Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJuly 31, 1886
Place of BirthFettercairn, Kincardineshire
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs Agnes Cassels, wife, Keewatin, Ontario
Trade / Callingmiller, Lake of the Woods Milling Company
Service Details
Regimental Number198510
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion25th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKeewatin, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentDecember 17, 1915
Age at Enlistment29
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathOctober 1, 1916
Age at Death30
Buried Atno known grave/Vimy Memorial

Cassels, John Stewart

Born on 31 July 1886 in Fettercairn, Kincardineshire, Scotland, John Stewart Cassels was the son of George and Jemina (née Milton) Cassels. His parents had married in 1883 in Banchory Ternan, Kincardineshire. For the 1891 Scotland census the family was living in Minklets West, Banchory Ternan, occupation of his father given as farm servant. Children listed were William, George, John, Helen, and Jemina.  At the time of  the 1901 Scotland census, John was living in Easter Rinmore, Towie, Aberdeenshire with the Peter Reid family, working  as a farm servant. His mother had died and his father was living in Tullynessle and Forbes, Aberdeenshire, working as a cattleman on a farm. With him were children Helen and Jemina, and new additions to the family, Maggie, Ann, and Catherine.

John Cassels was listed on the Manifest of Alien Passengers Applying for Admission at the Port of Sumas Washington along with Alexander Hamilton, in May of 1910, Alexander listing his sister Agnes as next of kin in Keewatin and John’s occupation given as fireman. The men gave Keewatin, Ontario as their usual residence in Canada and were on their way to San Francisco. The son of Alexander and Jane (Anderson) Hamilton, Alexander was born in 1867 in Newmains, Cambusnethan, Lanarkshire, Scotland. He married Mary Lindsay on 22 June 1892 in nearby Wishaw, Lanarkshire and the couple, with children Alexander, Agnes, and James, immigrated to Canada in July of 1904, destination given as Shoal Lake, Manitoba. By 1907  they were living in Keewatin, Ontario as Mary, interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in nearby Kenora, died in Keewatin in August. The couple had given birth to daughter Jane Elizabeth (Jean) that March. It is likely that Alexander’s sister Agnes (born 22 April 1877 in Newmains)  immigrated to Canada to help her brother  with the children. She was also found on a June 1910 List or Manifest of Alien Passengers Applying for Admission, giving Keewatin as her usual residence and as on her way to San Francisco. Travelling with her were her brother Alexander’s children: Alexander, age 17, Nessie (Agnes), age 13, James, age 9, and Jean, age 3. By the 1911 Canada census, John Stewart Cassels was living on Mill Street in Keewatin, married to Agnes. His occupation was given as fireman or foreman in BBL Factory. They both gave 1907 as their year of immigration. The couple also took in seven boarders.

John enlisted on 17 December 1915 in Kenora, joining the 94th Battalion. At that time he was working as a miller at the Lake of the Woods Milling Company in Keewatin. His attestation papers show that he had 2 years of prior military experience with the 14th Battalion Gordon Highlanders.

‘On May 25, 1916, the men of ‘C’ an ‘D’ Companies from Kenora and Fort Frances were moved to the Lakehead and on June 9, 1916, the Battalion left for Valcartier, Quebec for ‘Summer Camp’ as it was called. For two hundred and five of these men it was the last time they were to see their families and friends. The 94th trained at Valcartier for a period until June 13th when they sailed from Halifax for England on the RMS Olympic.  Although the 94th remained a battalion on paper until July 27th, 1918, with an office at East Sandling, if actually ceased to exist on July 13th, 1916 when it was broken up and the men were transferred to the 17th and 32nd Reserve Battalions to be used as replacements for casualties in front line units.’  (from the now defunct 94th Battalion website)

Upon arrival in England John was taken on strength with the 17th Reserve Battalion at East Sandling. On 7 September 1916 he embarked for France, taken on strength with the 25th Battalion the next day. He joined the unit in the field on the 28th of September.

With the 25th Battalion, only three days later, on 1 October 1916,  Private John Stewart Cassels was reported as killed in action just west of Courcelette, France. Details of his death and final resting place are unknown. His name is listed on the  Vimy Memorial along with 11 000 other Canadian soldiers who were ‘missing, presumed dead’.

After the war John’s wife Agnes was found on the passenger list of the Saturnia of 22 June 1920, destination given as Venture Fair Avenue in Dunfermline, Scotland. Travelling with her was Margaret Cassels, age 5. In July of 1920 the war gratuity was sent to her in care of J Weir at the same address and by 1921 and 1922 the plaque and scroll, medals and decorations, and memorial cross were sent to her at 33 Bruce Field Avenue in Dunfermline. With her usual residence given as 170 Townhill Road, Agnes (Hamilton) Cassels died on 28 April 1938 in the West Fife Hospital, Dunfermline. Her daughter Margaret signed as the informant.

Agnes’ nephew Alexander Hamilton enlisted in Winnipeg on 13 December 1915, listing his father as next of kin in Keewatin. At the time he was living in Stonewall, Manitoba, boarding at the William and Addie Botham household while attending training camp at Camp Hughes. Discharged as medically unfit on 15 August 1916, he later married Anna Botham on 6 June 1917. Having just turned 16, his nephew  James enlisted in May of 1917 and served overseas with the 5th Canadian Division Military Transport Detachment, Canadian Field Artillery.

Private John Stewart Cassels is commemorated on page 65 of the First World War Book of Remembrance in Ottawa, on the Keewatin Cenotaph located in Beatty Park in Keewatin, Ontario, on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company Roll of Honour Plaque, the Municipality of Keewatin Plaque, the IOOF Minnetonka Lodge Memorial at the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, and on the memorial plaque at the Keewatin Lodge No. 417 of AFAM. As part of the demonstration held in Keewatin in August 1919, John’s next of kin would have received a medal in recognition of his place on the Keewatin Roll of Honour.

by Judy Stockham

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