For Auld Lang Syne

John H. Lang
Posted in loving memory of our uncle John H. Lang, USN 1919-1947, Canadian Engineers, Canadian Black Watch and British Royal Highlanders, World War One.

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29 Responses to For Auld Lang Syne

  1. No question Canadians fought for King and Country. Wonder now what would be the case?

  2. Patrick Lang says:

    Yeah, well, he wasn’t Canadian. Born in North Dakota, enlisted the Canadian Army in Milwaukee. pl

  3. David says:

    Thank you Colonel,
    Wishing everyone a happy new year.

  4. Mark Logan says:

    14 Purple Hearts….
    I have no words…
    Best wishes for the new year, and may your recovery from the current bug be speedier than mine was. Hung around for weeks. Would feel OK in the morning
    but be exhausted by noon for some reason. I think I might have been better off paying it the respect it deserved.
    Many thanks Sir, and a Happy New Year to you and all yours.

  5. euclidcreek says:

    Happy New Year to all Americans serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. God protect you and bring you home safely.

  6. Nicollo says:

    Grazie e Buon Anno!

  7. Jackie says:

    Happy New Year to all. This is a great place and you are all wonderful and thoughtful commenters.
    Colonel, to you I wish a swift recovery and to you and your family (2 legged and 4 legged) a very happy and healthy new year.

  8. COL,
    Happy New Year and new decade!
    Thanks for keeping your Committee of Correspondence informative, lively and the first place I go each day online. You and the entire SST gang have been a valued resource and island of sanity in our insane world.

  9. optimax says:

    Happy New Year to all at SST, especially our host.
    From the children’s classic “The Story of Ferdinand.”

  10. Maureen Lang says:

    Thank you for posting about Uncle John, Pat. I’ve very fond memories of visiting him in Long Beach CA with you, Mom, & Dad. On those visits it was obvious how deeply Dad & John cared about each other.
    Best wishes to everyone at SST & TA for 2010.

  11. David Habakkuk says:

    The Royal Highlanders were the (Scottish) Black Watch, were they not. From Wikipedia:

    During World War I the 25 battalions of Black Watch fought mainly in France and Flanders, except for the 2nd Battalion which fought in Mesopotamia and Palestine, and the 10th Battalion, which was in the Balkans. Only the 1st and 2nd battalions were regulars, with the rest either part of the Territorial Force or New Army. The Black Watch served with the British 51st (Highland) Division (World War I).


    A Happy New Year to all.

  12. Okay Pat that is great. On the U.VA. campus is a small chapel dedicated to U.VA men that flew for the Lafayette Escradille. The border with Canada was completely open before WWI. Then cam border controls and passports. By the way border controls imposed by Canadians to prevent their draft dodgers from going south. Just after reading this post the first time picked up the year end issue of the ECONOMIST and sure enough a long story about the passing of the last two surviving veterans in Britain of WWI. Very interesting stories for both. Happy New Years.

  13. Cloned Poster says:

    Merry Christmas all year round to defence contrators.

  14. turcopolier says:

    He volunteered to be seconded from the Canadian BW to the 1st Bn, 42nd Foot. Happy New Year. Pat
    Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

  15. Amir says:

    A follow up article by Fisk on WWI:
    And finally, at year’s end, I have to thank readers Donald and Eileen Macleod who, moved by an article I wrote in November about the vanishing language of Great War soldiers, sent me a poem in Scots Gaelic. It’s called Lathe-D, 1944 – “D-Day, 1944”.
    “Some of these ships sailed with the youth of our land,” the translation reads. “My blessings are with these lads though I am a sailor … Many a father and brother and many a neighbour was there/Though they were manly and strong on our streets, they were drowned in the deep.”
    As Donald Macleod recalls, hundreds of war poems were written in Scottish Gaelic but are now lost as the language is almost extinct. And per head of population, the Western Isles of Scotland sustained the highest Second World War casualties of any area of the British empire. Oh yes, and the first woman to land with Allied forces in Normandy was Lieutenant Christina MacLeod, a nurse from the Isle of Lewis.
    Funny what you come up with when you wander around old wars.

  16. Charles I says:

    Happy New Year one and all.
    Thanks to all for what they’ve shared as they wander around old wars. A huge % of my father’s side of the family photo’s passed to me are of grinning groups of soldiers obviously at ease, and fading portrait shots of grim-faced soldiers in Dress uniform. The smiling boys still look alive while the portraits have that timeless frozen affect that the old
    WWI battlefields now present. Seems life and fun are fleeting, while War and Soldiers eternal.
    William R. Cumming, when the US, Greenland or St. Pierre and Miquelon invade Canada, then we’ll know the answer to your question.
    Our current government is working hard to deport your volunteer deserters now claiming some kind of CO status, whereas tens of thousands of Americans who fled the draft were welcomed and enriched this country.
    I don’t believe there have been any desertions to the US from our Afghan soldiers to date. We’re very deferential to authority as a rule.

