William Ernest Casbourne was born in Chelmsford, the son of a coachman. He served in the army before the war and landed in France within three weeks of its outbreak. He was killed in action there in October 1914.

William was born at Chelmsford on 10th May 1887. He was the son of William Ernest Casbourne and Hannah Jemima Casbourne (nee Large) who had married at St. Thomas' Church in Colnbrook Buckinghamshire early in 1884. At the time both were resident in the village.

William was baptised at St. Mary's Church, Chelmsford (today's Cathedral) on 20th April 1889 alonside his elder brother Oscar. At the time his father was a coachman living in Union Yard, off the south-westerm side of Tindal Street in Chelmsford.

His two known brothers were Oscar William Casbourne (born on 29tth March 1886 in Chelmsford) and Alfred Casbourne (born in Chelmsford on 15th September 1889 and died by the end of that month). William’s mother is thought to have died as a result of his childbirth - the Hannah Jemima Casbourne who died aged 29 in the Chelmsford District in 1889. William also had a sister Kate Casbourne.

He has yet to be found in the 1891 census.  However, the 1901 census found him aged 13 visiting 65 year-old Harriet E. Sweeting (born in Great Canfield) at 23 New Street, Chelmsford.


Private, 1st Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry

On 20th August 1902 William attested into the Militia 4th Battalion of the Essex Regiment at Chelmsford. At the time he was aged 17 and employed as a clerk. He was resident with Miss Sellintoe in Chelmsford, having lived there for six months and six months in Hornchurch over the preceeding year. He was a small man - five feet three and a half inches tall, weighed 103 pounds and had a 30 inch chest. His complexion was fresh. with blue eyes and brown hair. The following day he passed his medical at Warley and was accepted into the Essex Regiment. After 49 days he left the regiment to join the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry.

The 1911 census found him, aged 26, serving as a Private in the 2nd Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry at Timpe, Bloemfontein, Orange Free State in South Africa. Meanwhile William’s 22 year-old brother Oscar was recorded by the census as a prisoner in Chelmsford Gaol. When not inside he was a fruit hawker.

Later William served in the 1st Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, which was stationed at Curragh in Ireland at the start of the war. It was quickly transferred to France and William landed there on 21st August 1914.

William was killed in action on 21st October 1914 while serving as Private 7108 in the 1st Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. He has no known grave and is one of more than 13,000 men commemorated at Le Touret Memorial, Richebourg-l'Avoue, Pas de Calais, France and on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford.

William was entitled to the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and Victory Medal. William’s brother, Oscar, was awarded the Military Medal while serving with the 6th Battalion of the Essex Regiment during the First World War. He died in 1958.