John MacDonald Cassells

John MacDonald Cassells

John Macdonald Cassells was born on 17 January 1897 at Markinch, Fife, the youngest son of Andrew Cooper Cassells, a Grocer, and Helen McDonald, of 63 High Street, Markinch.

His siblings were Sarah, Margaret, Helen, Elizabeth, Maria, Thomas, Andrew and James.

At the outbreak of war he was serving a law apprenticeship at J J Johnston.

John Cassells enlisted with the Seaforth Highlanders in Edinburgh on 24 May 1916, where he was ordered to report to Fort George for basic training. In August 1916 he was sent to France where they marched to St Martins Camp after landing at Boulogne.

After a short spell in hospital he took part in the Third Battle of Ypres on 31 July 1917. During the battle he suffered a shrapnel wound to the arm and spend time in the convalescent camp at Trouville Sur Mer.

John was promoted from Lance Corporal to Second Lieutenant on 27 August 1918 and was sent home to Milnathort, near Kinross.

Following training at an Officer Training Corps in Ayrshire he was granted a commission in the Seaforth Highlanders. He was posted to Varna, Bulgaria, on garrison duty, travelling via France, Italy and Greece. While in Greece he received new orders and was transferred to the Cameron Highlanders, who were short of officers. John Cassells lived in Arbroath for many years of his later life.

His elder brother, Andrew, who served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve was seriously injured when the barracks where he was sleeping was bombed on the night of 3rd/4th September 1917 when four Gotha bombers targeted Chatham. Two bombs landed in the centre of the depot, right on top of a drill hall that was being used as a dormitory where some 1,000 sailors were sleeping. 132 men were killed with a further 100 wounded, including Andrew.

A 'practice alert' had taken place earlier in the day and the telephone warnings of a real raid, which were intended to notify the electrical and power station to extinguish all lights at once, were not taken seriously and ignored. Ordinary Seaman Frederick Turpin who helped with the wounded, said, "It was a terrible affair and the old sailors, who had been in several battles, said that they would rather be in ten Jutlands or Heligolands than go through another raid such as this".


More info: 

B Company No.9 Officer Cadet Battalion, February-August 1918
Discharge certificate of John MacDonald Cassells, 27 August 1918