Thomas (Tom) Cass

thomas cassLance Sergeant, 12843, 6th (Service) Battalion, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, killed in action, 31st August 1915, aged 29.

Born at Leeds in 1885, Tom was the son James and Mary Ann Cass. His father died in 1897 and in 1901, aged 15, Tom was working away from home as an estate gardener at Thorpe Arch. In 1911 he was a general engineering labourer in Armley, Leeds and when he enlisted in 1914 he worked on the Leeds Corporation Tramways.

Tom’s exact connection with Crowle is unclear, neither of his parents were from the town nor does not seem as though his widowed mother came to live here. However as the reports of his death in all the local newspapers report that he was well-known in Crowle and a popular member of Crowle Town Cricket Club, he obviously did have one. Presumably he came to work in the area at some point between 1901 and 1914?

Tom enlisted in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry at Leeds in 1914 and arrived in France with the 6th (Service) Battalion on 21st May 1915. Their arrival on the Western Front coincided with the extension of the British ‘line’ of trenches around Ypres and the 6th KOYLI were placed in the area around Hooge, on the Menin Road east of Ypres. They were in this area on 30th July 1915, although not directly involved, when the German’s launched a surprise attack, known as the Action of Hooge, which saw the first use of a flamethrower, ‘liquid fire’ attack in warfare.

During their time in the Hooge area the 6th KOYLI suffered almost daily casualties from enemy artillery and sniper fire. It was during one of these random attacks on 31st August 1915 that Tom Cass was hit by a ‘whizz-bang’, a shell from a 77mm (3.1in) field gun, so called because the soldiers heard the ‘whizz’ from the shell before the ‘bang’ from the gun. He died instantly.

News of Tom’s death reached Crowle in a letter from Gunner Harold Smith who was serving with him at the time in the KOYLI who said that Tom was ‘a great favourite in the battalion’.

Tom is buried in the Ypres Reservoir Cemetery.