Frederick Cecil Longden was born in Durham in 1888, the youngest of eight children of James Appleby Longden and his wife Annie Walker Longden of Ashcroft, Sunderland. He was educated at Bow School, Durham and (following five of his brothers) from 1901 to 1907 at Durham School before attending University College from 1907 to 1910 as an Arts student, being awarded a Leaving Exhibition Scholarship and winning a Senior Classical Scholarship; he would also be a Foundation Scholar in 1909/10.
During his time at the University, he participated in a large array of sports and societies. By his final year, he had been president of the University Boat Club, captain of the University College Boat Club, captain of the Rugby Football Club and University College Rugby Football Club (he received his palatinates for Rugby in 1910), president of the Durham Union Society, president of University College Union, he was also a representative of the Hockey Club, Football Club, and DUSCR, and a member of the University College Fives and Cricket Club! Longden also found time to serve as a correspondent and brief editor of the Durham University Journal, where he wrote on Colonel W.D. Lowe, of University College, as well as his college’s Boat Club. Longden was also a member of the O.T.C., eventually being promoted to Major and receiving both Certificate ‘A’ and ‘B’ as well as the prize for ‘most efficient Sergeant’ and the ‘Cochrane’ Challenge Cup. He rowed stroke for his college and University, winning the Senate Cup in 1909 and helping Durham beat the Edinburgh Varsity for the first time. Despite his constant participation in societies and clubs, he received a number of scholarships (Admission Scholarship, 1907; School Scholar, 1907-1910; Foundation Scholar, 1909-10) and gained Class II results for his first and final year exams. His many achievements warranted his appearance in the student magazine The Sphinx, as a ‘Man of Mark’ in December 1909. This article showed Longden to enjoy ‘a Rag’ as he reminisced on playing jokes on the pupils of the Girl’s High School and also highlights his athletic prowess. He is featured several other times in The Sphynx and is noted for his perpetual tardiness under the nickname, ‘H.S. Slowboy’.
In 1913, Longden was articled to his brother, J.M. Longden, at their father’s law firm, Longden, Mann & Longden of Sunderland. He passed the Solicitor’s Final Examination in 1913. During this time, he was a member of the Sunderland Rugby Football Club and was in the First XV in the season before the war. A keen supporter of the Boy Scout movement, he also served as the first Honorary Secretary of the Durham County Branch of the Boy Scouts Association.
In 1914, he was gazetted as a Second Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. He was made Captain in June 1916. While he was attached to the 2nd Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers on the Somme he was severely wounded during an attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt. After recovering in England he returned to the front with the 15th Battalion of the D.L.I. He was killed on 28 August 1918 leading an attack at Miraumont on the Ancre. His chaplain described his actions during this battle:
“Dawn, just beginning to break, showed our men that they were practically surrounded by the enemy, who poured in a galling fire from the front and flanks. Seeing that, Capt. Longden led his company forward in the most gallant manner possible, leading his men by a good 40 or 50 yards and inspiring them to advance by his coolness and bravery. His voice could be heard from the other parts of the field, shouting out: ‘Come on the Durhams.’ He was almost on top of the enemy when he was hit in the head by a machine-gun bullet, which killed him instantaneously. … But his gallantry, and that of some other officers, was not in vain”.
Quoted in Sunderland in the Great War by Clive Dunn and Gillian Dunn (Pen & Sword, 2014)
Obituaries were published in the Durham University Journal (Vol. XXII, no. 1, Dec. 1918) and the Yorkshire Post. Frederick Longden is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial, in the Durham School Chapel, and on a plaque in St Margaret’s Church in Durham. Four of Longden’s brothers also fought in the war, Ernest (Major, Mentioned in Despatches), James (Temp. Lt. Col.), Alfred (Major, D.S.O, 1918), and Arthur (Temp. Army Chaplain, twice Mentioned in Despatches, M.C.). Major Ernest Longden, a Boer War veteran, died from an illness contracted on active duty three days before his brother Frederick.