  17. turcopolier says:

    This seems very self-righteous. What about the former Canadians whom I knew in VN? They joined our forces as my uncle joined your forces and their fate was to be stripped of your citizenship. Pl
    Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

  18. James McKenzie-Smith says:

    Dear Sir,
    Re.Vietnam vets being stripped of Canadian citizenship for serving in Vietnam.
    Nothing to do with serving in Vietnam, I suspect. Before 1977, taking of any citizenship in any country’s beside Canada resulted in loss of citizenship. Since then, Canadian citizenship can be resumed by application of former holders now with other citizenship.
    Best regards and a happy new year,
    James McKenzie-Smith

  19. turcopolier says:

    JM Smith
    I don't believe that works. You did not have to be be a US citizen to be an enlisted man or a reserve officer in the US forces then.
    Incidentally, I don't think my uncle was ever a Canadian citizen. Pl
    Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

  20. James McKenzie-Smith says:

    Dear Sir,
    I understand that one did not – and does not – need to be a US citizen to join the US Army. That said, many Canadians who did serve in the US Army during the Vietnam era did voluntarily take US citizenship. This would be the only legal reason that they would be stripped of their citizenship.
    If they did NOT take out voluntary citizenship with the USA, but nonetheless were stripped of their Canadian citizenship, then they were not treated according to the Canadian Citizenship Act as it was pre-1977.
    As for your uncle, he could not have become a Canadian citizen even if he wanted to up until the end of his USN service; Canadian citizenship as such did not exist until 1947. Previously, Canadians were considered British subjects.
    That said, his service and that of countless others is appreciated by a lot of us up here. I’ll raise a glass of scotch to his memory, and to that of my own ancestors who slogged up Vimy Ridge, and who stood ankle deep in the ashes of Bergen-Belsen after the end of the next big show.
    Best regards,
    James McKenzie-Smith

  21. turcopolier says:

    My mother was a British subject (Canadian) until she was naturalized US in 1948. I was listed and pictued on her passport. Pl
    Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

  22. johnf says:

    My grandfather – born on the Scottish borders – joined the Canadian Army in Canada in 1916 – though, as he was forty at the time, the family has it it was a cunning wheeze to get back to Britain to marry my grandmother, whose family had forbidden the marriage 20 years before.
    So twenty years earlier he had packed up his Complete Shakespeare and Palgrave’s Golden Treasury of Verse in his trunk and bummed off round the world to farm in New Zealand and Canada before making the inspired counter=attack on my gran’s Presbyterian family of joining the army and thus recrossing the Atlantic in a patriotic uniform. So the First World War’s to blame for me.
    Raymond Chandler, who was technically just about American, crossed the border to fight with the Canadians in World War One.

  23. Be interested to know whether the comments on Canadians in US forces are correct? Oral history (from my father) in my family says he was asked specifically by US NAVY as to whether he had formally renounced his Canadian citizenship upon joining US NAVY in WWII? He answered NO and that he did not know he had Canadian citizenship. So he renounced it to join US NAVY. Why did he have Canadian citizenship? Before the first WW my grandfather was Chief Engineer for Canadian Bell and ran the phone system of Western Canada. He was born and raised in the US but both his sons (including my DAD) were born in Lethbridge, Alberta Province. My dad being born October 6, 1910! The US now allows dual citizenship or even NO citizenship for the military so guess that has changed. Many NON-US citizens were drafted in WWII and I have met many although most later became US citizens. Persons of German extract for example dominated the ARMY INTEL and Counter-Intel ops during WWII. Many were not US citizens. And of course the citizenship of many of the “Bomb” makers was foreign.

  24. David Habakkuk says:

    The 1st Battalion of the 42nd Foot was — I think — one of the two professional battalions in the Black Watch. The history of the regiment in 1914-18 describes it as the 42nd/73rd Foot.


    The 42nd — the original Black Watch — was a regiment with a very distinguished record indeed. One interesting fact from the Wikipedia entry:

    The Royal Highland Regiment never officially recognized the battle honours for their part in the American War of Independence, because it was decreed that Battle Honours should not be granted for a war with kith and kin.


    The 42nd was amalgamated in 1881 with the 73rd (Perthshire) Regiment of Foot.

    My grandfather was in Southampton at the outbreak of war in 1914, and saw what must have been the 1st Battalion embark for France (the 2nd were in India.) I cannot exactly remember the words my father recalled him using for how they looked — it was something like grim, or worried.

    The point I think was that they were professional soldiers, going out to do their job, without any of the illusions that possessed the crowds of the time, in London as in Paris or Berlin. In fact, the professional army was cut to pieces at the First Battle of Ypres, in October-November — the British Expeditionary Force had arrived in France with with 84,000 infantry, and by the end of the battle had suffered 86,237 casualties, most to that infantry.


    The Canadian Black Watch first saw action at the Second Battle of Ypres, in April 1915. It appears that during the war the Canadian 13th Battalion Black Watch, numbering approximately 1,000 men while at full strength, suffered 5,881 casualties, of which 1,105 were fatalities.


    The regimental history also has a section on the Canadians. It would probably have details on your uncle’s service. These histories are lovingly compiled and give an enormous amount of detail about individuals.

