest sibling was 18 when he was born. Albert left Peterborough and his family at the age of 16.  Although we can’t know the specific reason from the records available, it is very possible that with 9 surviving older siblings, 4 of which being brothers, there may not have been much in the way of prospects connected to any family business or agricultural endeavour for him to take on once he was of age.  He moved to North Dakota where he worked as a railroad labourer.  It was here that in 1889 he married Louise Millwood whose family was also originally from Canada. It appears that over the first 15 to 20 years of their marriage they moved frequently between North Dakota and southern Manitoba, their children being born almost alternately between the two regions.  Sara, or Gladys, as she was more commonly known, their third child, was born in 1893 in Gretna, Manitoba, a border town between Canada and the United States. By 1906 it seems the family had permanently settled in Canada near Morris, Manitoba, 50 kilometres south of Winnipeg.

Richard Sackville Cresswell was born in Elham, Kent, and moved to Canada with his family in 1904 when he was 13 years old. He eventually began working for the railroad, as did Gladys’ father, as a brakeman. In early March 1915, at the age of 23, Ritchie enlisted in the 44th Overseas Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary force. This was a short-lived situation as by April 27 of the same year, he was discharged as medically unfit.  There are no clues as to what the nature of the medical reason for the discharge may have been.

Ritchie and Gladys were married in November 1915, and settled continued to live in Manitoba. They had one daughter in 1916.  Ritchie worked his entire career on the railway.  He passed away in 1970, and Gladys passed away in 1984.

1914-18recruitmentitem22l

One has to wonder what the war years were like for Ritchie and Gladys.  Although he had been deemed medically unfit, he was clearly not unable to work, and with only a month spent in Winnipeg training, it would not have been evident to those who knew him casually that he had, in fact, volunteered.  As a man in his mid-20s, he would have been considered the ideal candidate for a recruit.  The pressure being exuded through government propaganda as well as through the popular media of the time (mostly newspapers and novels) framed unwillingness to join as a character flaw, or a sign of cowardice.  There was little public consideration given to a person’s or a family’s individual situation beyond how many boys they had “in khaki.” Much like it can be today though modern media, hyperbole was used to incite action for a specific cause, and this could create very deep divisions in and between communities.  Perhaps this was not an issue for Gladys and Ritchie, but the fact that it could have been, is certainly worth some thought.

Albert George Mungham

Albert George Mungham was my 2nd Great Uncle, older brother to my Great Grandfather, James Charles Mungham. He was seven years old when his family arrived in Canada and eventually settled in Newdale, Manitoba to farm in 1908.

Albert volunteered in early 1916, and was sent to Winnipeg with the 190th Overseas Battalion in anticipation of sailing overseas.  Like many, he was not entirely honest about his age on his attestation papers.  He aged himself by three years, saying he was 18 years and 10 months old, when really, he was 15 years and 10 months old.  He was tall and strong, working as a farmer, so it is likely that he was not questioned.

His service record is very thin, with a mention of a brief hospitalization for a sore throat and then a transfer to a depot battalion, and then there are discharge papers signed in March 1917 in Winnipeg in which he discharged due to being medically unfit.  Whether this had anything to do with the fact that he still would have been not quite 17 at the time is hard to say.

Although Albert never left Manitoba, he still gave over a year of his life to military service, at least part of it thinking that he could go overseas and face very real dangers–dangers that would have been very clear to him based on his brother Henry’s service which we will explore further later in the year.  This is still a commitment I think is worth remembering.

He later married and had two children.  He lived in various places in Manitoba and British Columbia, and passed away in New Westminster, BC in 1983 at the age of 83.