Thomas CASSON M.C.
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Number:
Unit: 1/6th Battalion CHESHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 17 May 1917
Age: 21
Cemetery: Willow Grove Cemetery, Stockport

Tom was born in Rochdale on 4 January 1896 but by the 1901 Census, the family was living in Stockport. His parents, John and Isabella, lived at "Kentdale", Turncroft Lane but later moved to Turves Road, Cheadle Hulme. The Census also mentions that Tom had an older brother, Walter. In 1902, another brother, Leonard, was born

He had attended Stockport Grammar School and still played for the Old Boys Lacrosse Team. He worked as an audit clerk for Co-operative Wholesale Society, in Manchester. He is listed in the Society's entry in the "Manchester Battalions Roll of Honour" (page 464). The entry also lists a W E Casson who may well have been Walter.

On 29 August 1914, he joined the 1/6th Battalion, Manchester Regiment, as a private (service number 2181). He saw action at Gallipoli and was wounded in the shoulder on 9 June 1915. He was admitted to Citadel Hospital in Cairo and, on 3 July, invalided home on the Hospital Ship Leitia. On 30 September, he applied for a commission, which he obtained in November 1915. He joined the Cheshires on active service in May 1916 and on 19 July took part in a raid on the enemy trench for which he was awarded the Military Cross. The raid is described in the battalion's History:

"On July 19th, the Battalion in conjunction with the troops on each flank took part in an operation, which formed part of a bigger objective undertaken by the XI Corps. The raiding party was com­manded by Captain R. Kirk, the left half being entrusted to 2nd Lieut. Casson.

 

A report on the operation states that a pipe mine was blown up in Red Dragon Crater with success. Immediately after this the left raiding party, making a line between two smaller craters, arrived at the third crater. On arrival they found that the crater had been consolidated by the enemy on the near lip, and was occupied by about 12 to 15 of the enemy. There were also about five dugouts under the lip, and the crater was connected to the enemy front line by two saps going to the right and left. This party, under 2nd Lieut. Casson, at once occupied the saps and crater, killing about 4 or 5 of the enemy as they entered, by revolver and rifle fire, the bombers working their way round the dugouts, which were bombed plentifully. Two of the enemy came out of the last dugout and gave them­selves up. Time did not permit of this party's doing more, owing to heavy fire from hostile trench mortars and rifles. It therefore returned with two prisoners, having sustained but very slight casualties.

It is estimated that about 12 of the enemy were killed.

 

The right party, in conjunction with the pipe line explosion, were in position in No Man's Land at the time and moved forward to occupy the sap in the rear of Red Dragon Crater with the object of cutting off the enemy in the sap-head. This party came under very hostile fire both from trench mortars and~ rifles, but pushed forward and gained a sap, which they found to be mostly blown in and unoccupied. Owing to the heavy fire which was being directed to this point from the enemy's trench, they could not make further headway. They stayed out for 15 minutes and then withdrew to our trenches, sustaining one casualty.

 

On the whole the operation was a great success and all ranks behaved splendidly. The hostile retaliation was fairly heavy on the front line, saps and support line, which had been knocked about considerably in places.

 

The two prisoners were sent down under escort to Westminster Bridge, and handed over to an officer of the 118th Infantry Brigade Staff. For this exploit 2nd Lieut. Casson was awarded the Military Cross."

Tom's medal citation, published in the London Gazette reads "For conspicuous gallantry when leading a raiding party into the enemy's trenches. About eight of the enemy were killed and two prisoners captured. The success is largely due to his fine leadership."

In October 1916, he suffered from trench fever and was invalided home. He was admitted to 2nd Western General Hospital in Manchester on 7 October. An Army Medical Board, on 24 October, recorded that "About September 20 1916, he was taken ill with fever, pains especially in legs, headaches and general illness, but he continued on duty....Since then, three relapse have occurred. He is now free from pain and presents no sign of disease but headache persists and he is enfeebled." A further review by the Board, on 6 December, noted "Since his last board, he has had a relapse of pyrexia which lasted from November 8th to November 15th. He is now convalescent but says he feels weak and his limbs ache and he has much insomnia."

A final review Board pronounced him for duty on 15 January 1917 and, later in the month, he was appointed to the Brigade Bombing School at Oswestry. In March, he was part of the "firing party" at the funeral of Fred Utley who had been wounded in the above raid.

On 17 May, a faulty grenade prematurely exploded killing Tom. He was buried with full military honours, the funeral being well attended by ex-colleagues, family and comrades. Three volleys were fired his grave and the "Last Post" was sounded.

   
           
   
     
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