  25. Patrick Lang says:

    David H
    It was a lovely thing to hear and watch the way John could go on about daily life in these various unts as well as concerning the people therin. It was a sort of “McCausland in the Rough” phenomenon. Because of what I learned from my father, Uncle John and another navy uncle named Gordon I always knew how to behave with NCOs. Officers, especially senior officers were more of a problem.
    John’s account of his English company commander in a big assault at Pashendaele was quite something. He said that this blond young captain walked up and down their section of trench during the barrage saying goodbye to each man. He was wearing a trench coat and a helmet. When the barrage shifted forward “on program,” he blew his whistle, climbed up the ladder and walked forward into no man’s land. He had a revolver in one hand and a stick in the other. He never looked back and they never saw him again.
    I asked John what the troops did when the CO disappeared into the smoke.
    He shrugged and said, “What else could we do after that? We climbed out of the trench and followed him forward. The pipes played.” pl

  26. johnf says:

    This is a memory of a story told by a Scottish crofter Baynes who married into the Campbell side of my family:
    I have heard him speak of his remembrance of seeing the people of
    Edingburgh taking provisions and firing to the men of an Highland
    Regiment who had taken up a position on the top of Arthur’s Seat (a
    hill outside Edingbugh) as they refused to start to America at the
    time of the outbreak of the revolutionary war there, as their terms
    of enlistment stipulated that they were not to be sent out to foreign
    parts or to the colonies (they then looked upon it with suspicion of
    being sent into slavery as many of their kindred being implicated in
    the Jacobite Rebellion had been sent prisoners to the American
    plantations) but soon new terms of enlistment were accepted by them
    free of their reservtions and they sailed from Glasgow without
    further trouble.
    At some later date in the same war (his father then having moved into
    Kinghorn in Fife) he saw the vessel of Paul Jones as it lay in the
    lee of the Isle of Inch Keith in the Firth of Forth during a gale.

  27. Charles I says:

    I have a large noisy self-righteous macro, fires off any time anybody impugns things Canadian, except our current government, as in “would they fight for. . . country today”
    I’m not impugning anyone’s choice to join a foreign army – unless s/he’s a Canadian joining to fight Canadians. Canada has had some dreadful lacunae in its citizenship laws, many involving children of vets serving abroad complicated by Canada’s lengthy status as a Dominion rather than Country, subject to colonial law.
    The little histories legal and personal revealed here are are what help make this site so rich to a casual spouter like me.
    I’m just saying, while we don’t have much nationalist fervour up here, and we like to smugly feel that we only fight legal, good wars up here, we’ll take on all comers that fit that bill.
    W/r/t to the vagaries of citizenship, a recent kerfluffle here involved Tubby Black’s desire not to serve in a foreign army, but in a foreign Parliament. Lord Black of Crossharbour had to give up his Canadian citizenship to join the House of Lords when former PM Jean Chretien refused to sign off on him sitting in a foreign Parliament as a Canadian, a requirement of some old colonial era law – but that was strictly personal animus on Chretien’s part. Which most of us small-minded provincials heartily cheered.
    Thanks for the stories, folks. I would follow you lot through smoke of history to the point of eating my words and changing my mind should you lead me there.

  28. David Habakkuk says:

    Colonel Lang,

    Doubtless there was always a Flashman element, but the sense of the ‘officer class’ that they should lead by example was real.

    In Cornwall, at the top of the valley of the River Fowey — one of the most beautiful places in Britain — is Lanhydrock, which was the home of the Agar-Robartes, a great Liberal family in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. At the top of the list of names in the war memorial in the chapel is Thomas Charles Agar-Robartes, MP.

    The heir to the estate, by 1914 he was a rising Liberal politician, but joined the Royal Bucks Hussars when war broke out, and transferred to the Coldstream Guards to get to France. He was killed at Loos in September 1915, reportedly by a sniper after rescuing a comrade under heavy fire.

    Further down the river is the village of St Winnow, named for one of the Celtic saints. Among those commemorated on the memorial in the church is one of my two great-uncles killed in the war — my great-grandfather was rector there.

    On NCOs: recalling your remarks some time back about the problems caused for the Israeli army by the lack of career sergeants, and the roots of this lack in the traditions of the tsarist army, I noted with interest some remarks made by the Russian military expert Vitaly Shlykov in September at the Valdai Discussion Group.

    At the heart of his criticism of the existing Russian army was the absence of a proper corps of professional — and properly trained — sergeants, and he put the creation of such a corps at the heart of the reform programme.


    When William Lind sings the praises of German armies he spends a lot of time talking about the initiative junior officers were encouraged to display.

    Doubtless there is a lot in this, but I remember when I had occasion to film in German and British factories some twenty years ago, one of the most glaring contrasts was the extraordinary strength of the ‘NCO class’ in the German factories. It was the very well-trained foremen and senior foremen who often seem really to be running the places.

    I have often wondered whether the extraordinary achievements of German conscript armies in mobile warfare did not have a great to do with this.

  29. Jordan says:

    Thanks so much for all of your comments. Military History is something that i have started to gain more of an interest in and this has made me even more excited about it! Thank you!

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