James (Jim ) CASEY

CASEY, James

Service Number: 1625
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 38th Infantry Battalion
Born: Rushworth, Victoria, Australia, 17 August 1888
Home Town: Rushworth, Campaspe, Victoria
Schooling: Moora South Public School, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Farmer
Died: Killed in Action, Belgium, 4 October 1917, aged 29 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Barham War Memorial, Cowra & District Great War Honor Roll, Echuca War Memorial, Menin Gate Memorial (Commonwealth Memorial to the Missing of the Ypres Salient), Womboota Roll of Honor
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World War 1 Service

20 Jun 1916: Involvement Private, 1625, 38th Infantry Battalion, Third Ypres, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '18' embarkation_place: Melbourne embarkation_ship: HMAT Runic embarkation_ship_number: A54 public_note: ''
20 Jun 1916: Embarked Private, 1625, 38th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Runic, Melbourne

Help us honour James Casey's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Helen Casey

Private Janes Casey, No. 1625, ceremony of honour held on 30 Sept 2017 at the Barham (NSW) Cemetery and RSL.


Today we gather as a family to remember our uncle, great uncle, great-great uncle, James Casey.  We gather to honour James as a soldier.

James has always been known to us as Jim, Uncle Jim.

Jim is the fourth child of Patrick Phillip Casey and Susannah Emily Ascott Maw.  He has 8 sisters: Mary, Bessie, the twins Annie and Louie, Kathy, Sis, Ada and Marge and 4 brothers : Tom, Patrick, Phil, and Ben. You know the life stories of many of Jim’s siblings very well – they were your parents, grandparents and great grandparents, our uncles and aunts or great uncles and aunts.  You may be familiar with some of Jim’s story, through anecdotes shared in your family, through his military records that can be accessed through the Australian War Memorial website, or through his letters written to “Home” while he was in active service near Ypres in Belguim, and through other correspondence associated with his death.

Jim was born on 17 August 1888, and spent his earlier years at Rushworth, Victoria.  He went to school at Moora South State School and the photo of students there in 1897 shows nine year old Jim in the back row, as was 11 year old Tom – who looks to be the same height – and with Louie and Annie sitting in the front row.

We’re not sure exactly how old Jim was when he came to this area (Barham NSW), but can hazard a guess.  His father Patrick – Grandfather - came up from Rushworth to view land at “Tantrum’ at the turn of the century, selected a parcel of Tantonan in 1902, and moved there in 1904; and so we would think Jim may well have come to help Patrick build the home and farm the land which they named “Tantrum”.  By this time he was, most likely, a strapping young teenager of about 15 or 16, well and truly at an age where most males would be working to earn a living. In Grandfather’s early years he had a chaff cutting team, perhaps this is what Jim - and maybe Tom - were doing alongside their father at “Tantrum”?  We do know he stated his occupation as farmer when he enlisted.

We all know that the First World war broke out in 1915.  The following year, 1916, when Jim was 27 years old, he enlisted at Bendigo on the 23rd March and was declared medically fit, and was then assigned to the 38th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force on the 10th April.  Jim became Pte Casey J, No: 1625.  His papers describe him as being 5’9½” tall, weighing 160lbs (11½ stone), having brown eyes and dark brown hair and with some scars on the front of his left knee, and a Roman Catholic.

On the 20th June Jim, and his fellow service men in the 38th Battalion, set sail from Melbourne to England on the troopship Her Majesty’s Australian Transport “Runic”, arriving at Plymouth just over seven weeks later.  For the next 12 weeks Jim was stationed at the 10th Training Depot in England, and then left from Southampton for France on 22 November.  Three weeks later Jim comes down with the mumps and spends some time hospitalised – first in the field and then transferred to the 7th General Hospital at St Omer, known as Malassises Hospital.  He was declared fit for duty three days after Christmas, and returned to his unit on the 5th January 1917.

The following day Jim pens a letter home saying he had ‘gotten over the mumps alright”.  He goes on to say he was making drains for the trenches, as at times the soldiers were up to their waist in mud.  Other writings (not Jim’s) state: “The trenches accumulated water quickly at the bottom when it rained, turning them into a squalid mud bath, infested with rodents and insects. Sometimes the water was up to waist height”. The muddy conditions caused ‘trench foot’, which triggered blisters, open sores, fungal infections and eventually led to gangrene, requiring amputation. However, Jim writes that he gets a change of underwear and clean clothes by handing in what he wears, and dry socks every day – hopefully this was true and not written to ensure censorship regulations were met.

