March 21, 2023. On a list of 39 soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regiment who were killed during the Battle of Bienen in Germany on March 25, 1945 and are buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands, photos were missing for 12 names. Kitchener LANGILLE was one of these soldiers.
….We hoped a film would provide a clue to family….
Just as Pieter was looking into the file for Kitchener Langille, Matt Rainnie of CBC’s Mainstreet PEI interviewed Jackie Torrens, who’d made a film ‘Bernie Langille Wants To Know What Happened To Bernie Langille‘. Was this another moment of serendipity? Was Bernie Langille related to Kitchener Langille? (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernie_Langille_Wants_to_Know_What_Happened_to_Bernie_Langille)
An inquiry to Matt soon resulted in an email from Jackie Torrens. “…Matt Rainnie forwarded your email onto me about Kitty Langille – I can’t say I came across the name when working with Bernie Langille and his family about their grandfather Corporal Bernard L. Langille but I am forwarding your email onto Bernie, his grandson. It might ring a bell with him…”
Unfortunately, we never heard from Bernie Langille so we have no idea if he is related. Not every line of inquiry proves successful.
….Kitchener’s nickname was Kitty ….
Luckily, another lead led Pieter to Ivy Warner of New Brunswick, who explained that “… My Mother’s first husband was Kitchener Langille…” Among the photos she included was one of him with a kitten. “…He was nicknamed ‘Kitty’. I’m assuming this is why his pic was taken with a kitten…”
Born April 10, 1916 in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Kitchener Langille was the son of Daniel and Lydia (Dewyer) Langille. He was one of 11 children, with 4 brothers and 6 sisters. One of those brothers, Clarence, would be killed in Italy on May 31, 1944.
Before enlisting with the No. 6 District Depot on January 31, 1942 in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, he was a labourer at Maritime Steel and Foundries Ltd., mixing sand for core markers.
Kitty had married Queenie Eloise Harper in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia on January 23, 1939. At the time of his enlistment, Queenie was pregnant with their first child, William ‘Junior’ Robert, who was born on June 4, 1942. But that date was still several months away.
…. Kitty was part of ‘W’ Force in Newfoundland ….
After enlisting, Kitty was sent to No. 60 Canadian Army Basic Training Camp (CA (B) TC) in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia on February 6, 1942.
On April 8, 1942 he was transferred to the A-1 Canadian Artillery Training Camp in Petawawa, Ontario to train as a gunner. Then, on May 4, 1942, he was assigned to the 16th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battery.
A month later, on June 5, 1942, he was transferred to the 14th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battery in Debert, Nova Scotia, in preparation for overseas service in Newfoundland, with ‘W’ Force.
‘W’ Force was a Canadian garrison force responsible for defending Newfoundland against enemy incursions and providing security for existing and proposed defence facilities during WWII. Established in 1940 to defend Newfoundland during World War II, it included infantry, artillery, and anti-aircraft units.
In February 1943, while still stationed in Newfoundland, Kitty was given leave upon the birth of his daughter, Doris Eloise, on January 22, 1943.
In an interview in St. John’s, Newfoundland for his Personnel Selection Record on June 30, 1943, it was noted that Kitty “….left school at age 12…., lived on a farm and too much to do at home…” He was “…fond of hunting and fishing and likes the movies…” It was also recommended that he continue in the army as a gunner as he “…was satisfied with his duties as a machine gunner…”
His Newfoundland tour of duty ended on December 18, 1943 when he was transferred to No. 6 District Depot in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
…. Kitty was transferred to the Canadian Infantry Corps ….
Kitty spent a month in Halifax Military Hospital from January 27 to February 29, 1944. On March 28, 1944, Kitty was re-interviewed for his Personnel Selection Record. Because “…his particular liking is for machine guns…” he was recommended for a transfer to the Canadian Infantry Corps and more training.
On April 9, 1944, he was transferred to A14 Canadian Infantry Training Centre (CITC) in Aldershot, Nova Scotia for ordnance training for a few weeks before being transferred to No. 60 Canadian Infantry Basic Training Centre (CI (B) TC) in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia on April 14, 1944.
Kitty was interviewed again on July 28, 1944. After stating he “…had a good attitude towards overseas service…” he returned to Aldershot a few days later for further training, this time for a 6 pounder course. A 6 pounder was an anti-tank gun. (For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordnance_QF_6-pounder )
After completing the course on September 29, 1944, he was transferred to No. 1 Training Brigade Group and sent to Debert, Nova Scotia in preparation for going overseas.
…. Kitty was sent overseas ….
