Albert's parents, Joseph and Hannah Knowles are believed to have married in 1879 in the Hayfield area. They would have at least six children together, of whom Albert was the youngest, before Hannah died in 1897. Over the years, they had lived in Hayfield and New Mills.
In 1899, Joseph married Harriett Bounds and the whole family appears to have gone to live with her sister, Mary, at Lorne Terrace in Compstall. This may have only been a temporary arrangement as the family was later recorded as living at "Oak Dene", Ludworth, near Marple Bridge.
Little is known of Albert's early life. When he left school he went to work in the central stores of the Compstall Co-operative Society. He was also connected with the Sunday School at Marple Bridge Congregational Church, where his brother, Frank, was Secretary.
In late October 1914, Albert travelled into Manchester and enlisted into the 21st Battalion, Manchester Regiment. This was the sixth of the Pals Battalions formed by the Regiment in the autumn of that year. He was assigned to No. 1 Platoon in "A" Company. Some details of the recruitment and training of the Pals can be found here. He went on active service with the Battalion in November 1915 but contracted "trench foot" early in 1916 and was invalided home in February. He spent six weeks at Whalley Hopsital in Lancashire and was then given ten days sick leave at home. He returned to duty in the April and this was, probably, when he was transferred to the 20th Battalion.
He took part in the Battalion's attack on 1 July - the first day of the Battle of the Somme - and the subsequent engagements. In his last letter home, on 30 August, Albert wrote that he was in no humour for letter writing as the roll had been called and there were many gaps. He had just finished another three day tour of duty in the trenches and another twelve of his comrades had been killed.
On 2 September, Albert was back in the front line opposite Ginchy, preparing for a major attack the next day. Zero hour was set for noon and the Manchester attacked on schedule. On their left was a battalion of Royal Welsh Fusiliers and, on the right, one from the Leinster Regiment. "A" and "C" Companies led the way, with "D" following closely behind ready to mop-up any pockets of resistance. "B" was held in reserve and given the task of carrying forward ammunition supplies, etc.
The attack went well at first and the Manchesters entered the village. However, the Fusiliers had not been so successful and this enabled the Germans to fire onto the Manchesters from the left as well as from the front. The Germans were in strongly defended positions in the village with firing loopholes knocked through building walls and had effective trenchworks.
The Manchesters managed to hold on to their gains, south of the village church for some hours but the Germans then re-organised and launched a large-scale counter attack. There was no option but to withdraw back across No Man's Land to the original font line. There had been very heavy casualties and only 150 men (from probably 800 who attacked) were still at duty. The remainder were dead, wounded or missing. Amongst the forty dead were Albert and another local man, James Pearson. In two months of fighting, the fifth City Pals had been virtually wiped out.