Born 01 Nov 1997 in Keewatin, Ontario, Oscar Lacasse was a middle son of Anselme (more commonly known as Samuel) and Wilhemina Melina (Desmarais) Lacasse, parents being French Canadian, originally from the Ottawa/Gatineau area. Samuel and Melina married 27 Apr 1885 in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora), Melina's family having moved to the area to open a saw mill.
At some point Melina and perhaps Samuel went back to Gatineau Pointe, as their first two children, twins Joseph and Napoleon, were born there on 28 Feb 1886. Returning after the births, subsequent children born in Keewatin were Oscar, William, Charles, Bertha, and Eugene. In the 1891 census the family was living in Keewatin South, father Samuel's occupation given as mill labourer. Living next door were Melina's birth family, father Eusebe Desmarais, his second wife, and children from both marriages. In 1901 the family was still in Keewatin but by then his father's occupation had changed to farmer. In the 1911 census William's parents and three of his siblings, Charles, Bertha and Eugene were living on River Street in Keewatin.
Oscar Lacasse enlisted in Kenora 25 of Nov 1915, occupation given as labourer. Headquartered in Port Arthur, Ontario, the 94th Battalion had just begun recruiting at the time throughout northwestern Ontario. On 25 May 1916, Companies C and D from Kenora and Fort Frances were moved to the Lakehead.
"On June 9, 1916, the 94th 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."
Once overseas, Private Oscar Lacasse was transferred to the 32nd Reserve Battalion and then to the 5th. In April of 1917 he suffered a contusion to his left elbow and spent time recovering at the Military Hospital at Fresham Hill and then at the Canadian Division Convalescent Hospital, Woodcote Park, Epsom. He was discharged 31 May 1917, and was attached to the 15th Canadian Reserve Battalion at Bramshott. Later that year Private Oscar Lacasse was granted a Good Conduct Stripe on 25 Nov 1917. He rejoined the 5th Battalion in March of 1918.
On 01 Sep 1918 Private Oscar Lacasse was reported as Killed in Action: "while taking part with his battalion in an attack on the enemy lines east of the Hendecourt-les Cagnicourt-Dury Road on the night of September 1st, 1918, he was instantly killed by an enemy high explosive shell." Private Oscar Lacasse is buried in the Upton Wood British Cemetery 8.5 miles south of Arras, France.
Oscar's brother William Lacasse served during World War 1 as well, also reported as Killed in Action 28 Apr 1918 while serving with the 44th Battalion. By 1921 Oscar's parents and siblings Bertha and Eugene were living in Vancouver but later that year moved south of the border to Washington. Oscar's father Samuel died on 06 Jul 1927 and his mother Melina on 16 Dec 1949; both are buried in Union Cemetery in Sedro-Woolly, Washington. It is unlikely that any of the family remained in the Kenora/Keewatin area.
Private Oscar Lacasse is commemorated on page 444 of the First World War Book of Remembrance in Ottawa, on the Keewatin Cenotaph in Beatty Park in Keewatin, on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company Roll of Honour Plaque housed in the Keewatin Legion, on the R Douglas Fraser Roll of Honour Plaque, and on the Municipality of Keewatin Plaque.
By Kenora Great War Project - honouring all who served, remembering those who died.