Sorrow’s Crown of Sorrows
Is remembering happier times.
John Cassells. D.O.B. 27th September, 1934. - Deceased.13th March, 2016.
John Cassells, along with his twin, George, began his army career by enlisting as craft apprentice into the Army Apprentices School (AAS) Arborfield on the 9th September 1949.
John did not have an easy start in life, in that his father, George Wilfred, a pre-war regular soldier, was lost during the Monte Cassino offensive in Italy.
This resulted in him and George, at age nine, becoming boarders at the Duke of York’s Royal Military Academy, Dover. There they remained until moving to Arborfield at age 15.
My most abiding memory of John is that he was a very good athlete, particularly at cross country running. He and I were members of the school cross country team, and I recall that in the three years in competition with him, I never ever beat him in a race. In later years whenever we met at reunions he would always gently pull my leg about those events.
In September 1952, John joined REME and won early promotion to Cpl and was on course to a promising career. By the mid-fifties John and his brother George had been posted to Cyprus, where sadly, for the second time in his young life, fate once again intervened.
In 1956, at age 21, his twin brother George was killed in a shooting incident in Cyprus. John was devastated, resulting in a compassionate discharge from the Corps and he returned to live in Henley-on Thames.
As a skilled craftsman John pursued a career in toolmaking and engineering with various local companies, including a time when he worked on the development of Concorde.
Canny with his cash, he purchased a newly built bungalow in 1958 and lived there continuously until shortly prior to his demise. He did not own a car until he was in his thirties, and would cycle to work in Maidenhead, White Waltham and other venues.
John continued to participate in many sporting activities throughout his life, although his primary interest was rugby union. In 1956 he joined the Henley Rugby Club, playing for the first team until he was in his forties, notching up over a hundred appearances at this level. His sons, George and Christopher and grandsons Peter, Ollie and Michael were to follow in his footsteps at the club.
He remained a keen runner and earned many medals from runs all over the country including the London marathon, with his chosen charity being the Alzheimer’s Society.
As this was not enough for any man, he was also a member of the Long Distance Walker’s Association.
The get the measure of the man, on one notable occasion, he walked from Henley to Chester to join up with the Henley Rugby Club touring party on the afternoon of a match, changing into his kit, playing the full game, and then walking onto Newcastle to visit relatives. During one reunion I asked him how much did it cost for accommodation during these long walks. “Nothing” was his reply “I just roll up in a ground sheet and sleep under the nearest hedge”
After many years in engineering, John became a postman in the Henley office. These final years of his working life were perhaps his happiest. He enjoyed meeting people and making new friends, particularly on the Stoke Row round, where he was adopted as a member of the community and invited to many local events.
Towards the end of his life John suffered worsening Alzheimer’s disease but, with the help of medication and close support of his family, was able to continue to live at home almost to the last.
As his memory failed his chats became more repetitive, but he coped with some memory failure by calling all the girls and ladies he chatted to “Cinderella” something which many of them remember fondly.
John will be sadly missed by his sons George, Christopher, Ian, Robert, his surviving sister Patricia and all their families; and further by many, many people in the Henley area and beyond out into the military family.
He served King, Queen and Country throughout his early years,
And learned of life, its highs and lows among his youthful peers,
And as time passed, a bond grew strong which time could not erase,
It was to last throughout his life, defying memory’s haze.
And even though the years may pass and memories can fade,
Those early days will still abide, life long, deeply engraved,
And at the end, his epitaph, with pride will just read thus:
“AN ARBORFIELD APPRENTICE
A SEPT49’ER, FOREVER ONE OF US