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Published on August 24th, 2015 | by Rob Stebbings

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Sir Alfred Knight Was Born On This Day In 1888

Sir Alfred Knight was one of the many thousands of soldiers who fought for the Post Office Rifles regiment during World War One. Born on this day in 1888, Sir Alfred Knight was the only member of the Post Office Rifles regiment who received the Victoria Cross in recognition of his extraordinary acts of bravery.

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Made up of 12,000 men, 1,500 soldiers perished from the Post Office Rifles regiment during World War One and a further 4,500 were wounded; and in one battle alone near Longueval in 1918, the Post Office Rifles lost 300 men.

Documenting the role of Post Office workers during The Great War

The conflict as witnessed first hand by Sir Alfred Knight as one of the soldiers of the Post Office Rifles regiment has been recalled in the Men Of Letters book written by Duncan Barrett which uses the personal stories, letters and diary entries of ordinary postmen and messenger boys who unexpectedly found themselves in the trenches of the Western Front.

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Researching archives at both the Imperial War Museum as well as the The British Postal Museum & Archive, the book provides some fascinating insights into the lives of those like Sir Alfred Knight who defended their country during the First World War.

As a vivid illustration of why Sergeant Knight was awarded the highest military decoration, it has been documented how his courage at Wurst Farm Ridge during the battle of Ypres led to German soldiers retreating as he captured an enemy gun position.

Immense bravery recognised

As detailed in the Men Of Letters book, a supplement to The London Gazette published on 8th November 1917 announced the award of the Victoria Cross to Sir Alfred Knight:
‘For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty during the operations against the enemy positions. Sgt Knight did extraordinary good work, and showed exceptional bravery and initiative when his platoon was attacking an enemy strong point, and came under fire from an enemy machine gun. He rushed through our own barrage, bayoneted the enemy gunner, and captured the position single-handed. Later, twelve of the enemy with a machine gun were encountered in a shell hole. He again rushed forward by himself, bayoneted two and shot a third, causing the remainder to scatter……His several single-handed actions showed exceptional bravery, and saved a great number of casualties in the company. They were performed under heavy machine gun and rifle hire, and without regard to personal risk, and were the direct cause of the objectives being captured.’

Knight was presented with the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration, at Buckingham Palace on January 3rd, 1918 by King George V. He died aged 72 at his home on the 4th December 1960.

He worked as a Clerical Assistant for the Post Office in the North Midland Engineering District prior to the Great War and Sergeant Knight returned to his career at the Post Office after the Great War and as well as his Victoria Cross, he was also awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal, as well as 1937 and 1953 coronation medals.

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