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Published on July 9th, 2014 | by Brook Chalmers

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Extraordinary Lives of Post Office Employees in World War 1: Alfred Knight

To commemorate the centenary year of the outbreak of World War 1 the Post Office Shop will be looking at the lives of some of the individuals associated with the Post Office who took part.

At the dawn World War 1 employees of the Post Office were encouraged to join in the war effort. A Battalion made up almost entirely of Post Office workers, which was called the ‘Post Office Rifles’, had been in existence since 1868 and it was this Battalion that many of the Post Office workers chose to join. As the popularity of joining the Rifles grew amongst male Post Office employees, a second Battalion was created only a week after the outbreak of war.

One member of the Post Office Rifles by the name of Alfred Knight went on to win the Victoria Cross for his daring acts of bravery during the Great War and was the only member of the Rifles that was awarded this accolade.

Alfred Joseph Knight was born in 1888 in Ladywood, Birmingham. He married Mabel Saunderson in 1915 and worked as a Clerical Assistant in the North Midland Engineering District prior to the outbreak of war.

Alfred Knight

The Great War began on the 28th of July 1914 and Alfred, keen to offer his services in the name of his King and country joined the Post Office Rifles three months later on the 26th October 1914. The Rifles moved to Northern France in May 1917 where they would see their first major action at the Second Battle of Bullecourt.

The Second Battle of Bullecourt was a further attempt at penetrating the German lines after the initial assault failed (The First Battle of Bullecourt). Before the offensive was called off on May the 17th 1917, Knight distinguished himself with an act of bravery that saw him bringing back wounded soldiers under heavy enemy fire and it was this action that saw Alfred promoted to Sergeant.

Sergeant Alfred Knight and the Post Office Rifles went on to fight at the Battle for Wurst Farm Ridge, Ypres on the 20th of September 1917 and it was during this battle that Knight’s act of gallantry saw him be awarded with the Victoria Cross. Alfred charged the enemy and single handedly captured an enemy position with no regard for his own safety whatsoever. Knight was presented with the Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace on January 3rd, 1918 by King George V.

It is also noted that as an extraordinary soldier, who was ready to improvise in Theatre of War, Sergeant Alfred Knight rushed through a group of enemy soldiers who were causing casualties at Hubner Farm bayoneted two, shot one and caused the rest to scarper. It was acts of bravery such as this that made Alfred Knight one of the standout soldiers in the Post Office Rifles.

After the war Alfred Knight worked at the Ministry of Labour, managing the Employment Exchange. He later went on to become the Senior Wages Inspector in the Midlands section of the Ministry of Labour and retired in 1951. In that same year he was made a member of the Order of The British Empire.

Sergeant Alfred Knight died aged 72 at his home on the 4th of December 1960.

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