Casson, Randal Alexander

He was the only child of Randal and Lucy Casson of Bron-y-Garth, Portmadoc and of Betchton House, Cheshire. His father was a solicitor in Portmadoc with the firm of Breese, Jones and Casson (to whom the young David Lloyd George was articled). He came to Winchester from Sandroyd School and left in 1911 for Christ Church, Oxford.

He went to Sandhurst when war broke out, and obtained a commission in the 2nd Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers. As an officer he developed considerable military talent, and at the time of his death was acting as Adjutant to his battalion. He fell in action at Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke, near Ypres, on September 26th 1917, in the middle of the Passchendaele campaign, when a shell burst among a group of officers, killing all three.

Siegfried Sassoon, in the first draft of his later work “Memoirs of an Infantry Officer”, mentions Casson several times. An entry for 3rd April 1917 reads: “Four officers had been left at Corbie; they went to St. Pol to be held in reserve. ‘B’ Company Mess contained a typical war contrast in Casson and Evans. Casson, aged twenty-three, had been at Winchester and Christ Church; he was a sensitive, refined youth, and an amusing gossip”; and a week or so later: “The snow had stopped when, at the end of eight miles, we bivouacked in the dregs of daylight, by a sunken road near Mercatel… Casson and I spent the night in a very small dug-out. How we got in I can’t remember, but we considered ourselves lucky to be sitting round a little brazier, talking to the trench-mortar sergeant major and two signallers who occupied that coke-fumed den”; and on Friday April 13th Sassoon wrote: “When Casson was at Winchester he did not anticipate that he would ever be walking about on a fine April evening among a lot of dead men. It struck me as unnatural at the moment, probably because the stretcher-bearers had been identifying the bodies and had arranged them in seemly attitudes, their heads pillowed on their haversacks. Young Casson was trying to behave as if it were all quite ordinary; he was having his first look at “the horrors of war. While we were on the hill there was a huge explosion down by Fontaine Wood, as though a dump had been blown up. On our way home we stopped to inspect a tank which had got stuck in the mud while crossing a wide trench. But I was thinking to myself that sensitive people like Casson ought not to be taken to battle-fields. I had grown accustomed to such sights, but I was able to realize the impact they made on a fresh mind. Detached from the fighting, we had merely gone for a short walk after tea, so to speak, and I couldn’t help feeling as if I’d been showing Casson something obscene. (Nine years afterwards the whole business has become incredible. Unfortunately young Casson is not alive to share my sense of the incredibility of that little evening walk”).  Private Frank Richards’ account (“Old Soldiers Never Die,”) gives more detail of Casson’s end: “There was a strong-point called Black Watch Corner, which was a trench facing north, south, east and west. A few yards outside the trench was a pill-box which was Battalion HQ… The enemy now began to heavily bombard our position, and Major Poore and Mr. Casson left the pill-box and got in a large shell-hole which had a deep, narrow trench dug in the bottom of it. They were safer there than in the pill-box, yet in less than fifteen minutes a howitzer shell had pitched clean into it, killing both of them. During the day shells fell all around the pill-box, but not one made a direct hit on it.”

His cousin was Sir Lewis Casson, the well known actor and husband of Dame Sybil Thorndike.

Sources: “The War the Infantry Knew” by Captain J C Dunn. “Memoirs of an Infantry Officer” by Siegfried Sassoon. “Old Soldiers Never Die” by Frank Richards, Faber 1933

War: World War 1

  • Surname: Casson
  • Forenames or initials: Randal Alexander
  • House: B
  • Years in School: 1907-1911
  • Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
  • Regiment: Royal Welch Fusiliers
  • Date of Birth: 11th October 1893
  • Date of Death: 26th September 1917
  • How Died: Killed in action
  • Location in War Cloister: Outer E1
  • Decoration: NA