Oldham Historical Research Group


Driver Fred and Private Harry Knott
Driver Fred Knott, 134057, Royal Field Artillery
Private Harry Knott, 376510 (3291) 1/10th Battalion Manchester Regiment

It's always interesting (and often a challenge!) when the name of a fallen soldier and the bare facts of his death are sent, to try and find a little more of his story to make him more 'real', as happened when I received the following email ...

"I recently came across details of your project to commemorate people from the Oldham area who were involved in the First World War and have something that might be of interest to you.
The couple in the photograph are Fred and Ethel Knott who were married in January 1918 when Fred was serving with The Royal Field Artillery on the Western Front (one of their daughters is Jean Bennett who is my Mother-in-Law and who now lives with my wife and I in Somerset)

Fred was wounded in the War and only survived because he was protected between two horses he was attending when a shell burst nearby killing both animals but leaving him wounded.

Medal Index Card: Driver Fred Knott
Medal Index Card:
Driver Fred Knott

My wife Carla and I have done quite a bit of research on both of our families and one result of that research was to discover that Fred Knott, Jean's father, had a brother called Harry. Harry was two years older than Fred and both had worked in the same Oldham cotton mill doing the same job before the War yet he had never talked about him to the extent that Jean had no idea of his existence.

Medal index card - Harry Knott, Manchester Regiment
Medal index card:
Private Harry Knott,
1/10 Manchester Regiment
Grave of Harry Knott at Le Quesnoy
Grave of Harry Knott
at Le Quesnoy

We were able to find Harry's grave at Le Quesnoy in France. Harry was killed only four days before the War ended. Fred was never able to talk about it to his daughter. .

You may assume from my surname that I also have Oldham connections. I do but I was completely ignorant of that fact until I started my ancestry research. I barely knew where Oldham was before I met and married an Oldham girl. I'm a direct descendant of the Clarksfield mill owning Lees family. My Great Great Grandfather Francis Edward Lees was born in the Moravian settlement founded by his Grandfather. The fact that my wife's ancestors were mill workers and mine mill owners from the same town is a co-incidence that we both found unbelievable but true it is!"
Contributed by Paul Lees

My interest was caught straight away ... Harry died only hours before the Armistice and he was in the Oldham Territorials, the 1/10th Manchesters.

In 1911, 18 year old Harry and his 16 year old brother Fred were living at 64 Wellington Street in Chadderton. With them, on the census, were their parents, Joseph and Lois and two younger siblings, Frank age 14 and Florence age 11. Both Harry and Fred were recorded as 'cotton mule piecers' and their father Joseph, age 53, was a labourer in an iron foundry. In early January 1918 Fred married Ethel M. Reeves. They would have three daughters, Vera, Irene and Jean. The family, except for Vera, is shown on the 1939 Register, living on Garforth Street in Chadderton.

We know a little about Fred's army career as some pages of his Military Service Record ('Burnt Records' WO 363 at the N.A.) survive. Fred first enlisted in the Territorial Force on the 2nd of June 1913, signing up for 4 years with the 6th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, with which he served on home soil until March 1916. In March 1916 he was released from the Lancashire Fusiliers (under the Military Service Act) and was enlisted into the Royal Field Artillery, as a driver. His surviving documents show little of where he was posted during the next 3 years, except that he was demobilized in 1919. His medals were the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.

When we come to Harry, there don't appear to be any surviving pages from his Military Service record however, from his other records, we know that he was in the 1/10th Manchesters, the Oldham Territorial Battalion but, with no obvious surviving document, we cannot tell when he enlisted. His medal index card records 2 numbers, indicating that he was with the Battalion before April 1917 (when they were all re-numbered). However, we do know, that he did not see service overseas until after December 1915, as he did not qualify for the 1915 Star. I think we can probably assume that he would have gone out to join the Battalion sometime in 1916 and we have three sources of information to draw on for this period. (i) The Battalion War Diaries; (ii) 'Amateur Soldiers - A History of Oldham's Volunteers and Territorials from 1858 to 1939 ' by K.W. Mitchinson; and (iii) 'Oldham Terriers - Their Part in the War' by Sgt. Maurice Bradbury, M.M., 1/10th Battalion, The Manchesters, which are transcriptions of a series of articles published in the Oldham 'Standard' in Spring 1919. (These can be read on this website HERE)

