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Soldiers in the Victorian Era

This article is about the lives of men who lived in Wickhamford at some point in their lives and who enlisted as soldiers in the Victorian period.

William Knight

Family background

William Knight (senior) married Eliza Crane in Wickhamford church on 16th August 1868 and, soon afterwards, Eliza gave birth to a son.   He was baptised in the same church on 25th October and named after his father, William.   At the 1871 census the Knight family, now with another young son, George, were living in an old cottage near Wickhamford Manor.  William senior was a farm labourer and Eliza was a gloveress.  George Knight was baptised in Badsey Church on 3rd March 1870 and another son, Charles Ernest, was baptised in Wickhamford on 4th February 1872.  By 1881 the Knights had moved to Badsey and had five children – Sarah (bapt. Badsey, 7th June 1874) and Thomas Henry (b. 9th December 1878).

Army service

William Knight junior enlisted in the Rifle Brigade at Worcester on 14th November 1884, claiming an age of 18 years and two months, although he was still only just sixteen.  He was sent to Winchester for his Attestation on the 17th and became a Private (No 7321) in the Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort’s Own).   He gave his occupation as gardener and other records give his father as William Knight of Badsey.  His Army record gave his description – 5ft 4¾ in. tall, weighing 123 lb and with a chest measurement of 33 in.  His complexion was ‘fresh’, his eyes hazel and hair light brown.  It was also noted that he had a group of moles between his shoulder blades.  It is disconcerting that these details were recorded in case his body needed identification at some stage.

William Knight enlisted for 12 years and joined the 3rd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade.  The Army records show where he was posted.  He served in the U.K from 14th November 1884 until 20th February 1885 (99 days) and landed at Gibraltar on the 21st February – presumably his ‘Home’ posting continued aboard ship.   He remained on the Rock or travelling back to England until 10th June 1886 (1 year, 110 days).  His next period of Home posting was officially from 11th June 1886 until 18th October 1887 (130 days) when he arrived in Egypt.  This posting was from 19th October 1887 until 1st August 1888 (287 days) when he disembarked in South Africa.  He was to spend from 2nd August 1888 until 1st February 1889 (287 days) there and in transit to his next posting in India.  He stayed in India from 2nd February 1889 until arriving back in England on 21st February 1892 (3 years, 20 days).   The only record found of where the Battalion was based in India gives the location in Knight’s time there as Jullunder (1889-1892).

William Knight was awarded a Good Conduct badge on 21st January 1891, whilst in India.  He never left the U.K. again, serving out his time from 22nd February 1892 until being discharged on 13th November 1896 (4 years, 265 days).  Once in England he was transferred to the Army Reserve on 1st March 1892.  Thus his service period came to exactly 12 years and he had seen many parts of the world that few from Wickhamford would see until the Great War.   The only other snippet of information on his Army record sheets is mention of his level of education, noted on 7th January 1885.  He was recorded as having a Certificate of Education 4th Class.