203594 PTE. J. KNIGHT. L.N.LAN.R.

 

Joseph Knight was born in the first quarter of 1888 in Bamber Bridge.  His father was also Joseph Knight (b. 1854 in Cuerden), a farmer.  His mother was Martha Haydock (b. 1862 in Samlesbury).  Joseph and Martha were married at Brownedge St Mary’s in 1883, and they had 10 children: Elizabeth Ellen (1884-87), James (b. 1885), then Joseph, Francis (b. 1889), Mary (b. 1891), Elizabeth (b. 1892), Margaret (b. 1893), William Henry (b. 1895), Thomas Benedict (b. 1897) and finally Ellen (b. 1898).  Joseph snr died in 1899 leaving Martha to bring up the large family.  In 1911, she was living at 13 St Mary’s Road with almost all her children, most of whom were working in the cotton mills, and also her brother, Thomas Haydock.  Joe Knight jnr however had moved out and was working as a farm labourer and living at Crow Trees Farm, Bamber Bridge.

 

Joe attested he was willing to serve in the Army on 11 December 1915.  He was 27 years old and a well built man (by the standards of the time), being 5’ 9” tall, weighing 137lbs and with a 40” chest.  He was called up on 9 January 1917, by which time he was living at 10 Coote Lane, Lostock Hall.  He was assigned service number 203594 and embarked for France on 29 May 1917.  He was posted to 1/4Bn The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and joined them in the field on 23 June 1917.

 

In early June, 1/4Bn had been fighting in the trenches near Ypres but by mid June (when Joe joined them) they had been withdrawn and were billeted at Boisdinghem in France.  They had marched 30kms from Bollezeele the previous day in scorching heat and were exhausted.  They spend the next few days in parades and training, practising the technique of advancing behind an artillery barrage.  More reinforcements joined the battalion on 25 June.  The relentless training in mock-up trenches continued until the end of the month when they prepared to return to the front.  They were back at Vlamertinge on 2 July and returned to the trenches east of Ypres on the Potijze Road on 9 July.  Artillery exchanges and raiding parties were then the order of the day.  Casualties were relatively light but the Battalion was not relieved until 21 July.  During this stint in the trenches they had 13 men killed.  They withdrew to camp at Poperinghe.  On 27 July, they hear news that the Germans are evacuating their front line system, apparently in anticipation of a forthcoming major assault.  Within the Battalion, the countdown to the assault begins.  At Valmertinge on 30 July in drizzling rain, the first platoons move forward to the trenches.  They were finally back in their trenches c1ose to the Ypres-Potijze Road later that day and at zero hour (3.50am) on 31 July 55th Division launched its attack.  German artillery replied at 4.15am but from 4.30am streams of German prisoners were arriving.  At zero hour + 4hrs 40mins (ie 8.30am) 164 Brigade moved forward in artillery formation.  “It was a dull misty morning, so there were neither aeroplanes nor balloons in the air to detect the advancing troops.  As we passed over NO MAN’S LAND, companies were well shaken out into the various squares and the direction was being well kept.  The enemy wire in front of this first line system was practically non-existent and provided no obstacle.  The trenches appeared very badly smashed in and in places obliterated, though here and there appeared small concrete dugouts apparently still intact.”  The enemy artillery was slow in responding because they apparently were unsure of the position of their own infantry, but machine guns were quickly brought to bear, although for once they had not got the range right and though bullets were flying everywhere casualties were light.  At 10.10am, the brigade was again able to form up behind the artillery barrage about 200 yards ahead and move forward.  It wasn’t long though before the artillery barrage became thin because the advance was beyond the range of the guns, and some snipers who had been missed by the barrage were able to frustrate the advance.  By the end of the day, the Brigade had taken its objective (the Green Line, see the map below, 1/4Bn were responsible for the advance from the Black Line to the Green Line) and an enemy counter-attack had been repulsed.  Casualties for 1/4Bn were 19 officers and 300 other ranks (see the list below for CWGC’s final record of those killed).   90% of the British casualties were caused by machinegun fire or snipers. 

The War Diary gives a sober and critical assessment of the day’s fighting (the failure of the tanks, the lack of ammunition, the heavy burden of equipment carried by the men over a long advance) but concludes: “The 55th Division as a whole, and particularly the 164th Brigade, will ever be remembered for its share in the attack which started the Third Battle of Ypres.  The 164th Infantry Brigade in particular can ever be proud of the advance from the Black to the Green line.”

 

Joe Knight was killed during this attack.  He was 29 years old.  He had arrived in France just two months previously. 

 

Rank:  Private

Service No:  203594

Date of Death:  31/07/1917

Regiment/Service:  The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.

Grave Reference:  VII. D. 11.

Cemetery:  VLAMERTINGHE NEW MILITARY CEMETERY

Joe’s older brother James will be killed fighting with the 1Bn Grenadier Guards on 30 March 1918.

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