The 3rd Sunday in June is Father’s Day in America. It is a time to remember our fathers, perhaps give presents to your father or share a summer meal together. So, it seemed a good topic to explore in a Langstaff Letter and a good time to share about my father.
It has been over 50 years since my father William (Walter) Langstaff died. He was 77 years old at the time. I have very positive feelings and memories of my father; he was a good father to me.
However, I have one regret regarding my father in that I did not take time to ask him questions about his life, especially about his time in the First World War. Like many soldiers, he was reluctant to talk about those days, and I never pressed him to talk about it. My nephew, Craig Langstaff, William’s grandson, has written the following record of those times.
“William Langstaff was born on May 1, 1891, in Leyburn, Yorkshire, England. His mother Mary died when he was six and his father George died when he was nine. His older brother Tom was left to look after William and his five brothers and sisters. William migrated to Australia at a young age to look for more work opportunities. It was there that he got a job as a fitter and turner in a power station.
On July 20, 1915, William enlisted for the Australian Imperial Forces (A.I.F.) at the age of 23 in Perth, Western Australia. More than 50,000 men had already volunteered to join the A.I.F. by the end of 1914. The government chose Egypt as the place for most of them to complete their training. It was there that they joined with New Zealand volunteers in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC).
After the Egypt training, the Anzacs’ first campaign was to open the straits between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea to Allied ships. On April 25, 1915, Allied forces landed on Gallipoli Peninsula. The Anzacs landed at Gaba Tepe in an area later called Anzac Cove. They fought with great courage, especially during the landing and the capture of the Turkish strongpoint at Lone Pine. Despite this, most of the Turkish defenders held firm. The Allied troops were forced to entrench on the steep slopes of the peninsula. Finally, in December, the Allied High Command ordered a withdrawal from Gallipoli. The A.I.F. lost 8,500 men at Gallipoli. However, the Anzacs became recognized as a splendid fighting force. Many people believe that the Australian nation was born at Gallipoli.
When the Anzacs were withdrawn from Gallipoli, they were shipped back to Egypt. There with their new volunteers, including William Langstaff, they set off to the Western Front in France.
During three years of trench warfare, nearly two out of every three Anzacs on the Western Front were killed or wounded. They suffered the highest casualty rate among the Allied Forces. In all, about 59,000 Australians were killed in the war.
There was only one time when William talked about the war. It was about the attack on the Somme. Evidently, there was a significant attack on the German line. The Germans purposely let the Allied Forces through and then came around behind and cornered the Allies, making it nearly impossible for them to go anywhere as there were Germans in every direction.
William could still vividly remember the colonel ‘crying like a baby’ that night as the news filtered back through the trench, and he learned of the slaughter that was going on and realized there was nothing he could do about it.
During another engagement between the Australian and German forces, William served in the artillery. The gun crew of another gun had all been killed by an explosion of a German shell. William and one of his crew crawled over to the un-manned gun and operated it for a period of 36 hours while under continual enemy fire. For this, Sergeant William Langstaff was awarded the Military Medal ‘For Bravery in the Field.’
DISCHARGED FROM ARMY
For as long as I can remember, my father always had lasting effects from his time in World War I. A problem with his hip led to an operation that was unsuccessful. I always remember his hip was frozen, and he ended up with one leg a couple of inches shorter than the other. As a result, he could walk, but he could not run. Nevertheless, I never remember him ever complaining about his physical condition. He was a good man and a good father.
BIBLICAL THOUGHTS ABOUT FATHERS
Ephesians 6:1-3 (NKJV) has this to say, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.'” This is a reference back to Exodus 20:12.
Notice these points from this scripture:
- As children, we are called upon to obey our parents.
- All our lives, we are to honor our fathers (and mothers).
- It carries the promise of a long life.
Paul follows it up with words about the conduct of fathers.
It is also possible to be a spiritual father like Paul was to Timothy. Timothy was possibly an only child. His grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice were probably converted during the ministry of Paul and Barnabas when they experienced success but also persecution.
It is a particular joy when God gives you spiritual children, and you, in turn, are spiritual fathers (and mothers). I think of one of the fine young ministers who often refers to Dorothy and I as Papa Langstaff and Mama Langstaff.
SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR FATHER’S DAY
Thank God for fathers who were meant to be a reflection of our Heavenly Father.
If your father is still alive, then take the opportunity to express your appreciation to him for being your father. If it is possible, take some time to ask him questions about his life that you do not know about. If your father has already died, take the opportunity to remember him and thank the Lord for your father.
Now I realize that many times people do not have positive memories of their father. He may have been anything but a good father, and he may have walked away from his family. Then too, he may have been an alcoholic or wasted his money on other things like gambling. Nonetheless, he was your father, and he deserves to be respected as such, for together with your mother, he gave you life.
A CLOSING THOUGHT
I wish you a blessed Father’s Day. Take time to remember and give thanks to God for the gift of Fathers and if you have the opportunity, tell your father that you love him.