Burnie Lang

    Burnie Lang was born on November 6, 1887, in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta.1 In his youth he moved with his mother to Owen Sound, Ontario, after the death of his late father Andrew Lang. In Owen Sound Burnie attended the OSCI. When he was sixteen, Lang’s mother passed away suddenly, leaving behind her son Burnie, and two daughters. After completing his education Lang worked for the Dominion steamer Bayfield.2 In September, 1914, Lang made his way to Toronto and enlisted with the 48th Highlanders of Canada, otherwise known as the 15th Infantry Battalion. Less than one month after his enlistment on September 18, Lang sailed with the First Contingent to England on October 3, 1914.3


    Lang trained with his unit in England until the spring of 1915. He received a promotion to Lance Corporal on March 30, of the same year. Burnie Lang took part in the Second Battle of Ypres with the 15th Battalion. He was wounded by shrapnel in his left leg on April 29, 1915, and was moved to the 9th Stationary Hospital in France and then to England.4 He remained at the Oxford-Bromley Hospital until late August 1915.5 On August 28 Lang was returned to the 15th Battalion at Shorncliffe, England, and embarked for France once more. On December 31, the orders came for Lang to be promoted to Acting Corporal. Burnie stayed in the trenches for the remainder of the winter and into the late spring. On May 19, 1916, he was promoted again, this time to the rank of Lance Sergeant. In July he was placed in command of all physical training and bayonet drills for his section.6


    In the early days of September, the Canadian 1st Division, which included the 15th Battalion, held the line in front of the French village of Pozieres. On September 3, the Australian troops on the line attacked the fortified German Position of Mouquet Farm. Although the attack failed to capture the farm, the men were able to gain 300 yards of Fabeck Graben, a German trench. All Canadian forces were in position by September 5 after relieving the Australians. For the following three days the 3rd Infantry Brigade held out against frequent counterattack and heavy enemy fire. By the time the 3rd Brigade was relieved on September 8, they had suffered 970 casualties, one of them being Sgt. Burnie Lang of the 15th Infantry Battalion.7


    On the morning of September 7, 1916, Lang was killed in action.8 The war diaries for his unit read as follows:


    “At 1:10am the enemy artillery barrage became intense causing damage to support lines and communication, and casualties. This barrage continued until about 8am. At this time is eased off a bit but at 9am it was back to normal again.”9


    “At 9pm the 5th Canadian Battalion started their relief which was completed at 1:45am. No Casualties on the way out. Battalion went into bivouac at Brickfields.”10


    Bernie Lang is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial in France, one of over 11000 Canadians killed in France during the First World War, with no known grave.

1. "Sgt. Burnie Lang Gives His Life for the Flag," The Great Home Paper, September 19, 1916.

2. "Sgt. Burnie Lang Gives,"

3.  "Lang, Burnie," RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 760-46, Soldiers of the First World War: 1914-1918, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

4. "Lang, Burnie."

5. "Sgt. Burnie Lang Gives,”

6. "Lang, Burnie."

7. G.W.L Nicholson, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919: Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War (Kingston, Ontario: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1962), [Page 166].

8. "Circumstances of Casualty: Sergeant Burnie Lang," Circumstances of Death Registers, First World War, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

9. "War Diaries - 15th Infantry Battalion," War Diaries of the First World War, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

10. "War Diaries - 15th Infantry."