Major Geoffrey Langlands OBE (1917-2019)
"At the age of twelve, I formed my own personal motto: be good, do good... and that I lived by all my life."
Geoffrey Douglas Langlands and his twin John Alexander, could not have been born at a worse time. On the twenty-first of October 1917, the port city of Kingston upon Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire was in the midst of an existential crisis. A food shortage had started in 1914, a number of devastating Zeppelin bombing raids had begun in June of 1915 and the Spanish Flu pandemic was about to erupt.
King's School, Taunton. May 1930 - Dec 1936
Geoffrey Langlands is in the second row from top down, third boy from the right.
His twin John Alexander managed to pass the rigorous entrance exam to Taunton, but Geoffrey failed. The headmaster had the presence of mind to remark: "Langlands, your brother is smart and you are twins, so you must be too."
Photo by courtesy of King's College, Taunton.
British Army Life: 4th Sept 1939 - Dec 1943
Geoffrey Langlands volunteered the day after the war was called by Prime Minister Chamberlain. He ended up serving in the elite No. 4 Commando and participated in the disastrous Raid on Dieppe on the 19th of August 1942. His section was the only one to succeed in destroying their German targets.
India. The Partition. Pakistan.
In January 1944 he arrives in British India to train army officers. He becomes involved in the turmoil of the 1947 Partition and helps save many lives. After the Partition he joins the Pakistan Army. He is promoted to the rank of Major.
Aitchison College 1954 - 1979
In 1953 the President of Pakistan Ayub Khan asked the Major to stay in the country and teach. Thus started his legendary tenure at the school during which he taught many of the leading lights who were to help define Pakistan.
Cadet College Razmak
In 1979, the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as the Northwest Frontier Province) offered Major Langlands the post of principal at Cadet College Razmak in North Waziristan. The college, a military high school, was founded by the late prime minister of Pakistan, the Oxford educated Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the late 1970s. In April of that year Major Langlands joined the Cadet College and served until September 1989.
In 1989 the Major takes over the Sayurj Public School, which is later renamed in his honour. He builds the school up from 80 to over 800 pupils, with many graduating to study at universities around the world. A fierce advocate of female education, he provides young women with a unique opportunity, in so doing changing the Chitral region for ever.
In 2008 the Major has a stroke. The burden of running the school becomes too much for the 91 year old. The finances of the school are not in great shape as he is reluctant to collect the school fees when parents plead poverty. A replacement is sought and found in the Cambridge educated journalist Carey Schofield. The transition is not smooth. The Major has a hard time letting go.
In 2012, aged 94, the Major moves back to Aitchison College and continues to act as fund raiser for Chitral as well as chief advocate for his 60 years of educational pursuits.
On the 2nd of January 2019, after a brief illness, the Major passes away. A nation mourns its beloved teacher.
He chose a grave near the entrance gate of the Gora Kabristan Christian cemetery in Lahore, so that his friends of all faiths could visit him easily.