Alfred Abraham Casson


Casson is an unusual name, meaning “son of Cass (short for Cassandra?)”. In 1881, the main concentration of owners of the name could be found in north Lancashire, Westmorland and Cumberland. However, this soldier’s forebears appear to have come from Manchester. He began life with his christian names the opposite way around to how they appear on the memorials: Abraham Alfred Casson was born in the West Derby area of Liverpool. He was baptised on 12th September 1875 at St. Catherine’s Church in Edge Hill, the son of Abraham Casson (c.1840 – 1899) and Mary Wheeler (c.1843 – 1885). Abraham senior was born in Manchester and became a customs officer, while his wife, Mary, was born in Liverpool. In 1871, the couple was living at 67 Canterbury Street in Liverpool with their first three children – Eleanor, John and Mary, along with Abraham’s 34 year-old widowed sister – Mary Ann Cleary, who was employed as a domestic servant. By 1881, baby Mary had gone and the couple had three additional children – George, Abraham and James. Mary senior died in the September quarter of 1883, aged 40. Abraham senior married Eleanor Stanfield Battersby, who was 18 years younger than him, in the June quarter of 1885 in West Derby. By 1891, the family was living in Poulton cum Seacombe. By then, the only children left at home were Abraham, James and Samuel, who was only two and, therefore, half brother to Abraham and Samuel. Abraham’s widowed mother-in-law, Elizabeth Battersby (born c.1824 in Liverpool) was living with them.

By 1901, Abraham junior was living in an institution for destitute boys – the Wesleyan Boys’ Home at 101 – 103 Shaw Street, Everton.

Everton Wesleyan Boys' Home in the 1901 Census.

Everton Wesleyan Boys’ Home in the 1901 Census: notice that all the boys have occupations, but of a varied and non-specialised nature, which was typical in Liverpool at that time. In addition, observe the fourth boy down who came from West Africa and is described as “coloured”.

By this time, our future soldier was calling himself Alfred Abraham, perhaps because his father had died. We cannot tell where he was living in 1911, but, In June 1917, he married Mary Eliza Richards at St. Bridget’s Church in West Kirby and then lived at 1 Acacia Grove. Mary’s father was a railway porter, who had been born in Montgomeryshire in about 1843. He probably moved to West Kirby after 1878 when the railway arrived. Following his death in 1896, the family moved to 52 Grange Road, West Kirby and ran it as a boarding house.

Alfred’s short obituary in the Deeside Advertiser of 27th December 1918 claimed that he had served in the army for four years before his death. He must, therefore, have joined up in 1914 at the relatively advanced age of 39. His medal card says he was originally in an unnamed battalion of the Cheshire Regiment, but was later transferred to the 32nd Base Park Company of the Royal Engineers. This might have been because of his age, as the company was responsible for managing stores and supplies behind the lines.

Royal Engineers' Cap Badge from the Great War

Royal Engineers’ Cap Badge from the Great War

Apparently, poor Alfred fell ill very quickly in December 1918, a month after the end of the war, and was taken to hospital in Le Havre, where he died. The Deeside Advertiser was not sure about the precise nature of his illness, but some friends had intimated that it might have been pneumonia. This implies that Alfred might have contracted the influenza virus which was attacking the world’s population at this time, although its main victims were usually younger people.

Here is the family grave in St. Bridget’s church yard:

Richards and Casson Family Grave in St. Bridget's Church Yard: notice how Alfred's "death plaque" has been removed.

Richards and Casson Family Grave in St. Bridget’s Church Yard: notice how Alfred’s “death plaque” has been removed.

Birth: 1875 in West Derby, Liverpool; christened at St. Catherine’s Church, Edge Hill on 12th September 1875
Death: 12th December 1918, aged 44
Addresses: 67 Canterbury Road, Liverpool (81), Poulton Cum Seacombe (91), The Wesleyan Home for Boys, 101-103 Shaw Street, Everton (01), 1 Acacia Grove, West Kirby (17-18)
Occupation: Draper
Unit(s): Cheshire Regiment and 32nd Base Park Company Royal Engineers
Number(s) and Rank: 19031 and 245346, Private and Sapper
Medals: Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: GH, WK, France: Ste Marie Cemetery Le Havre, Div. 62. IV. Q. 1.
Sources: BR, CWGC, SDGW, MC, DA, Census: 71,81,91,01


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