CASSON John George 1898 – 1918


96074 Private John G. Casson, 3rd Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry died of pneumonia, 5 July 1918, aged 20.  He is buried at Bishop Auckland (Escomb) Cemetery[1] and is commemorated on the Witton Park War Memorials.

Family Details

John G. Casson was born 10 May 1898,[2] at Witton Park, near Bishop Auckland, County Durham, the son of John and Catherine Casson and brother to Mary Ann, Thomas Albert, Ellen, May .  In 1901, the John and Catherine lived at Thompson Street, Witton Park where 26 years old John worked as a coal miner (hewer) with their 2 children, John George aged 2 and 2 months old Mary Ann.  Mary Smith, John’s widowed mother-in-law lived with the family.[3]  By 1911, the family lived at Beechburn Mill Cottage, Howden-le-Wear.  John, now 36 years old and Catherine Jane, had 5 children:

  • John George aged 12
  • Mary Ann (Annie) aged 10
  • Thomas Albert aged 8
  • Ellen aged 6
  • May aged 11 months

John worked as a coal miner (hewer).[4] The family later lived at 5 High King Street, Witton Park, and John (junior) worked as a miner.[5]  John (senior) and Catherine were to have to more children:[6]

  • Elizabeth born 1914 [7]
  • Hodgson born 1917 [8]

The family also lived at 55 Black Road and 9 John Street, Witton Park.[9]

Military Details

10 May 1916: John G. Casson enlisted aged 20 years 1 month.[10]  He stood 5’0½” tall and weighed 105lbs.[11] He joined the Durham Light Infantry and was given the service number 96074.[12]

10 June 1918: Private J.G. Casson was called up for service and posted to the 3rd Bn., DLI., and reported to the reception depot at South Shields.[13]

3 July 1918: He was admitted to the War Hospital, Sunderland[14] with influenza.[15]

5 July 1918: Private J.G. Casson died of pneumonia and cardiac dilation at the War Hospital, Sunderland (25 days later).  He died at 3pm and relatives were present.[16]

Spanish Flu

“…the pandemic death rate as high as 1 in 3 of those affected and claimed an estimated 21 million lives worldwide in the course of the year.” [17]

For all the destructive ingenuity of men, nature proved to be the far superior killer. Plague struck in 1918 and 1919.  It was called “Spanish influenza”.  The pandemic may have originated in the American military post at Fort Riley, Kansas.  Soldiers were diagnosed with influenza, many died.  American troopships disembarked at Brest and St. Nazaire.  French “Poilus” (soldiers) began to fall ill, then British soldiers.  As the illness rolled across France, German troops were stricken.  Influenza eventually accounted for nearly one third of all Americans who would die in the war. 

Civilian deaths dwarfed those in the military.[18]  The pandemic of the great “Spanish Flu” wreaked such havoc and caused such fear, with up to 50 million people dying worldwide before the end of 1919. 

In the UK there had been somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 cases each month during the spring of 1918 but over 30,000 registered in June alone.  During July 1918, in England the disease hit the coal-mining areas of Northumberland and Durham.  It began serious depredations in the capital, swiftly accounting for over 700 Londoners.[19]   

The lighter type of flu was usually not fatal and had died down by the late summer.  The much more lethal and dangerous strain emerged over the winter of 1918 and into the following year.  The second strain of influenza was the killer. [20]                


To date, no medals have been traced.  It appears that Private John G. Casson was not awarded the Victory or British War medals.


Private John G. Casson is buried at grave reference UD 186, Bishop Auckland (Escomb) Cemetery.[21]

Private J.G. CASSON’S HEADSTONE Escomb Cemetery


Private John G. Casson’s effects and pension was left to his father John.[22]

BRONZE COMMEMORATIVE PLAQUE – sometimes called “the Death Penny”


John G. Casson enlisted on his 18th birthday and was called up a month after his 20th.  Within less than another month, he had died of pneumonia – a victim of the so-called “Spanish Flu” which swept through the UK, Western Europe and the World during 1918 and 1919.  It seems likely that he contracted the deadly virus at the DLI reception depot at South Shields.  He died 5 July 1918, aged 20 and is buried at Bishop Auckland (Ecsomb) Cemetery.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission and England & Wales Death Index 1916-2007 Vol.10a p.729 Sunderland 1918 Q3

[2] UK and Ireland, Find a Grave Index

[3] 1901 census

[4] 1911 census

[5] Army Form B.2513 Descriptive Report

[6] Army Form W.5080

[7] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.510 Auckland 1914 Q2

[8] England & Wales Birth Index 1916-2007 Vol.10a p.319 Auckland 1917 Q2 Note: I have researched 25253 (Formerly 1321) Sergeant Hodgson Casson, 1/6 DLI who was Hodgson’s cousin.  Their fathers John and Christopher were brothers.  In 1917 when Hodgson (junior) was born Hodgson (senior) was serving in France.    

[9] Pension Claimants’ card index

[10] Army Form B.2513 Statement of the Services

[11] Army Form B.2513 Descriptive Report and Medical History, examined 10 June 1918

[12] Army Form B.2513

[13] Army Form B.103 Casualty Form-Active Service

[14] Army Form B.2513 Table II

[15] Army Form B.2513 Table II

[16] Post Office Telegraphs 6 July 1918

[17] “The Unknown Soldier” Neil Hanson 2005 p.298

[18] “11th Month 11th Day 11th Hour: Armistice Day 1918, World War 1 and its violent climax” Joseph E. Persico 2004 p.303/4

[19] “1918: Year of Victory” IWM & Malcolm Brown 1998 p.171

[20] Lloyd p.18/19

[21] CWGC

[22] Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects Record Number 767652