Honoring Our Veterans: Leonard Casban (1887–1917)

This article appeared in the July 6, 1916 edition of the Banbury Guardian newspaper.[1]

Newspaper image © The British Library Board. All rights reserved; with thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) (Click on image to enlarge)

“Private L. Casban” refers to Leonard Casban, son of Samuel Clark (1851–1922) and Lydia (Harrup, ~1852–1924) Casban. Readers may recall that Samuel once worked in Meldreth as a Coprolite Digger, and Lydia worked in a worsted woolen mill when she was 8 years old.[2] Sometime before starting a family, Samuel adopted the Casban spelling of the surname.

Leonard was born November 6, 1887, in Croydon, Surrey, his family having moved there in 1879 or 1880. We know nothing of his childhood, except that in 1899 he was registered at the Beulah Road Boys’ School in Croydon.[3]

He enlisted in the British Army in 1907 for a six-year term.[4]

Leonard’s application for enlistment in the militia, August, 1907 (Click on image to enlarge)

The enlistment form shows that Leonard was initially accepted into the East Surrey Regiment, and was later assigned to the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (penciled onto the enlistment form as “Oxford Lt Infy 12-2-08”). It is with this latter unit that we find Private Casbon in the 1911 census, now stationed at Wellington Barracks in the Nilgiris district of India.[5]

Detail of 1911 census, showing military personnel of the 1st Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry stationed at Wellington Barracks, NIlgiris district (Click on image to enlarge)

With the onset of the first World War, the 1st Battalion of the “Ox and Bucks” was transferred from India to Mesopotamia (Iraq) in late 1914.[6] The British forces were quickly able to seize the city of Basra.[7] In 1915, the British forces began an advance towards Baghdad. After approaching within 25 miles of Baghdad, they were forced to retreat to Kut-al-Amara, and were then surrounded by Ottoman (Turkish) forces.[8]

The siege of Kut-al-Amara began in December, 1915. Unable to resupply, with food running out and weakened by disease, the British were forced to surrender on April 29, 1916.[9] Over 13,000 soldiers were taken prisoner, a humiliating defeat.[10]

Front page of The (New York) Evening World, 29 Apr 1916, describing the fall of Kut[11] (Click on image to enlarge)
The prisoners were marched to captivity elsewhere in Iraq or Turkey. Thousands died during the march or while in captivity.[12] Private Casban was taken to Angora (now Ankara), Turkey.[13] Sadly, he did not survive, and he died on or about April 1, 1917.[14]

Unofficial report of Private Leonard Casban’s death in Angora (Ankara), Turkey (Click on image to enlarge)

On this Veteran’s Day (Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in U.K. and other Commonwealth countries) we honor Leonard Casban’s service and sacrifice. Leonard was unmarried and left no descendants. However, at least five of his siblings survived to have children, so there are many descendants from his branch of the family today.

[1] “The Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry. Prisoners at Kut,” Banbury (Oxfordshire, England) Guardian, 6 Jul 1916, p. col. 3; online image, “British Newspapers,” findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0001523%2f19160706%2f026 : accessed 19 Nov 2016).
[2] Jon Casbon, “Give me an ‘a’ …,” 25 Nov 2016, blog post, Our Casbon Journey (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/give-me-an-a/ : accessed 7 November 2017).
[3] School Admission Register, Beulah Road, Boys Department, p. 39 (penned), admission no. 2839, Casbon, Leonard, 1 Mar 1899; imaged as “National School Admission Registers & Log-Books 1870-1914”, database with images, findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbor%2fschoool%2fp3%2fgbor%2fschoool%2fp3%2f6734562 : accessed 7 November 2017) >image 49 of 78; citing Croydon Archives, ref. no. SCH15_2_4.
[4] “Attestation for the Militia or Reserve Division of the Militia,” Army form E. 504, no. 5496, L. Casban, 4th Bn East Surrey Regt, 14 Aug 1907; imaged as “British Army Service Records 1760-1915”, database with images, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbm%2fwo96%2f575%2f1336162 : accessed 18 November 2016); citing The National Archives, WO 96, box 575, record no. 297.
[5] 1911 England Census, Overseas Military, unnumbered page, line 27, Casban, Leonard (age 23), 1st Oxf & Bucks Lt Infty; imaged as “1911 Census of England and Wales,” database with images, findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1911%2frg14%2f34987%2f0551&parentid=gbc%2f1911%2frg14%2f34987%2f0551%2f27 : accessed 7 November 2017); citing [The National Archives], reference RG14PN34987 RD641 SD12 ED13 SN9999.
[6] “Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxfordshire_and_Buckinghamshire_Light_Infantry#cite_note-nam-4 : accessed 7 November 2017), rev. 16:07, 3 Nov 2017.
[7] “Mesopotamian campaign,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesopotamian_campaign : accessed 7 November 2017), rev. 14:56, 31 Oct 2017.
[8] “Mesopotamian campaign,” Wikipedia.
[9] “Mesopotamian campaign,” Wikipedia.
[10] Ross Davies, “The tragedy of Kut,” The Guardian, 19 Nov 2002; online archive (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/nov/20/iraq.features11 : accessed 7 November 2017).
[11] “Gen. Townshend Gives up his Force to Turkish Army after Siege of 5 Months,” The (New York) Evening World, 29 Apr 1916, p. 1; online image, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/78664954/ : 7 November 2017).
[12] Davies, “The tragedy of Kut.”
[13] Report of prisoners’ deaths in Turkey, unnumbered page, List A., no. 8759, Pte. L. Casban; imaged as “Prisoners of War 1715-1945”, database with images, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbm%2fpow-galip%2f02125 : accessed 18 November 2016); citing The National Archives, ref. FO 383/336.
[14] “Soldiers died in the Great War 1914-1919,” database, findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbm%2fwwisd%2f0212097 : accessed 11 November 2016); citing The Naval and Military Press Ltd.

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