Private Harry F. KNOWLES

Sherwood Foresters
(Notts and Derby Regiment)
15th (Nottingham) Battalion
Service Number:
Date of Death:
30 September 1918 - Killed in Action
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 101

Personal History:
Harry was born in the September quarter 1895 in Kendal, Cumberland, the son of Isaac (Lime Burner) and Emily Louisa (née Fiander) Knowles. In 1900 the family moved to Buxton and were living at 73 Harpur Hill (1901 Census RG 13/3271). Harry had four older brothers and sisters, Amos T., John J., George W. and Sarah J., and two younger, Isaac H. and Oliver.

By 1911 (Census RG 14/21243) the family had moved to 15 Torr Street, Buxton, and another brother, Maurice Arthur had been born. The CWGC records show that the family later moved to 149 Heaton Street, Denton, Manchester. 

Military History:
According to the SDGW database, Harry enlisted at Buxton, but unfortunately, his Service papers have been destroyed during a Second World War bombing raid. His Medal Index Card also gives no indication when he entered the War, which tends to mean, as he did not qualify for the 1914-15 Star, was after December 1915 - see below. However, his Service Number would suggest that Harry enlisted at the end of September or very early in October 1914.

Harry's 15th (Service) Battalion was formed at Nottingham in February 1915, by the Mayor and a Committee, as a Bantam Battalion. In June 1915 they moved to Masham and were attached to 105th Brigade in 35th Division. In August 1915 they moved again to Salisbury Plain and on the 1st February 1916 landed in France.

The 15th (Bantam) Battalion, was made up initially of men who although fit were below the normal minimum service height of 5' 3" (1.6 m). They moved to France with the 35th (Bantam) Division in 1916 and fought with great distinction and heavy casualties throughout the 1916 battles on the Somme. However at the end of 1916, the problems of finding 'bantam' reinforcements in sufficient numbers became too difficult; so the 15th was redesignated a normal 'service' battalion and fought as such until the end of the War.

In August 1917 the War Diary reported that much of the Battalion's time was spent at camp in the early part of this month, in training and preparation for an attack planned to knock out a dangerous position in the German lines, called "The Knoll", near Gillemont Farm, east of Lempire on the Somme. (Another Buxton man, L/Cpl. William BRINDLEY, was killed in action during this Battle, on the 19th August 1917) Later in the year Harry's 35th Division was in action during The Second Battle of Passchendaele, 26th October - 10th November.

On the 21st March 1918 the Germans launched the largest offensive of the War, on the Somme front. Known as the Kaiserschlacht, it was designed to destroy the over-stretched British Fifth Army, split the British and French Armies apart and then “roll up” the British forces from the south. The overwhelming attack caused initial chaos and loss, breaking deep into the area south of the Somme held by the Fifth Army (including the ground occupied by the 35th Division in early 1917).

The 15th Battalion War Diary, however, shows little activity until September, when a major attack took place on the 29th - 30th. Harry, however, was killed two weeks earlier in ".. a minor operation with 104 Brigade on the left" which was a "Complete success". The War Diary for the action reads:

"8th: Relieved and moved to Lawrence Camp.
12th: Relieved the 17th Royal Scots in the Canal sector. Carried out intense patrolling.
15th: Brigade carried out a minor operation with 104 Bde on the left. Complete success. Outpost line advanced 1000 yards. Included the capture and consolidation of Spoil Bank and Road Junction by this Battalion. Took 7 prisoners. Remained in front line until 19th."

Two other men of Harry's Battalion died on the same day, Pt. Albert Oldham (killed) and Pt. Matthew Hiram Vardy, who died of wounds. Harry's body was lost and he is now commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

· "History of the 35th Division in the Great War" Lt. Col. H. M. Davson (ISBN-10: 184734304X) (Re-published: Naval & Military Press Ltd (2006)

Commemorated on:
Link to CWGC Record
The Tyne Cott Memorial
Harry's name on the Memorial