Valley Lives - Charles Landon

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the September 27, 2006 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Agent Charles Landon 1917-2006

by Allan Richens

Charles Landon, who died recently at 88 at his home in Lacelles, may be the only spy to be buried in the Gatineau Hills.

Landon was a military attache at the British Embassy in Moscow in 1954 when he was accused of spying, invited to confess then barred from Russia. It was the highlight of a military and diplomatic career that had him travelling the globe before setting in the Gatineaus.

Valley Lives
Charles Landon.

The oldest of three children, Charles was born in 1917 in Risal pur, India (now Pakistan) where his father was serving as an officer in the British Indian Army. He returned to England at age two and spent much of his childhood in a boarding school in Kent, staying with relatives during holidays, while his parents stayed on in India. As was the custom in those days, Charles would only see his parents on their return visits to England about every three years up until the time his father eventually retired from the Army and returned for good in 1929.

In 1939, at the age of 22, Charles joined the British army, the Devonshire Regiment. He saw action in Normandy where he was wounded following the D-Day invasions. He almost lost his hand but, thanks to skin grafting, a new procedure at the time, his hand was saved from amputation. After the end of the war, and still in the army in 1947, Charles was posted to Palestine, which was, in those days, under the control of Great Britain.

There was increased pressure from Jews who were attempting to create the "State of Israel". This was an area of considerable fighting as Arabs and Jews were battling it out to try and control Palestine. His regiment HQ. was at Acer, Northern Palestine - an old crusader fortress. In 1948 he was posted as a Staff Officer to the headquarters of the Suez Canal Zone, in Fayeed, a base along the canal. In 1949, following the division of Palestine between the Jews and Arabs and the formation of the state of Israel, Charles returned to England.

In 1950 he attended the Maresfield Intelligence Centre in the UK and learned to speak Russian. Then, in 1953, only months after the death of Stalin, he was posted to the UK Embassy in Moscow as an assistant military attache. Incredibly, in 1954, he was accused of spying by the Soviet authorities and was invited to sign a confession, which he refused to do. Later that year, during a visit to England, he was declared "Persona non Grata" by the Soviets, quoting the so-called spying incident. This expulsion was part of a number of "tit for tat" actions taken by the West and Soviet authorities during that period.

Charles had an exchange with the Canadian Army and in 1955 came to live in a cottage in Gleneagle. Later that year he met his wife to be, Sara (Sally) Sherlock who was working as an "au pair" in Ottawa for a British Army Officer attached to the Canadian Army. He returned briefly to the UK, and later in 1959, married Sally at her home in Billingshurst, West Sussex, England. They returned to Canada in 1962 and later moved to a house, once again in Gleneagle, in 1962. Charles worked at the Dept. of Foreign Affairs in the Joint Intelligence Bureau, until he retired in 1984. After the last of their children left home, they moved in 1985 from their Gleneagle house to a farm in Lascelles.

Charles was for a number of years, a member of the Chelsea School Board; he was a very active member of the St. Mary Magdalene Church and took part in the Gatineau Valley Historical Society. Here he served in many capacities, including president and was active in the Nov. 11 Remembrance Day Ceremonies. In Lascelles, he became an active member of the Wakefield Cemetery Board and provided support the various Ministers of the Holy Trinity Church in Lascelles.

Charles is remembered fondly by family and friends for the keen interest he had in all those around him, for his love of music and poetry and his sense of humour.

Charles Richard Palmer Landon died in the early morning of Saturday June 10, 2006 after a brief illness at Wakefield Hospital. He is buried in the Maclaren cemetery in Wakefield. He is survived by his wife Sally and their five children - James, Paul, Caroline, Philip, and Sam. He was 88 years old.

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