Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Knox, Horace Everard Arnold (1918–1994)

by Stuart Braga

This article was published online in 2018

Horace Everard Arnold Knox (1918–1994), airman and farmer, was born on 2 September 1918 at Bundaberg, Queensland, second son of ten children of Irish-born David James Knox, Church of England clergyman, and his Queensland-born wife Doris Emily Broughton, née Young. He was named after Horace Young, his maternal grandfather; Everard Digges La Touche, a charismatic Church of England clergyman whom David admired and who had perished at Gallipoli; and Arnold Young, Doris’s brother, who was killed at Passchendaele, Belgium, six months before Horace’s birth.

The family moved from South Australia to New South Wales in 1922 when David was appointed to parishes at Wollongong and later Chatswood. Horace was educated at Barker College, Hornsby, and left in 1935 with an Intermediate certificate. Standing five feet four inches (163 cm) tall and sturdily built, he became a jackeroo at Kyogle. On 3 February 1941 Knox enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as aircrew. After training as an air gunner, he was promoted to sergeant in July and embarked for Britain in August. Promoted to flight sergeant in January 1942, on 9 May he was posted to No. 460 squadron, Bomber Command, based at Breighton, Yorkshire. There he volunteered as a rear gunner—a function requiring constant alertness and a position in the aircraft noted for cramped conditions, loneliness, and danger.

Between May 1942 and January 1943 Knox undertook his first operational tour, comprising twenty-five sorties in Wellington and Lancaster bombers. He was promoted to temporary warrant officer on 25 January. In a letter to his father he laconically described his role: ‘Well there’s nothing much in it actually. Whether you do your job and return home really depends on the ratio of your skill and the enemy gunner’s skill’ (Cameron 2006, 77). On one occasion he was outbound on a mission to bomb Turin, Italy, flying at about twelve thousand feet (3,600 m), when his turret became unserviceable. Despite technical difficulties, he was able to repair it and render it operational again. On 12 March he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for ‘consistent skill and courage...and devotion to duty’ (London Gazette 1943, 1189).

Knox’s second operational tour lasted from September 1943 to November 1944.  His ability as an air gunner was recognised by the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross on 18 August for ‘efficiency and courage...vigilant search for enemy aircraft and by his coolness in times of stress’ (London Gazette 1944, 3828). At year’s end, having flown over three hundred operational hours, he was assigned to instructional duties. Returning to Australia in March 1945, he transferred to the RAAF Reserve on 30 November.

Knox became a dairy farmer at Moss Vale, New South Wales. On 9 March 1957 at St Andrew’s Church, Wahroonga, with his father officiating, he married Christina Emmeline Mocatta, a nursing sister. In 1961, under Western Australia’s War Service Land Settlement Scheme, he secured a bush block of 3,000 acres (1,214 ha) at Scaddan near Esperance, and later acquired a further 2,500 acres (1,012 ha) nearby. He bred merino sheep, sowed crops, and developed a successful egg and poultry business. With a passion for the land, he was an avid environmentalist. However, in the late 1970s Knox had a nervous breakdown that possibly resulted from post-traumatic stress. It led to the failure of his marriage and the sale of his property. Following hospitalisation in Perth, he worked at a remote grazing property on the Nullarbor Plain. A calm, quiet countryman, he moved to Byng, near Orange, New South Wales, to live with relatives. Survived by his two sons and one daughter, he died on 16 December 1994 at Orange and was cremated. 

Research edited by Brian Wimborne

Select Bibliography

  • Braga, Stuart. All His Benefits: The Young and Deck Families in Australia. Sydney: Stuart Braga, 2013 Cameron, Marcia Helen. An Enigmatic Life: David Broughton Knox: Father of Contemporary Sydney Anglicanism. Brunswick East, Vic.: Acorn Press, 2006
  • Firkins, Peter. Strike and Return: The Story of the Exploits of No. 460 R.A.A.F. Heavy Bomber Squadron R.A.F. Bomber Command in the World War. Perth: Westward Ho, 1985
  • London Gazette. 12 March 1943, 1189
  • London Gazette. 18 August 1944, 3828
  • Maton, Michael. The Distinguished Flying Cross to Australians. St Ives, NSW: Michael Maton, 2000
  • Morcombe, Jennifer (Knox’s daughter). Personal communication
  • National Archives of Australia. A9301, 405223
  • National Archives of Australia. AWM65/3059, Knox, Horace Everard Arnold

Additional Resources

Citation details

Stuart Braga, 'Knox, Horace Everard Arnold (1918–1994)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/knox-horace-everard-arnold-22406/text32137, published online 2018, accessed online 23 October 2019.

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