Private Thomas Knight

Knight Thomas

Private Thomas Knight

268852, 16th Bn., Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment) who died on 20 September 1917, aged 21

Remembered with Honour
Barrow Hill Memorial
Staveley Parish Memorial
Tyne Cot Memorial (Panels 99 to 102, 162 to 162A.)



Ann Maria Charlesworth was born in Elmton, near Cresswell, but had moved to live in Eckington as a child where her father, William, worked as a stone quarryman.  Her mother died in 1890 and the 1891 census describes 22 year old Ann Maria as a grocer. Shortly afterwards, in the summer of 1891, she married Thomas Knight, the son of collier James Knight from Barrow Hill.

The couple made their home at 163, Barrow Hill, an end cottage on the “Blocks” close to the Zion Primitive Methodist Chapel on what is now Campbell Drive, where, by 1901, their children Ruth, Sarah Ann, THOMAS HENRY and Walter were born.  Thomas Snr was then employed as a road repairer and worked underground in a local coal mine.

Thomas Henry Knight was born in the summer of 1896 and would have attended the Staveley Works Schools at Barrow Hill. At the age of 14, he was working at a local colliery as a belt worker on the pit top. His father was still working as a coal miner and his sister, Ruth, was employed as a domestic servant.  Younger brother Walter, was still at school and the family had grown with the births of Grace 7, Harold 2 and baby Winifred 8 months.

Thomas was working for the Staveley Coal and Iron Company at the “Old Works” when he enlisted with the 16th (Service) Battalion (Chatsworth Rifles) Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derbys Regiment) at Staveley in May 1917. This comparatively late entry suggests that Thomas was conscripted into the armed forces.

The Battalion had been formed at Derby on 16 April 1915, by the Duke of Devonshire and the Derbyshire TF Association and had been in France since March 1916. Thomas embarked for France and joined them on August 24th 1917 during the 3rd Battle of Ypres, now often referred to as Passchendaele. The division had been involved in phases of the Battle at Pilkem Ridge and Langemarck and, a month later, on 20th September, the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge began.

“Preparations during the first three weeks of September coincided with good weather; sunshine and wind dried the ground and raised the spirits of the Army. As guns and ammunition were accumulated the infantry rehearsed the new style of fighting required by Plumer’s battle plan. The role of artillery was paramount; the preliminary bombardment began on 31 August, intensifying daily to culminate in a colossal two day counter-battery shoot prior to zero-hour.

Wet through by overnight rain the infantry were on their start positions by early morning of 20 September. At 5.40am 65,000 troops advanced on an eight mile front, screened by heavy mist and a stupefying bombardment. Keeping close to the barrage, the initial rush, across slippery ground, quickly overran enemy outposts; retaliatory fire strengthened and skilful fighting was needed to negotiate surviving strongpoints. “ Source

Knight battle

“On the first day of the battle, the division attacked at 05:40 with 1 brigade. 117th Brigade attacked with the 17th Sherwood Foresters, supported by the 16th Sherwood Foresters and the 16th RB. The 17th KRRC were in reserve. On the right, the Foresters pushed on to the Western edge of Bulgar Wood, tacking a number of blockhouses on the way to the Red Line. The RB came under fire almost immediately from the blockhouses in the 41st Divisional area: they took 2 of them and pushed on to take the Red Line.”

At 07:00 the advance continued. The KRRC cleared dug-outs on the way to taking the Blue Line while the Foresters came under fire from the North East. By 07:45 the objective was reached and held. A defensive flank was pushed out by the KRRC to gain touch with the 41st Division. Touch was already gained with the 19th Division. At 18:30 the 1st/6th Cheshires (118 Brigade) established a post beyond the Bassevillebeek.” From “Passchendaele, Day by Day” by Chris McCarthy

The technique of the “creeping Barrage” used during this action was essentially a moving wall of artillery fire that the infantry follow at a very close distance. It required precision timing to be effective on the part of both infantry and artillery and was designed to achieved several objectives: the ground churned up by the curtain of shell fire made the advancing troops invisible to the enemy, the shell holes created cover in no-mans’ land and, as the enemy did not know their locations in advance, they were unable to “register” on them beforehand. It would also cut enemy wire, and they would not have chance to mend it. When the barrage made its last “lift” to play on the enemy front line, it kept their heads down until the allies were in the trench with them. When the infantry got to within an ace of their front line, the barrage lifted again and usually then played on their second line. This effectively cut off the men of their first line as all reinforcements would have to pass through that curtain of shellfire.

Thomas Henry Knight was killed in action during the first day of The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge on 20th September 1917, aged 21. He is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient.

Tyne Cot MemorialThe battles of the Ypres Salient claimed many lives and it quickly became clear that the commemoration of members of the Commonwealth forces with no known grave would have to be divided between several different sites.  Tyne Cot  marks the furthest point reached by Commonwealth forces in Belgium until nearly the end of the war and bears the names of almost 35,000 officers and men whose graves are not known.

WW1-War-Victory-PairThomas Henry Knight was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

© Ann Lucas