Briefly, the 10th had been decimated during the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915 and, after the December evacuation of all the troops, the 10th were sent to Egypt in mid-January. There, they were re-organised and issued with new kit and, over the next few months, the Battalion received several drafts to bring the Battalion numbers back to a viable strength. Assuming that Harry went out to join his Battalion sometime in early 1916 he could very well have been involved in any of the engagements from this time forward. 1916 was largely spent in this area ... daytime temperatures in the desert soared; water was frequently almost unobtainable; sunstroke was an ever-present threat; conditions were horrific. January 1917 saw the Battalion still in the desert, in miserable conditions, near El Arish. In early March 1917, the 10th Battalion embarked on the 'Huntspill' and disembarked a few days later at Marseilles. From there, they were straight onto a train, shivering and wet, en route for northern France and the Western Front near Amiens ... a pretty grim prospect from any point of view. It was here that the whole of the Territorial Force were re-numbered and given new identity discs. By May they were in the front line, in front of St. Quentin. Over the months they were in and out of the front line, alternating fighting and defence with short periods of rest and training. In the last 18 months of war the Battalion found itself in many places where the fighting was most bitter... with the accompanying toll of lives lost. 170 men of the 10th are recorded as killed in France before the end of December 1917. Another 141 would die before the 1st of November 1918 where we can pick up the War Diaries to see the last few days of Harry's life:

1/10th Manchester Regt. War Diary (transcript)
2_2 - 137

1st November
Battalion Training company in the attack with and without barrage.

2nd November
Range practice. Received warning order prepare to move to SOLESMES night of 3/4th Nov.

3rd November
Battalion prepared to move. Received orders that division would attack through N.Z. Division about 5th or 6th Inst. Final objective to be just EAST of FORET DE MORMAL. Battalion marched out of billets in BEAUVOIS at 19:20 arriving at 2400.

4th November
Battalion moved at mid-day to BEAUDIGNIES arriving there at 1600.

5th November
Battalion moved from BEAUDIGNIES at 0900 and marched to HERBIGNIES arriving at 13:30. At 15:15 Battalion moved to FORESTER's HOUSE to take over the right support Battalion position (1st Otago).
The 5th EL Rgt. in the front line on the right, the 8th MANCHESTERS in the front line on the left. Great difficulty was experienced owing to several mine craters in the road.
The men having to carry their guns over 6,000 yards. the day was very wet. Relief was completed at 0200. Position of Companies as follows:-
'D' Coy. 027a, 'C' Coy.027b; 'B' Coy. 033b, 'A' Coy. 025c.
Owing to the dark, mud and rain it took Companies over 212 hours to get into position from FORESTER's HOUSE.

2_2 -138
6th November
Rations could not be got up to the Companies 'till 0900.
As the situation on the right was not clear 'A' Coy. was moved to PETIT-BAVAY. There they were able to get into cellars.
At mid-day 'B' Coy. was sent up to 028a to make a defensive left flank.
In moving up they had 1 officer (Lt. G. THORLEY) and 16 OR casualties.
[My note: Harry was most probably one of those wounded]
The enemy shelling was heavy all day. The day was very wet.

7th November
At 2400 on 6th inst. verbal orders received that the Battalion in conjunction with 8th Manchesters would attack on the morning of the 7th.
Objective given road 023d.67 . 029b.57.
The Battalion came concentrated on the BROWN LINE, the road immediately EAST of MORMAL FOREST with Battalion HQ at at CORBEAUX FARM.
Great difficulty was experienced by the Companies in getting into position owing to the darkness and wet. At 06:50 Zero hour, which was to have been at 0700 was put off until 8:45. Companies attacked as follows:
'C' Coy. on right; 'B' Coy. on the left,
'A' Coy. in support of 'C'., 'D' Coy. in support of 'B'.
The objective was gained without opposition.
Patrols were immediately sent forward by 'C' Coy. who gained the high ground in (sheet 51) P25a. One patrol going to MESNIL cleared that village in conjunction with 'B' Coy., driving back the enemy to the EAST end of the village.
At 1200 the battalion was disposed as follows:-
NORTH & SOUTH Grid line through 19 & 25 Central - 'B' Coy. on left holding the outskirts of the village. 'C' Coy. on the right.
'A' &' D' Coys. near HOISIERES FARM in reserve. Batallion HQ at the Farm.
At 1700 'D' Coy. was moved up to MESNIL to form a defensive left flank as the 62nd Division had not come on further than HARGNIES.
Heavy shelling of MESNIL all day and night.

2_2 - 139
8th November
At 0400 orders were received to continue the advance with the 5th E.L. Regt. on the right, on HAUTMONT.
'D' & 'C' Coys. pushed out patrols at 05:30 to edge of BOIS de HAUTMONT.
'A' Coy. advanced through 'C' Coy. & joined 'D' Coy. on edge of wood.
'C' Coy's patrol under Cpl. LANE had pushed forward & entered HAUTMONT at 07:30.
Vanguard of 'A' & 'D' Coys. entered the town at 10:12. Main body at 1100
The vanguard was under Lieut. STREAT.
Patrols were immediately pushed forward to the River SAMBRE.
A footbridge was constructed by Captain J.A.C. TAYLOR, D.S.O., M.C. and the leading platoon crossed over at 11:30.
Patrols were immediately sent forward & these successfully drove the enemy rearguard to the eastern edge of the village.
'A' & 'B' Coys. followed the patrols & took up positions as follows:
P30a.1.6. P24c.0.7 - P23b.2.3
The 5th E.L. Rgt. coming up later on the Right.
the division on the left had not then reached the Railway.
'B' Coy. were moved up from MESNIL & made the defensive left flank on the WEST bank of the river, facing NORTH. 'C' Coy. were also moved up from MESNIL.
The enemy rearguard were now occupying a line 200 yds. in advance of our line.
Artillery fire was brought to bear on them & this with Lewis Gun Fire from loopholes in attics forced them to retire to the N & S Frid line between P24 and Q19.
At 1500 enemy shelled SOUTH of town intensively keeping up their fire for several hours. The Square and TAYLOR'S BRIDGE were also heavily shelled.
The enemy had a battery firing from Q20. Artillery was put on to this. At 1600 orders were received that 125 Inf. Bde. would take over the front line.
This was completed at 04:30 on the 9th inst.