On November 21, 1944 he left Canada for the United Kingdom, arriving on November 28, 1944, most likely on the same transport as John Joseph BOHON. Upon arrival in the United Kingdom on November 28, 1944, like Bohon, he was assigned to No. 3 Canadian Infantry Reinforcement Unit (CITR).
On January 25, 1945 he was sent to Northwest Europe as part of 21 Army Group, and then on February 28, 1945, was transferred to the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, joining the Regiment in Udem, Germany.
He was a needed addition to the Regiment, as the day before the war diary had reported “…2 other ranks killed, Major F. A. Sparks and Lieutenant J. D. Campbell and 12 other ranks wounded, and 3 other ranks missing, believed to have been taken prisoner by the enemy…”
…Kitty lost his life in the Battle of Bienen ….
By March 20, 1945, Allied troops were on the banks of the Rhine River for Operation Plunder, a military operation to cross the Rhine on the night of March 23, 1945. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Plunder) They got as far as Bienen, when troop movement stopped due to blown bridges across the Rhine in that area.
On March 25, 1945, the Regiment’s task was to pass through the 7th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who had been stopped in front of Bienen. The problem with Bienen was that the road through it was the only access point. In ‘No Retreating Footsteps’ author Will Bird explained that it was “… an isthmus of solid land about half a mile wide with one road, the main Rees-Emmerich highway, which passed through Bienen exactly at the narrowest point…”
It was Palm Sunday, one week before Easter. The war diary for the North Nova Scotia Highlanders for March 25, 1945 explained that “…The actual ground attack was split into two phases. Phase I – ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies were to attack CLAW and BEAK respectively… along a very narrow two-company front. In support ‘A’ Company was to have a troop of D.D. tanks from the Essex Yoemanry. A section of engineers was to go with each of the forward companies and also two of our six-pounder guns, with a Forward Observation Officer each. They were to exploit road to take CLAW and BEAK as quickly as possible….”
Then, in “…Phase II – ‘C’ Company on the right was to pass through ‘A’ Company onto its objective WING and “D” Company on the left was to pass through ‘B’ Company onto its objective HEAD, reference Appendix 8. Each company was to pick up the section of sappers and the two Forward Observation Officers. Two six pounders were to go in with ‘C’ Company and ‘D’ Company was to pick up the two six-pounders from ‘B’ Company…”
The one day battle was devastating in terms of casualties, both dead and wounded. Among those who lost their lives was Kitchener ‘Kitty’ Langille, who would have been in the group with the six-pounder guns.
…Kitty is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek ….
Like Clifford BATEMAN, John Joseph BOHON, Ralph Schurman BOULTER, and Charles ‘Marshall’ CARSON, Kitty was temporarily buried on March 26, 1945 in the military cemetery in Rees, Germany before being reburied the following year in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands.
Kitty’s obituary noted that his wife Queenie was notified of his death on April 4, 1945, but “…it was only a few days before that she received a letter from her husband, written on March 22nd. It was a cheerful letter and he was optimistic about seeing her and the children before long…”
Poignantly, the obituary went on to mention Kitty’s two children, “…Billy, who will be four in June, and Doris, two years old…”
In his obituary he was described as a “…quiet, industrious man, highly thought of by his associates and all who knew him…”
Thank you to Ivy Warner for providing photos and information. Pieter has been successfully finding family members of other North Novies killed in this battle. Coming up in Part 7: Louis A. Sexton.
If you have a story to tell, please let Pieter know. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on the blog, or tweet to @researchmemori1.
….Previous stories about North Novies killed during the Battle of Bienen and buried in Groesbeek….
- Clifford BATEMAN: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2023/03/16/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-battle-of-bienen-part-4-the-wwii-soldier-from-a-small-fishing-village-in-newfoundland-who-lost-his-life-in-germany/
- John Joseph BOHON: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2023/03/18/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-battle-of-bienen-part-5-the-wwii-soldier-whose-parents-immigrated-to-save-their-family-from-war/
- Ralph Schurman BOULTER: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2023/03/07/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-battle-of-bienen-part-2-the-wwii-battle-drill-instructor-from-oleary/
- Charles ‘Marshall’ CARSON: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2023/03/12/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-battle-of-bienen-part-3-the-wwii-soldier-from-cape-tormentine-who-lost-his-life-in-germany/
- Harry William DOUCETTE: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2021/02/09/on-the-war-memorial-trail-atlantic-canada-remembers-part-6/
- Austin Havelock MUNROE, plus a list of the 39 soldiers: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2022/11/29/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-search-for-a-photo-of-austin-havelock-munroe-is-on-youtube/
- Edison Alexander SMITH: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2023/03/04/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-battle-of-bienen-part-1-the-wwii-soldier-whose-body-shielded-a-wounded-major/
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