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Langley, Hudson John Watson (1894–1919)

by A. J. Sweeting

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Hudson John Watson Langley (1894-1919), soldier, was born on 10 April 1894 at Kew, Melbourne, son of John Hudson Keys Langley, farmer, and his wife Eda Jane, née Rosier, both native born. His parents separated during his infancy and he was raised by his aunt Louisa Elizabeth Langley.

Langley, a Bendigo electrician, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 5 July 1915, was promoted sergeant on 1 November and in April 1916 joined the 1st Australian Armoured Car Section. This section (afterwards renamed No.1 Australian Light Car Patrol) arrived in Egypt in August and for the next eight months was mainly engaged in operations against Senussi raiding parties along a line of blockhouses extending over 100 miles (161 km) through the Libyan Desert.

The patrol arrived in Palestine in May 1917 and quickly distinguished itself in operations against the Turks, carrying out reconnaissance and other tasks, frequently well in advance of the mounted troops. John Langley, a vigorous leader and a man of splendid physique, was conspicuous as a car commander in the battle of Beersheba and afterwards in the pursuit of the Turks along the coastal plain to Jaffa. In 1918 he took part in the advance to Jericho, and in March did good work leading a patrol on foot over rugged country to re-establish contact with the Anzac Mounted Division after the first abortive attack on Amman.

On 14 July when the enemy mounted strong attacks on the Desert Mounted Corps' positions in the Jordan valley, Langley led a patrol of two cars across the river, dismounted his two Lewis-guns and took them forward to a position commanding the approach of an enemy column. He held the fire of his guns until the enemy were within close range when he opened up with telling effect. The column's pack-horses were stampeded or killed and a duel developed between the Australian and Turkish machine-gunners. One machine-gun was captured and the enemy fled. For his 'gallantry and devotion to duty' that day, Langley was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Langley left the Jordan valley in September when his unit took part in the exhilarating drive of the Desert Mounted Corps along the coast to the plain of Esdraelon, to Nazareth and thence to Damascus. In October his unit was part of a mobile group of three armoured car batteries and three light car patrols which led the advance on Aleppo. On the 22nd the mobile group bested a fleet of enemy motor vehicles after a running fight — 'probably the first occasion on record of a battle between two fleets of motor vehicles'. Next day Langley, in an armoured car, pursued over very rough ground an enemy patrol which approached the mobile group's positions. His quickness and dash enabled him to kill one of the enemy and capture four. His 'determination and initiative' that day won him a Bar to his D.C.M.

According to the unit's commander, 2 January 1919 was 'a day of gloom' for the Light Car Patrol. That day Langley, 'the gallant N.C.O. who had led his car into numerous fights and who was the admiration of the whole unit', died in Aleppo Hospital from malaria. He was buried in Aleppo cemetery and afterwards reinterred in the British War Cemetery at Beirut, Lebanon. He was unmarried.

Select Bibliography

  • H. S. Gullett, Sinai and Palestine (Syd, 1937)
  • E. H. James, History of the 1st Australian Armoured Car Section in Egypt, Sinai, Palestine, Syria and Asia Minor (Australian War Memorial)
  • war diary, No.1 Australian Light Car Patrol (Australian War Memorial)
  • records (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

A. J. Sweeting, 'Langley, Hudson John Watson (1894–1919)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/langley-hudson-john-watson-7031/text12231, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 14 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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