Thomas Keith KNIGHT

Poppy

KNIGHT, Thomas Keith

Service Number: 1111
Enlisted: 10 November 1914, Morphettville, South Australia
Last Rank: Lance Corporal
Last Unit: 52nd Infantry Battalion
Born: Bordertown, South Australia, 28 January 1893
Home Town: Westbourne Park (Cottonville), Mitcham, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Salesman with Charles Birks and Co.
Died: Killed in Action, Fromelles Nord-Pas-de-Calais France, 29 June 1916, aged 23 years
Cemetery: Rue-Petillon Military Cemetery
Row I J 37 - one row away from his brother killed two weeks later
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial (WW1), Glenelg HB1* WW 1 and WW 2 Glenelg and District, Prospect HB06 RSL Hall - Prospect District WW1 A-G*, Prospect HR1 Anglican Parish WWI*
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World War 1 Service

10 Nov 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Morphettville, South Australia
22 Dec 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1111, 12th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
22 Dec 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 1111, 12th Infantry Battalion
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1111, 12th Infantry Battalion, ANZAC Gallipoli
1 Jun 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, SN 1111, 52nd Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix)
29 Jun 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, SN 1111, 52nd Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix)

Brothers - lost then found

In 2008 I travelled to France as a Battlefield Tour Guide with the Our Other ANZAC Day 2008 group led by Sydney based company Military History Tours Pty Ltd. As part of the planning we researched the names disclosed to us by tour participants where they had a WW1 connection.

In discussion at home among friends at a dinner party, one of our guests James Swanson, asked if I could investigate his Great Uncles, the Knight brothers from Westbourne Park. He knew that they had both died in WW1 but not the circumstances.

My research culminated in a visit to Rue Petillon cemetery near the Fromelles battlefield. The Knight brothers did not perish in the now well known battle at Fromelles. In a remarkable and tragic coincidence, they were killed in the weeks immediately prior, about three weeks apart and probably within half a kilometre of one another yet in different Battalions in different Divisions.

Their parents, Tom and Fanny Knight of Sussex Terrace Westbourne Park would hardly have appreciated the circumstances. All they knew is that they had lost their two sons within a little over two weeks of one another in country they would never see themselves.

For James, I was able to reveal something of what happened, the historical consequences of their service and the fact that they are buried barely metres apart on the other side of the world.

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Biography

Assigned the service number 1111, T.K. (known as Keith) was posted to the 12th Battalion, a unit that was drawn largely from Tasmania but augmented with South Australians and Western Australians  to make up the numbers.  He embarked with the Battalion on 22 December 1914, in Melbourne, aboard the HMAT Themistocles A32.  

He served at Gallipoli with the 12th Battalion but was wounded in the arm shortly after the landing on 29 April 1915 and was evacuated.  He rejoined the unit just after the evacuation from Gallipoli in Egypt after falling ill while recovering in Egypt.

With the ANZAC forces concentrating in Egypt and reinforcements streaming in from Australia in March 1916 and with the 'doubling of the AIF' under way, Keith found himself re-assigned to the 52nd Battalion, a composite unit drawn from across the smaller States (SA WA and Tas).  It was commanded by Lt Col Miles Beevor, an officer originally of the 10th Battalion who had fought though the Gallipoli campaign.

The 52nd, part of the 13th Brigade in the 4th Division, sailed for France and then the unit began the long train journey north to Flanders.

The Fourth Division was assigned part of the line near the town of Fleurbaix.  Their lines looked across to the village of Fromelles, behind the German lines in a salient that jutted into the Allied held sector.

At this point the sector was relatively quiet, but spasmodic shellingand night raids by both sides took place as each tried to test the strength of the other.  Keith became a victim of a German raid on the Australian trenches and was killed in action on the 29th June 1916.

He is buried in the Rue Petillon cemetery.  His burial was conducted by the Reverend D.B. Blackwood.  In a tragic twist of fate, his younger brother Ronald was to die in the same vicinity just three weeks later, killed by German artillery shelling into 32nd Battalion defences.  The 32nd Battalion was to suffer far greater casualties just a few days later.

The demise of the Knight brothers is linked to the tragic battle that took place on the 19/20 July, but by geography only.  They were separated in time but not circumstance, and the result was a grieving family back in Australia who had lost both sons within weeks of one another "somewhere in France" at a location the family was destined never to see.  Their greif would be overwhelmed by that arising from the battle known then as 'Fleurbaix' but these days as 'Fromelles'.

The brothers are buried just a row apart in the Rue Petillon cemetery.

Steve Larkins April 2013

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"THE LATE LANCE-CORPORAL T. K. KNIGHT.

Mrs. T. Knight, of Prospect, has been informed by the military authorities that her son, Keith, has been killed in action. He was exceedingly popular, particularly at Unley and Glenelg, where he was a member of the Glenelg Football Club and the Royal Arthur Cricket Club. He was a fine athlete and won many prizes, among which was the medal for being the most gentlemanly player for the Sturt Football Association for 1914.

He enlisted early in the war, and took part in the historic landing at Gallipoli. He, however, was soon in trouble, and after a few hours was shot in the arm, sent back to Egypt, and recovered, only to be stricken down with fever. From this he soon recovered, and was made a lance-corporal, and volunteered as a bomb-thrower. He was killed in action on June 29. Mr. Knight was in the employ of Messrs. Charles Birks & Co. when he enlisted." - from the Adelaide Chronicle 29 Jul 1916 (nla.gov.au)

Sourced by John Edwards

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