Southwater War Memorial
Frank Henry KNIGHT
1380457 Sergeant (Wireless Operator/Gunner No 51 "York" squadron, 4 Group Air Force Volunteer Reserve
4th April 1943|
Hills Cemetery, Horsham ||
Frank Henry Knight was born in Horsham on 4th April, 1912, one of eight children of Edward James Knight and his wife, who lived at 2, Magpie Cottage, Sedgwick Lane, Horsham.
On 14th January, 1905, Edward had married Ellen Eliza Burchell at Nuthurst Parish Church.
At least three of Frank's brothers are known to have served in the armed forces during the Second World War.
After attending Oxford Road School in Horsham Frank took up the occupation of domestic gardener and before the war worked for the Reverend Lubin S. Creasy at Southwater vicarage. As a sportsman he was a keen golfer and a member of Mannings Heath Artisans Golf Club, where he was awarded a number of trophies. Prior to joining the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1941, he served as a member of the Mannings Heath Home Guard.
Frank Knight was accepted for aircrew duties and trained as a wireless operator/gunner, before being posted, with the rank of sergeant to an operational unit, No 51 Squadron, which in 1943 was based at Snaith, Yorkshire.
The squadron had been disbanded on 13th June 1919, and re-formed on 15th March 1937, at Boscombe Down, where it was equipped with Avro Anson Mkt aircraft. In the same year it received Whitley B.1 & B.4 Bombers and was located at Linton-on-Ouse. By 1939 the squadron was operating from Driffield, Yorkshire, with Whitley B5 aircraft.
The squadron carried out leaflet raids over Germany in the early part of the war and later, in conjunction with No 58 Squadron, it took part in the first Bomber Command raid over Germany. In 1941 it was equipped with the Hadley Page Halifax B.1. Stationed initially at Dishforth, Yorkshire, in 1943 the squadron was moved yet again during the same year, this time to Snaith flying the upgraded Halifax B.2/1a.
On the evening of Saturday, 3rd April, 1943, a Halifax B2/1a, Serial No DT666 with a squadron coding of MH-T, took off from Snaith airfield on an operation to bomb the city of Essen in the German industrial centre of the Ruhr. On board was a crew of seven sergeants, C.E. Pheloung RNZAF, (pilot) B.W. Kemp, W.R. McKenzie, D.G.Fakely, F.H. Knight, J.J. Merritt and B. Williams, RNZAF.
The bombing of Essen was carried out by 225 Lancasters, 113 Halifaxes and 10 Mosquitoes, a total of 348 aircraft. There was widespread destruction in the centre and west of the city, 635 buildings destroyed and a further 526 seriously damaged. 118 people were killed, including 10 Flak gunners and 16 French workers; the rest were German civilians. During the successful raid 12 Halifaxes and 9 Lancaster bombers were lost plus two further Halifaxes that crashed in England one of which was MHT.
"On return to base, and while in the airfeld circuit, a fire developed and the Halifax crashed 0025 at Shortland's Farm, Carlton, 7 miles SSE of Selby, Yorkshire, where Sgt Pheloung RNZAF is buried."
Sergeants Kemp, Mckenzie, Fakely and Williams were all injured and survived the crash, the remainder of the crew perished. Thirty-one year old 1380457, Sergeant Frank Henry Knight had been killed on his birthday. The body of the Horsham airman was returned to his home town and, after a funeral with full military honours, he was laid to rest on Thursday, 8th April, 1943, in Block U, Grave 314 at Horsham (Hills) Cemetery. The name of F.H. Knight is among those who gave their lives during the Second World War and are commemorated on the Horsham War Memorial located in the town centre.
Thanks to Gary Cooper "Horsham Heroes of World War II
Hills Cemetery, Horsham