23/ 1706  Rifleman James Clifford ( Cliff)  Kassey -  New Zealand Rifle Brigade

The Kassebaum family, of German origin, were established in the Tadmor Valley, Nelson District in 1860’s as
settler / farmers[i]. Later generations lived in the Nelson / Marlborough area working as fishermen.

James Clifford (Clifford / Cliff ) Kassebaum was born in Paradise Bay, Kenepuru Sounds, Marlborough[ii] on
9th May 1893[iii] the youngest son of George William and Elizabeth (nee Clifford Boes) Kassebaum.

George was a fisherman of French Pass and it is possible that the family moved to the Porirua District during one fishing season as Clifford Kassebaum was registered as attending Porirua School in 1901[iv].

By 1905 the Kassebaum family was back in Nelson with Clifford winning the Nelson Mail Prize for Standard VI writing at the Ranzau School.[v]

It is possible that even though Clifford was a second generation born New Zealander and  his father had been naturalised[vi], the surname Kassebaum attracted anti-German sentiment on the outbreak of World War One.  

James Clifford (Cliff) Kassey enlisted in Nelson on the 16th October 1915[vii] part of the quota from the Nelson Districts for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) 9th Reinforcements. Private Kassey’s military papers list him as a
self-employed fisher man of French Pass with his next of kin his older brother Joseph Edward Kassey, also a fisherman of French Pass.

The Nelson Boys of the 9th Reinforcements allocated to the NZ Rifle Brigade
Rifleman Kassey seated first left 

On 20th October 1915 Private Kassey left Nelson with 106 other men who were also part of the 9th Reinforcements.
On arrival in Trentham the men were allocated to various service arms. The 76 men allocated to the infantry were equally split between the Canterbury Infantry Regiment and the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (NZRB). 23/1706 Private Kassey was allocated to the NZRB and became 23/1706 Rifleman Kassey, E Company, 3rd reinforcements, 1st Battalion, NZRB.

Following basic training Rifleman Kassey left New Zealand on 8th January 1916 for Egypt. On arrival in Egypt Rifleman Kassey was posted to the NZRB Training battalion as preparations were made to ship the bulk of the NZEF for service
on the Western Front. Rifleman Kassey sailed from France on 6th April 1916 as a member of D Company, 1st Battalion, NZRB.

The NZRB began to prepare for front line action but while still in the rear on 8th May 1916 Rifleman Kassey was sent
“under arrest” to hospital with a ‘self-inflicted injury’ a gunshot wound to the foot. Self-inflicted wounds, even if they
were accidental were treated seriously and Rifleman Kassey was sent to a Special hospital in Boulogne for treatment.
On the 30th June 1916 Rifleman Kassey was considered fit enough to return to service, his service record notes that he
was then given 80 days FP No 1 for ‘Neglect to the prejudice of good order and military discipline.’  

Field Punishment No 1 of 80 days would have been awarded as the result of a court martial but there are no official
military papers on file. Field Punishment No 1 was carried out in special military prisons where the soldier would be
serving hard labour, would lose pay and other privaleges but would also be tied to a ‘stationary object’ for up to 2 hours
a day.

On 13th August 1916 Rifleman Kassey was released back to his battalion which as part of the New Zealand Division was training for action in the Battle of the Somme. On the 15th September 1916 on the first day of action for the New Zealand Division the NZRB ‘went over the top.’   D Company, 1st Battalion, NZRB was the last company into action as the NZRB attacked in the area of Flers, France. As reported in the NZRB History  ‘In their advance towards their objective, the Blue Line,  D Company suffered heavy casualties from machinegun fire’ and later in the morning the 1st Battalion advancing
in Abbey Road was again subject of heavy machinegun fire and also suffered casualties from artillery fire. At some stage during this advances Rifleman Kassey was wounded in the neck and was evacuated to the rear and following evaluation, evacuated to England. On 19th September 1916 Rifleman Kassey was admitted to the No 1 NZ General Hospital, Brockenhurst. Rifleman Kassey remained in hospital until January 1917 when he first went to a convalescent camp and
then to the Codford Depot to wait for redeployment.

Prior to being sent back to the Western Front James Clifford Kassey married Selina Helena Wood on the 17th September 1917 and after  brief honeymoon was sent back to France on 30th September 1917.

Rifleman Kassey remained with his battalion in France  through to September 1918 when he was granted leave in the
UK he returned to see for the first time his son  Clifford Roy  Kassey who had been born late 1917.  Rifleman Kassey had two weeks leave then returned to France only returned to England in December 1918. Rifleman Kassey remained in England September 1919 when he was repatriated to New Zealand with his wife and son.

23/1706 Rifleman James Clifford Kassey was finally discharged
on 6th December 1919 ‘on termination of his period engagement’
he gave Flat Creek, Rai Valley, Nelson as his intended address.

Cliff returned to fishing and French Pass his medals were sent to
him there in 1922. Selina and Cliff had three other children in
New Zealand. On 28th June 1930 the Evening Post reported the
drowning of Reginald Sherwood, French Pass lighthouse keeper
and Clifford Kassey, mail contractor. The men had gone out
fishing and their dingy overturned. While Sherwood’s body was
recovered on D’Urville Island that of James Clifford Kassey was
not found[viii].

​SS Penguin passing the French Pass lighthouse 

Private Clifford Roy Kassey the oldest son of Cliff and Selina Kassey was killed in action on Crete in 1941.
Joseph Edward Kassebaum continued to use the family name and was conscripted in August 1918, 86171 Private Kassebaum was discharged following the Armistice.

Papers past online
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files
Auckland Cenotaph Database

The Nelson Boys: Quirk collection
SS Penguin and French Pass lighthouse: google photos

[i]  Nelson Examiner
[ii] Auckland Cenotaph Database
[iii] Archway Archives New Zealand
[iv] Porirua School
[v] Newspaper
[vi] Question in the house on naturalised persons 1908, Archway
[vii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 23/1706 Rifleman James Clifford Kassey
[viii] Lighthouse Clue, 28th June 1930, Evening Post
The Nelson Boys of the 9th Reinforcements