James Arthur Casey was born circa 1893. His birth was registered in this year at Sandbach although his place of birth was given as Mow Cop in the census returns of 1901 and 1911. He was the son of James Bason and Sarah Casey, who married in 1902. In 1901 he was living with his mother at the home of his paternal grandparents, Thomas and Hannah Bason at Copeland’s Row, Mow Cop. By 1911, James Arthur and his parents resided at 47, Newpool Terrace, Brown Lees – the home of his cousin, Harry Booth. James was now aged 17 and a labourer at the Iron Forge.
James enlisted on the December 14th 1914 at the Shelton Drill Hall into what was known then as the “Biddulph Company” of the 1/5th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. Initially James trained at Butterton Hall camp near Newcastle-under-Lyme, before receiving further training at the Bedfordshire camps.
Moving to war in June 1915 the battalion, now part of 46th Division was to serve in the Ypres area of Belgium until a move in early October took them south to Loos. James would have been familiar with some of the other soldiers in his company, many being his pals from Biddulph. They were to fight in the Battle of Loos, a battle which like many to follow gained very little.
The Hohenzollern Redoubt and the trench system known as Fosse Alley and Big Willie was their target on the 13th of the month. The 1/5th North Staffords, one of many battalions of the 46th Division to attack this strong enemy position leading with an assault across no man’s land. It was disastrous, exposed to machine gun fire and shelling from the Redoubt many of the pals soon fell. This was indeed a ‘Black Day’ for Biddulph and Staffordshire.
Private Casey at the age of 22 years was to become a casualty of this battle along with seven other brave Biddulph men who fell on the battlefield on October 13th 1915. The battalion suffered over 500 casualties with 219 killed in action. James Casey’s headstone in the St Mary’s ADS Cemetery at Haisnes states he is believed to be buried there. Set in a separate row, he and another pal, Private John Thomas Booth, rest together.
The words on the headstone read: Sleep on dear son and take thy rest, for us you always did your best.
James is remembered on the war memorial in St. Lawrence churchyard and the board inside the church, the cenotaph in the High Street and also on the Brown Lees memorial.
Mike Turnock and Elaine Heathcote