First World War soldier finally gets gravestone

First World War soldier finally gets gravestone

James Preston

First World War soldier finally gets gravestone

A heroic soldier who fought in the First World War has been given the gravestone he deserves thanks to the efforts of a dedicated researcher.

Mike Willoughby with Philip Langman's gravestone

Nearly a century since his death, Littlewick Green villager Philip Langman now has a permanent memorial in the cemetery at St Peter's Church, in Knowl Hill Common.

He was buried there after passing away at just 23, a few months after being sent home from the western front after being taken ill while fighting with the Royal Berkshire Regiment.

There is no surviving marker for his grave in the cemetery, but when First World War researcher Mike Willoughby discovered he had distant family links with Pvt Langman, he set about on a mission to get a gravestone installed.

After trawling through parish, public and newspaper records to gather information on the young soldier, Mike made a submission to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and, on Monday, achieved success when a gravestone was installed.

"It's a privilege for me to be able to do this," said the 66-year-old.

"It just takes somebody inquisitive."

Mike, who teamed up with the church's former warden Valerie Charlton for the project, has carried out extensive research into the area's war heroes as part of a hobby which has 'become an obsession'.

The self-employed heating engineer, who grew up in Knowl Hill and now lives near Henley, has researched the stories behind soldiers listed on war memorials in more than 20 villages in the area.

He and his wife, Lesley, visit France and Belgium three or four times a year to visit the graves of researched soldiers and the former Maidenhead Grammar School pupil stressed the importance of remembering and honouring their sacrifice a century after the war broke out.

"There are hundreds of men on local memorials who are just names," he said.

"We have an amazing opportunity when these guys are going to be centre stage.

"It's a hundred years and we owe it to them to remember them all."

A Royal Berkshire Regiment badge

Private Philip Langman was born on February 29, 1896 and was the son of an agricultural labourer who lived at Larbert Cottages in Littlewick Green.

He initially worked at the Warner Brick Kiln in Knowl Hill, but went to sign up when war broke out.

After being rejected on 14 separate occasions, he was finally accepted into the 5th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment on August 5, 1915.

He went on to fight in France and Belgium, and in 1918 was awarded the Croix de Guerre for 'conspicuous bravery' by the King of the Belgians.


The Belgian Croix de Guerre, awarded to Pvt Langman in 1918


Pvt Langman was taken ill while fighting on the Albert front in June 1918, and was finally discharged on November 27, 1918.

He died on April 1, 1919, aged 23.

Records indicate he was buried at St Peter's Church, but the grave plan for the cemetery has been lost over the decades and its exact location is unknown.

It is not known whether he ever had a headstone, but he may of had a wooden cross which was eroded and lost over the years.

Editor's Picks

Most read

Top Articles