My granddad, John William Knott, known as Jack, enlisted immediately when war was announced on 4th August 1914, he was 15 years old. Granddad joined The Liverpool King’s Regiment, which was the first of the ‘Pals Battalions’.
Grandad never spoke of his time in World War One, but one day when I was twelve, he gave me the above photograph of himself. He told me he was at Mons in France, but unlike others, he didn’t see the ‘Angel’, although he did see the burning cross in the sky. Many thousands of soldiers reported seeing the ‘Angel of Mons’ and a ‘burning cross’ or ‘burning sword’ in the sky guiding them safely in their retreat. The Battle of Mons, 23rd August 1914 was a successful retreat by the British Army.
In April 1915 Grandad was at the first battle in Ypres in France. He told me he was in the trench when he could smell pineapples. This turned out to be Chlorine Gas released by the German Army.
In July 1916 Grandad was now a Corporal and served at battles on the Somme in France where 60,000 British troops were killed on the first day. At the end of the Battle of the Somme in November 1916, there were 420,000 British casualties and they had advanced only 8 kilometres.
Grandad was at the Battle of Passchendaele (31st July–6th November 1917). Passchendaele was a small village in Ypres (the soldiers called it Wipers). At this battle Grandad was with his friend Peter Richardson, unfortunately they were both blown up. Grandad was taken to hospital and eventually recovered, but he never saw his friend again and couldn’t find him in the hospital and so thought he had been killed. In 1962 his youngest daughter, Jacqueline, got married and her husband’s uncle came to the wedding. Grandad couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the ‘uncle’ who turned out to be Peter Richardson the friend he thought had been killed at Passchendaele.
The war ended 11th November 1918. In 1919 Grandad met Elizabeth Nickson and they were married in 1920. They had 9 children, the first boy, Jack, born in 1921, second, Albert, born in 1922, Daniel 1924 followed by Lorna, Lily, Kitty (her twin Frances died), Raymond and Patrick, Elizabeth died in 1938 aged 37 years. Grandad re-married in 1940 and had two more daughters, Anne and Jacqueline. Grandad became a train driver and drove the Liverpool to London steam train until his retirement in 1963.
One of the most upsetting times for Grandad was in September 1939 when World War Two started. His son Jack joined The Liverpool Kings Regiment and was sent to Burma as part of the Chindits and a year later his son Albert joined No.3 Commando, Daniel joined the Merchant Navy and later Kitty joined the Women’s Land Army.