Lieutenant John Knox

 

 

John Knox was born on 22 December 1886 at Kilrea, County Londonderry, the second of ten children of blacksmith Alexander Knox and his wife Margaret (formerly McKay). He was educated at Kilrea National School and Hughes Academy, Londonderry. When the war began in August 1914 he was working at the Belfast GPO as a postal clerk and telegraphist.

Knox had enlisted in the North of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry on 6 March 1907. On 6 July the following year at Newbridge the regiment was disbanded and re-formed as the North Irish Horse. Knox was one of those who transferred to the new regiment – he was assigned No.138 on the North Irish Horse roll.

In April 1909 he attended a signalling course at Bulford School of Signalling in England. He was promoted to corporal on 1 April 1909, sergeant on 7 May 1911 and squadron quartermaster sergeant on 9 November 1912. Given his training and civilian employment, Knox was probably involved in the following incident described by North Irish Horseman C.D. Trimble:

It was at a camp at Newbridge that one signal sergeant came into the Mess one night grinning broadly – his signallers had been enjoying themselves, and he explained just how. They were being examined at sending messages in Morse by lamp, by Signaller instructors from the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, and were using the oil-lamp which was the regulation signal lamp of the time. This had a heavy bulls-eye glass and a clumsy noisy shutter behind it which clacked like a duck.

The instructors divided the party into two, one sending and the other reading across 200 yards or so and gave the sender parties the messages, made up of groups of "block letters." These are much more difficult to read than words which can often be guessed from the context. But the N.I.H. signallers hammered the letters out at such a rate that all the amazed instructors could see was a madly blinking glimmer of light from the lamp.

"Too fast", they objected. "No one could read that. Go slower". But the Horsemen kept on and to the amazement of the examiners the readers at the other end turned in a perfect take. The remainder of the signallers kept it up and the instructors could do no less than give them an "excellent." How were they to know that they were examining a party of the best telegraphists in Ulster Post Offices, to whom the clack of the lamps coming across the few hundred yards on the clear night air, was much more legible than the click of the needle on the telegraph instruments then in use in the Post Office.

At the end of December 1914 while training at Antrim Knox was disciplined for "neglect of duty whilst Orderly Sergeant Major". He escaped with a reprimand. On 25 March 1915 he was promoted to squadron sergeant major and warrant officer class 2.

Knox embarked for France on 11 January 1916 with E Squadron of the North Irish Horse. On 7 December that year he applied for a commission, his commanding officer Lord Cole writing:

He has been S.S. Major since March 1915 & given every satisfaction. He is well educated & can command men.

Knox left France later that month and after a short leave reported for duty at the No.1 Cavalry Cadet Squadron at Netheravon on 22 February 1917. He was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant on 29 June and posted to the 1st Reserve Cavalry Regiment at the Curragh.

At about this time he was awarded a Special Reserve Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

At the end of 1917 Knox was posted to the 1/1st City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders). He embarked for Egypt on 10 December, joining his regiment in the field on 7 January 1918. Knox was sent on a signalling course at the Zeitoun School of Instruction in Cairo on 16 February, but on 8 April was recalled to his unit. The 1/1st City of London Yeomanry and the 1/3rd County of London Yeomanry had been ordered to dismount and re-form as E Battalion, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) – the officer and men (including Knox) compulsorily transferred to the new regiment.

The regiment (later re-named the 103rd Battalion, Machine Gun Corps), landed at Marseilles on 1 June and from there moved to Etaples. It saw much action with the First Army during the Advance to Victory Offensive from August 1918.

Knox served with the regiment for the remainder of the war. He was promoted to lieutenant on 29 December 1918. He returned to the UK for demobilisation on 10 April 1919 and relinquished his commission on 1 September 1921.

 

Lieutenant Knox's younger brother, James Houston Knox was killed at Langemarck on 16 August 1917 while serving with the 9th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

 

 

The images show Knox in late November 1914 and mid-1912. The full pictures can be seen here and here.