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© Barns Green - A Local History of The Great War 2014
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John Knight (1886-1918) - Pte 18432 2 nd  Bn Coldstream Guards John   Knight,   brother   of   Percy   Knight   Dennett   and   cousin   to   William   Dennett,   married   Kitty   Beard   on   24 th    December   1911   at   St   Nicolas Church   Itchingfield.   Kitty   had   come   to   Barns   Green   to   work   as   a   children’s   nurse   for   Colonel   Melville   who   had   moved   to   Willowbank   in Itchingfield in about 1908. John   and   Kitty   had   three   children,   James   Edward   (b   1912);   Dorothy   (b   1914)   and   Annie   (b   1916)   and   both   James   and   Dorothy   were baptised in St Nicholas Church. John   worked   around   the   local   area   as   a   gardener   or   general   labourer   and    enlisted   in   Horsham   on   19 th    November   1915.   He   was   mobilised and   posted   to   the   5 th    Battalion   Coldstream   Guards   in   June   1916   and   then   transferred   to   the   2 nd    Bn   and   posted   to   France   on   the   5 th   January 1917. At   this   time   the   Battalion   was   on   the   Somme   near   Albert   but   were   only   actually   in   the   trenches   for   two   short   spells   between   15 th    and 26 th    February.   At   the   end   of   the   month   however   they   were   to   be   redeployed   to   trenches   south   of   Ancre   and   here,   at   Bronfay   Farm   and at   Pregicourt,   they   were   to   experience   more   intensive   action.   Between   the   12 th    and   16 th    of   March   the   Battalion   saw   8   OR   killed   and   23 wounded.   Although   not   high   casualty   rates   for   service   on   the   Somme,   the   close   proximity   to   such   death   and   injury   must   have   had   a powerful effect on all who were there. In   March   1917   John   was   hospitalised   with   trench   fever,   a   feverish   illness   with   a   range   of   symptoms,   treatment   for   which   was   limited   to basic   nursing   and   time.   It   appears   that   his   recovery   was   at   best   slow   and   on   the   26 th    May   he   was   transferred   back   to   the   5 th    Battalion and   home.      He   spent   time   in   convalescent   hospitals   in   Manchester   and   Blackburn   and   on   September   14 th    1917   was   sent   home   pending his   discharge.   At   this   point   “home”   was   in   Gloucestershire   where   his   wife   and   children   had   moved   to   live   with   her   parents   whilst   John was serving in the army. It   is   likely   however   that   the   effects   of   his   time   in   the   trenches   may   have   been   more   far-reaching   than   just   trench   fever   as   his   discharge papers   also   state   that   he   was   “congenitally   mentally   deficient”.   No   earlier   records   make   any   mention   of   this.   His   school   records   and earlier   army   records   give   no   indication   of   this,   the   latter   documenting   his   conduct   as   “good”   and   describing   him   as   “a   hardworking   man”, which   suggests   that   this   condition   was   brought   on   by   his   time   in   the   trenches   –   shell   shock   in   WW1   parlance;   post-traumatic   stress   as   it is better known today. John   was   formally   discharged   from   the   Army   on   the   2 nd    October   1917   but   by   this   time   he   had   been   certified   insane   by   his   local   doctor (Dr   Pinching)   and   committed   to   the   County   Asylum,   Gloucester.   He   was   granted   the   Silver   War   Badge   and   again   the   “reason   for   award” is given as “Mentally Defective”. He   was   discharged   from   the   asylum   on   a   month’s   trial   basis   in   January   1918   and   subsequently   released   as   fit   for   work   on   the   23 rd   February.   On   3 rd    March   1918   however   he   was   found   dead   in   a   disused   well.   At   his   inquest   the   jury   returned   a   verdict   of   “suicide   while temporarily   insane”   and   they   asked   the   coroner   to   add   a   rider   to   the   verdict   expressing   their   strong   disapproval   of   the   military authorities   for   discharging   him   from   the   army   in   such   a   state   -   adding   that   it   was   scandalous   and   disgraceful   that   such   a   thing   should   be permitted. Although   John   was   awarded   the   Victory   and   British   War   Medals   for   his   service,   to   date   no   formal   memorial   marks   his   grave   in   the churchyard of St Andrew’s Church in Whitminster in Gloucestershire. Parts   of   John’s   service   and   pensions   records   survive   and   can   be   found   online   on   both   Ancestry   or   Findmypast    or   on   microfilm   at   the National Archives in Kew.
The Fallen