14 May 2010

KNIGHT William George


Sergeant 52203, 7th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment
Killed in Action on Wednesday 23rd October 1918

Buried: Amerval Communal Cemetery Extension, Solesmes, Grave B.19

William Knight is one of the mysteries of the war memorial. Despite looking at many sources I remain unclear about his identity and his family connections. On this page I'm presenting the facts that I've accumulated, but am heavily reliant on guesswork and supposition - I'm more than happy to stand corrected on any of it.

The name carved on the memorial says 'W. C. Knight.' I have traced my finger around that 'C' trying to turn it into a 'G' without success, although I now strongly suspect that the mason was wrong and the middle initial should stand for 'George.' The Lancing parish registers show just one instance of the surname Knight within the required period - the baptism of a William Knight, son of William and Charlotte Knight, on 27th March 1882, but I have no other evidence to confirm that this is the right man.
The Worthing Street and Trade Directory of 1911-1912 shows a William George Knight living at Lancing Farm Cottages, one of the outlying residences of the village, and the same entry is there in the edition published in 1919. The information contained in the book was gathered over the eighteen months prior to publication, so may well have included those who had died or had moved since 1918. However, the 1911 census does not give any likely William Knights in Lancing or the surrounding areas of Sussex.
The admission register for North Lancing School shows a Henry Knight, born 15th March 1903, admitted to the school in June 1914, presumably on moving into the village. There is no reason to suppose this is relevant, but is an indication of another Knight family living locally.

Possibly the most important piece of information I came across was found at the West Sussex Record Office. Among the items held there are two scrapbooks of newspaper cuttings relating solely to Lancing which were collected by someone in the village during the Great War. Many of the cuttings are casualty lists and reports of Lancing men, and they come mostly from the Sussex Daily News, and while much emphasis is on the Royal Sussex Regiment, any Lancing man who was wounded or killed is likely to be included. On one page I came across a list from the Sussex Daily News dated 6th August 1916, loosely stuck in by its top edge on top of other items, almost as if it had been added as an afterthought, but obviously containing some news relevant to Lancing. At first sight none of the entries seemed particularly local, but right at the bottom, under the heading 'Wounded' was

Knight 8815, Sergt. W. G. (North Staffs) (West Grinstead)

the town being the home of his next of kin. I feel strongly that this could be the right man, and a search of 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' CD showed that he was born in Horsham, Sussex, was formerly in the 1/6th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment, and transferred later, probably after his wounding, to the Leicestershire Regiment.

I cannot be sure that this is Lancing's William Knight, but I think there's a good chance that it's the right man. Unfortunately I've been unable to trace any service record that might prove or disprove the theory. I hope that more information will come to light, or some family member might be able to add to the story in the future.


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