This article appeared in the July 6, 1916 edition of the Banbury Guardian newspaper.
“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. 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.
He enlisted in the British Army in 1907 for a six-year term.
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.
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. The British forces were quickly able to seize the city of Basra. 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.
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. Over 13,000 soldiers were taken prisoner, a humiliating defeat.
The prisoners were marched to captivity elsewhere in Iraq or Turkey. Thousands died during the march or while in captivity. Private Casban was taken to Angora (now Ankara), Turkey. Sadly, he did not survive, and he died on or about April 1, 1917.
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.