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Where Once They Sailed: HMS Devonshire serves as home for sailor's naval career

James Langdon and his brother, Walter. Courtesy of Langdon family.
James Langdon and his brother, Walter. Courtesy of Langdon family. - Contributed

James Langdon was born in Torbay on Oct 24, 1895 to Charles Edward and Charlotte Pippy of Blackhead.  At the age of nine, he was adopted from an orphanage at St. John's by James and Naomi Drover of Hodge's Cove where they raised him as their child.

He joined the Royal Naval Reserve on Jan 4, 1917 where he listed Naomi in the section for parents. He began his training at HMS Briton completing one full year of training before being shipped overseas.

Insert Seaman James Langdon, Hodge's Cove.
Insert Seaman James Langdon, Hodge's Cove.

James was drafted to the HMS Vivid III, a shore-based facility located at Devonport, England on Feb. 22. The base was used for the Royal Naval Division Trawler Section. He completed about four months of training and was assigned to the HMS Devonshire, an Armed Merchant Cruiser assigned to the Grand Fleets North America and West Indies Station to accompany convoys.

Naval records show he was drafted to the ship and joined the crew on June 7, 1918 at Glasgow, England. The ship made four round trips across the Atlantic from England to Canada, usually accompanying convoys. For details of dates and location see the accompanying table.

Most voyages were routine but the crew had to be training always and on the alert for German submarines and other dangers in the water such as mines set out by the enemy.

On Sept. 9, the crew of HMS Devonshire were vividly reminded of these dangers. Shortly after leaving Liverpool,  the ship received a message notifying them that SS Missanabie was struck by a torpedo and sunk off Ireland with the loss of 45 lives.

For the safety of all ships while crossing the Atlantic, it was naval protocol to have ships travel in convoys. Records indicate that during his assignment on the HMS Devonshire some convoys reached as many as 25 ships.

On Dec. 3, HMS Devonshire departed Halifax, destined for Boston. After spending a week at port, the ship set sail for Bermuda and arrived there on Dec. 18. Records show the ship spent about about months at the Bermuda station before being sent home.

His final naval days were spent at the HMS Briton, St. John's where he remained until being demobilized on July 2, 1919

James returned home to Hodge's Cove where he married Maria, daughter of Albert and Rachael Smith, Hodge's Cove. They were married at Hodge's Cove on April 29, 1926 and had four children, one that died in infancy. The remaining three children were raised at Hodge's Cove.

His daughter, Maria, described her father as a devoted church member who would be found at church during each Sunday service. She explained that after he returned from the war he supported his family by being a crew member with Silas Tucker on the Ruby L.M. Smith where he sailed up north in pursuit of the Labrador fishery. He also spent many years in the lumber woods.

James passed away on Feb. 28, 1965 at Hodge's Cove and is buried next to his wife, Maria, who died two years later.

***

When Seaman Andrew Peddle of Hodge's received orders of his promotion from Seaman to Able Seaman and his deployment to the HMS Armadale at Cape Town, Africa, he did not expect to be escorting a secret cargo. It was his only assignment that crossed the South Atlantic to North America and then back across the Atlantic to Liverpool. The voyage would take 53 days.

Read his story in next week's Where Once They Sailed.

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