Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Knight, Albert (1894–1973)

by Bill Gammage

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Albert Knight (1894-1973), soldier and bushman, was born about March 1894 on Toorale station near Louth, New South Wales, son of John Knight and his wife Elizabeth, née Keagan. Albert grew up as an Aboriginal, probably went to school briefly, and then worked on the stations behind Bourke until he joined the Australian Imperial Force on 4 November 1915. He was the second of three brothers to enlist: Bill joined the 10th Battalion in 1914, transferred to the 43rd Battalion in 1916, won a Military Medal and lost an arm at Broodseinde on 4 October 1917, and returned home in 1918; Joe died of illness on 16 February 1917, a month after reaching England as a 13th Battalion reinforcement.

Albert joined the 13th Battalion near Ypres, Belgium, in October 1916, and was slightly wounded in the fierce fighting at 1st Bullecourt on 11 April 1917. He rejoined his battalion shortly afterwards, serving with it until Bill 'claimed' him into the 43rd Battalion in September. He was promoted lance corporal after outstanding service in the Passchendaele fighting, and by this time was a bombing specialist and a noted scout, 'always crawling about No Man's Land, just like a bloody Gurkha'. On the Somme in May 1918 Albert put his foot on a Mills bomb which had fallen fizzing among his mates: it exploded, and he spent two months convalescing before returning to the front in July. He was promoted temporary corporal in August, and on 30 September took part in the attack on Bony village in the Hindenburg line. The attack was stopped by heavy machine-gun and trench-mortar fire, but in broad daylight Knight and a mate advanced over 200 yards (183 m) in the open under heavy fire, located the enemy weapons, and had them destroyed by artillery. He won a Distinguished Conduct Medal, the award second to the Victoria Cross for non-officers. The next day his battalion quit the front for the last time, and in July 1919 Knight returned to Australia.

He went back to bush work around Bourke, probably married, and died at Brewarrina, New South Wales, on 15 October 1973. He was buried in the Roman Catholic section of Bourke cemetery. In 1968 his brother Bill remembered the war as 'alright', and Albert may well have too, for it was one of the few activities in which part-Aboriginals such as they could be accepted as equal to white men.

Select Bibliography

  • E. J. Colliver and B. H. Richardson, The Forty-Third (Adel, 1920)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F in France, 1917 (Syd, 1933)
  • London Gazette, 3 June 1919, supplement
  • Bourke and District Historical Society, 5 (1975)
  • private information.

Citation details

Bill Gammage, 'Knight, Albert (1894–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 30 April 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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