2_2 - 140
8th November continued
On the Battalion relieving the town great enthusiasm was displayed by the inhabitants. they greatly assisted in building of the bridge. The leading patrols were received by the MAIRE and the English prisoners who had been in German hands.
Very great assistance was rendered by the inhabitants in giving positions of enemy machine guns, in this they displayed great bravery.
Later in the day unfortunately many became casualities through hostile shelling.
A 4.5 Howitzer and one 77mm and numerous limbers, 1 motor lorry & one tractor were captured by the Battalion.
Cpl. LANE, 'B Coy'. did valuable work in leading forward the patrol of 'C' Coy. mentioned above.
The Signal communication mainly visual was exceptionally well organised by Lieut. SCHOFIELD.
The advance of the Battalion was extraordinarily rapid, the ground being sodden with rain & the men having been exposed to the worst conditions for three days.
The Battalion was visited by the Brigadier at 11:30 in HAUTMONT.

9th November, 06:30
The whole Battalion was in billets on the WEST SIDE of the TOWN.
Every assistance was given by the inhabitants in making the men comfortable and preparing hot food.
At 10:00 the Battalion was visited by the Divisional Commander who expressed to the C.O. his appreciation of the endurance & the work the Battalion had performed in its rapid advance.

10th November
Battalion resting and clearing up.

2_2 - 141
11th November
At 09:00 Orders received that hostilities would cease at 11:00

12th November

13th November
Memorial Service for prisoners of Allied Armies who died in HAUTMONT.

14th November

15th November
Rehearsal in square of ceremony to be held on 16th
Capt. J.A.C. TAYLOR, DSO., MC, will act as 2nd in Command.
Capt. F. MERCER put in command of 'A' Coy.

16th November
Whole Battalion & representatives of all units of the Division formed up in the square. Lt. Col. W.R. PEEL, D.S.O., presented the 4.5 Howitzer & 77 mm captured by the Battalion on the 8th inst. to the MAIRE & CITIZENS of HAUTMONT.
The Maire responded with an address. The Battalion then marching past the Div. Commander & the MAIRE.
Copies of the speeches etc., attached.
In the evening the Maire presented a bouquet to the Battalion.

Officers in action from the 5th to the 9th.
Lieut. Col. WR Peel, DSO.
Capt. F. Howarth, MC.
Lieut. J [?], Jupp [?]
Lieut. Matthews, USA
A Coy.
Capt. J.A.C. Taylor, DSO., MC
Lieut. ER Streat
2/Lieut M Gentle
B Coy.
Lieut WD Shaw, MC, (Killed)
Lieut. G. Thorley (Killed)
2/Lieut. WL Griffiths
2/Lieut. SG Maltby [?]
C Coy.
Capt. P. Stott
Capt. F. Mercer
2/Lieut. GW Simister
2/Lieut. CW Webster
D Coy.
Capt. A Butterworth, MC.
Lieut. GOM Harry
Lieut. GC Frippe, MC.
2/Lieut.GW Matthews

(National Archives)

Finally, and unusually, a private gets a mention by name instead of just being an 'OR' ... in an extract from his book, Mitchinson writes:

" ... Other Battalions crossed by way of 'Taylor's Bridge', followed closely by cavalry and cyclists who pursued the Germans into Maubeuge. For the 10th the Battle, and indeed the war, was over. This final Battle had cost the Battalion a total of 15 dead or mortally wounded. Not a huge total in view of the novelty of urban street fighting but perhaps the more tragic because the armistice was only four days away. Gordon Thorley of Newton heath and Harry Knott of Chadderton died of their wounds in Casualty Clearing Stations a few miles to the rear..."
'Amateur Soldiers - A History of Oldham's volunteers and Territorials from 1858 to 1939 ' by K.W. Mitchinson.



Sheila Goodyear

Read: more about the Oldham Territorials, 1/10 Battalion, Manchester Regiment, on this website, in
'Oldham Terriers - Their Part in the War'
by Sergeant Maurice Bradbury, M.M.
Transcriptions of the series of articles published in the 'Oldham Standard' in Spring 1919.
'Amateur Soldiers - A History of Oldham's Volunteers and Territorials 1859 - 1938'
by K.W. Mitchinson (See 'More Reading Page' for details)

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