John KNIGHT
Rank: Sergeant
Number: 9253
Unit: 9th Battalion SHERWOOD FORESTERS
Date of Death: 27 April 1918
Age:
Cemetery: Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe, Pas de Calais, France

Little is known about Jack Knight's early life. He was born in Buxton and had served before the War as a regular soldier. Completing his service, he had returned to civilian life, living in the Romiley area, and found work in local bleachworks. He was married but records only show her initials - M E - and that, after the War, she lived at 38 Compstall Road. When War was declared in August 1914, Jack was still an Army reservist and was recalled to the Colours. The Stockport Advertiser reported that he had taken part in the Battle of Mons on 23 August and, shortly afterwards, was wounded. However, it was not until mid-September, at the Battle of the Aisne, that the Foresters were first in action. The Stockport Advertiser, in its edition of 23 October 1914, recounts what happened.

"During the Allied retreat, he received a bullet in the chest, it passing through him and coming out of his side. Knight was in the trench at the time. He crawled out as best he could but it was many hours before he reached the ambulance. He had to hide in some brushwood for fear of the Germans seeing him. Here, in terrible suspense, he saw a body of troops approach. He had hopes that they were British but dared not cry out for fear they were Uhlans and he had seen some of their work. Knight had to let them pass but afterwards he summoned up strength to crawl to the ambulance. He describes the fighting as terrible and has had the trying ordeal of being in the trench for a week, In one charge, he says, his Regiment lost over 500 in less than 20 minutes. Although anxious to be amongst it again, he is hardly likely to be, for his injuries are not likely to be better for a considerable period."

On 20 April 1918, "C" and "D" Companies of the Foresters moved into the front line at "Lone Locality", relieving "A" and "B", which moved back to Marzingarbe for a rest and an opportunity for the men to have baths. There was to have been release of poison gas towards the Germans but this was postponed, possibly because the wind direction was wrong. The decision not to proceed would have fatal consequences for John a few days later.

During the night of the 22nd, the Germans raided the trench on an intelligence gathering mission. They must have seen the gas cylinders still in position on the parapet. They should have been moved before but, if not, they should have been removed now as they were extremely vulnerable to enemy shelling, once their location was known.

The shelling did, indeed, start on the morning of the 25th and carried on intermittently through the next two days. By now, "A" Company was back in the front line and, at 2am on the 27th, the men were working just into No Man's Land, repairing the barbed wire in front of the trenches. The Germans again shelled the area, bursting nine of the cylinders. 31 men became casualties - either from the shelling or the gas. Fifteen of them, including Jack, were dead. They are now buried side-by-side.

(My thanks to fellow enthusiast and member of the Great War Forum, Steve Morse, author of the Battalion's History for information about the April events. John Hartley: April 2008)

   
           
   
     
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