b. 24/08/1888 Birmingham. d. 04/12/1960 Birmingham,
Alfred John Knight (1888-1960) was born at 12 Clifton Terrace, Friston Street, Ladywood, Birmingham on 24th August 1888. His father, Joseph, was an apprentice in a lamp factory, before becoming a glasscutter, and finally a confectioner. He married Annie Maria Rowbottom on 30th October 1887 at St John’s, Ladywood. Alfred had two siblings – Doris Mary (born 1898) and Philip Anthony (born 1903).
Alfred was educated at St Philip’s Grammar School, Edgbaston from 1900-1903. He was employed as a clerical assistant and then clerk in an engineering department of the General Post Office in Birmingham from 1909 and at Carrington Street Post Office in Nottingham after it moved in 1912. He enlisted on 26th October 1914.
Alfred married Mabel Saunderson on 8th May 1915 at The Oratory, Hagley Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham. She was from Nottingham, and worked for Jesse Boot, the founder of Boots the Chemist. They had three children – Marjorie Mary (born 1916), Geoffrey Joseph (born 1924) and Valerie Mary (born 1927).
Alfred moved with the Battalion to Sutton Veny, Wiltshire in July 1916 and served in France from 4th February 1917 until 27th February 1918. He rescued a wounded man under heavy fire at Bullecourt on 14th May 1917 for which he received the Divisional Commander’s certificate for gallant conduct and was promoted to Sergeant soon afterwards. On 20th September 1917 at Alberta Section, Ypres, Belgium, when his platoon came under very heavy fire from an enemy machine-gun, Sergeant Knight rushed through our own barrage and captured it single-handed.
He performed several other acts of conspicuous bravery single-handed, all under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire and without regard to personal safety. All the platoon officers of the company had become casualties before the first objective was reached, and this NCO took command not only of all the men of his own platoon but of the platoons without officers and his energy in consolidating and reorganising was untiring.
He was employed as a training instructor in France after the VC action. The VC was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 2nd January 1918. He was commissioned in the Sherwood Foresters on 17th March 1919 and relinquished it on 1st September 1921. He was the only member of the Post Office Rifles to be awarded the VC, but another Birmingham Post Office employee, Albert Gill, was awarded the VC during the Great War. Nottingham presented Alfred with an ornate silver tea service and a £100 War Bond, while postal workers bought him an inscribed marble clock. Birmingham presented him with an illuminated address and another clock.
Alfred returned to the Post Office and in 1920 moved to the Ministry of Labour and National Service. He was manager of the York Employment Exchange 1931-1937 and then Manager of the Trade Board Section in Leeds. He returned to Birmingham in 1941 as the Senior Wages Inspector in the Ministry of Labour. In 1945 he travelled to India to talk to servicemen about resettlement arrangements. He was awarded the MBE while Senior Wages Inspector and for his service in the Ministry of Labour 1920-1951 on 7th June 1951.
Alfred retired in November 1951 from his post as Deputy Regional Director of the Ministry of Labour in the Midlands. He returned to work briefly as a clerical officer at Handsworth Labour Exchange until a stroke forced him into permanent retirement. He died at his home in Elvetham Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham on 4th December 1960 and was buried in Oscott College Road RC Cemetery, Sutton Coldfield. In addition to his VC and MBE, he was also awarded the British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. His medals were purchased by the Post Office Museum for £13,600 at a Spink auction on 9th June 1992. The VC is held by the Post Office Museum, Phoenix Place, London.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: BRITISH POSTAL MUSEUM & SERVICE.
BURIAL PLACE: OSCOTT COLLEGE ROAD CEMETERY, SUTTON COLDFIELD, WARWICKSHIRE
SECTION 2B, GRAVE 328A.
Alfred Knight's medals including VC and MBE held by the British Postal Museum.
Hall of Memory, Birmingham (Feb 2016)
War Illustrated, 1st December 1917