…my dear friend, Authoress, Joy Lennick, was approached by Graham Knight, the grandson of a remarkable man, Fred Knight, with the request to adapt his grandfather’s autobiography, FROM THE PRAIRIE TO PASSCHENDAELE… and what a life story it is… but let Joy tell yeez…
I recently “adapted” the autobiography of a worthy man: Frederick Alfred Knight (Fred), born in the late 1800s to a family of twelve children in Kent, UK. Those were “the good old days”…and Fred left school at fourteen to be apprenticed to a cobbler. Hearing of an opening in Canada, he dreamed of being a cowboy, borrowed the fare and sailed there alone, aged seventeen. Instead, the hard role of a farmer greeted him and he quickly became a man!
Despite the arduous work and severe highs and lows of temperatures in summer and winter, he took to the wide open prairies and simple life, until World War I broke out and rearranged his future. Bravely fighting in the much lauded 10th Canadian Military Unit in several battles, including the one at Passchendaele, he nearly died and eventually lost his right arm from wounds received then. Fred Knight was awarded the Military Medal for bravery, but at such a high price!
EXCERPTS: “FROM THE PRAIRIE TO PASSCHENDAELE”
Born in the late 1800’s: one of twelve children, Fred Knight’s story is of one man’s fight against the odds.
Where Fred lived… “ A lot went on in my home village of Elham in those early days. …Ale was brewed in an old building behind The King’s Arms and The Rose and Crown public houses for the ever thirsty men; flax was grown locally, which was made into string and rope of all thicknesses, and we had a blacksmith’s forge. Iron smelting was another occupation and the brickworks was down by the railway station….Prior to 1906, when a Liberal government was elected, destitute people were sent to the dreaded Workhouse and had to ‘break stones’ for road making, or ‘break bones’ for making into fertilizer… After 1906, poor children were given a free school meal and old age pensioners were paid five shillings a week.”
Where Fred worked…”He (my father) obtained an apprenticeship for me with a shoe repairer in the town…I felt exploited and also underpaid – having to ask for my money!”(His father was a ‘fire and brimstone’ preacher and engineer.)
What Fred dreamed of… Becoming a cowboy! He was offered a job on a farm in Canada, and, having very little money, managed to borrow the fare and sailed there, alone, aged seventeen. Bitterly disappointed, because the promised job didn’t materialize, Fred was offered work by a Homesteader, and became a farmer – working 320 acres of land! – and a man in a very short space of time! It was hardly the cowboy fantasy he had, but he had a debt to honour and his hard graft soon earned the respect and friendship of the tough men and women in the scattered towns and farms. He surprised himself by growing to love the stark simplicity of the Canadian prairie.
What life decided for him…Despite 45 degrees below temperatures in winter and soaring ones in summer, Fred ploughed on, until World War I arrived and led his life in another, tragic, direction. He fought bravely with the 10th Canadian Infantry unit in various battles, including the bloody one at Passchendaele. The Canadians seized Passchendaele on November 6th, 1917 . They were awarded nine Victoria Crosses, but the cost was terribly high. There were 15,000 wounded and dead for a few square kilometres of mud, and the battle had lasted three months. What mayhem and madness! Fred was awarded the Military Medal for his valour, for which he paid a terrible price. Severely wounded, he eventually lost his right arm and suffered continuous pain in the stump for many years. When peace was declared, it didn’t come for Fred…Being a formidable character – no longer able to farm – he retrained as an accountant, and with his then wife and four sons, returned to work and live in Kent. He prospered, and on retirement, at the age of 83, he decided to write his life story. Sadly, Parkinson’s disease had robbed him of the use of his left arm. Never one to give in easily, he purchased a device so he could type it with his head!
For someone who just wanted “To be a cowboy!” the grueling life on the Saskatchewan prairie came as a rude awakening, but one which Fred fully embraced. By today’s standards, the sheer hard work involved in working a farm is the 1910’s/20’s and 30’s, is mind-boggling.
I felt privileged at being asked to adapt Fred’s book and salute the memory of a worthy man.
Note. Next year, 2017, is the 100th anniversary of The Battle of Passchendaele.
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…thanks for that fabulous insight to splendid man, m’Lady, Joy… see yeez later.. LUV YEEZ!…
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