Over the course of the war, wet conditions in the trenches gradually improved due to better drainage, the insertion of upside down wooden A frames – made by Jim and his colleagues - so the soldiers were elevated from the muddy bottom of the trench, and more waterproof footwear.  Jim writes he had water tightboots that came up to his belt - but the weather still made life unbearable for many soldiers, particularly during the extremely harsh winter of 1916-1917.

The bitter winter was the coldest in living memory for soldiers in France, Belgium and Flanders – all the Western Front. Soldiers suffered from frostbite and exposure, causing them to lose fingers. The trenches did little to provide shelter or warmth from the extreme low temperatures, especially at night, when even clothes and blankets froze solid. The muddy walls became as hard as bricks, and any food and water became almost impossible to eat. Thankfully, Jim did say in his letter of January 1917 that he had plenty to eat.

One soldier’s account states: “The coldest winter was 1916-17. The winter was so cold that I felt like crying… I can remember we weren’t allowed to have a brazier because it weren’t far enough away from the enemy and therefore we couldn’t brew up tea. But we used to have tea sent up to us, up the communication trench. Well, a communication trench can be as much as three quarters of a mile long. It used to start off in a huge dixie, two men would carry it with like a stretcher. It would start off boiling hot; by the time it got to us in the front line, there was ice on the top it was so cold.”

In another letter written mid September 2017 Jim replies to his mother’s news that “it’s a pity the mice spoiled the hay” on the farm – there must have been a mouse plague in 1917.  He also asks for ten pounds to be cabled so he has some money for when he was going on leave to England – this was just two weeks before he was killed in action.  At this same time flood waters on and near “Tantrum” were mentioned in his letter to “Home”, and in a letter to Susannah in November from Fr Paul of Moama, Fr Paul says he understands he would not be able to visit her as their ‘place was unapproachable’ – so all in all it seems 1917 was a very bad year for all both near Barham and on the Western Front on a number of accounts.

Jim was killed on 4 October 1917 from an explosive that landed in the trench he was in, burying him and three other soldiers. At the time Jim was fighting in the Battle of Broodseinde just behind the Passchendaele Ridge and in front of the now Tyne Cot Cemetery. It was a day of very heavy rain.  There were many casualties that day, with Australia losing over 6400 men. An account from a soldier who witnessed the explosion that killed Jim is that Jim died from ‘concussion’.  This soldier writes to Granny and Grandfather that there was not a mark on Jim or his colleagues, and that crosses with their names were erected where they’d died.  The soldier described Jim as a very cheerful fellow who would be missed by his mates. It seems that Grandfather received a telegram from the Military on 14 November confirming Jim’s death.  

Arthur Lambden, husband of Jim’s eldest sister Mary, had written to the Defence Department in 1918 asking for Jim’s personal effects to be returned, but received a response stating that at that stage the Defence Department had not received any, and would promptly transmit them to Jim’s father as the sole legatee of Jim’s will once they had come to hand.

Jim’s war medals, commemorative scroll and victory plaque were each sent to Grandfather Patrick in at various times in 1922.  Jim’s sister Sis had written requesting them to be sent, but in true bureaucratic style she received a reply saying her mother was to write and make the request.  

In four days’ time it will be exactly 100 years since Jim was killed in action.  The cross marking where Jim was buried on the battlefield in Belguim no longer exists – it is believed that it was destroyed a very long time ago, and so Jim has no known grave. His remains would most likely be in the Tyne Cot Cemetery or in the farmer’s paddock fronting this cemetery.  It is fitting that today we pay tribute to Jim by recognising him as a man, a son, and a soldier serving his country, by the inscription now on Granny’s and Grandfather’s headstone, and by listening to what we know of his life.  On 4 October Jim’s niece Helen Casey will lay a wreath in Jim’s honour during the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate, Ypres Belgium.

We give thanks always to all service men and women, and today especially to Jim. We are ever so grateful for all you did so that we experience the wonderful freedom that we have.

Rest in Peace Jim.