401367 Sgt George Knowles was born on May 16th, 1894, in Northwich, Cheshire, England, to George and Hannah Knowles. He had an older brother, Samuel "John", who was 6 years older, two sisters, Rose and Lily, who were 13 and 15 years older, and three younger sisters: Daisy, Violet and Ivy. The family emigrated to Canada sometime after 1901 and moved to the small community of St. Thomas, Ontario.

Shortly after the outbreak of World War I, George's older brother, John (46162), volunteered to serve in the CEF on September 24th, 1914. He was 25 years old and an oiler and shoemaker. George volunteered less than a year later on July 29th, 1915, in St. Thomas. George was 21 years old, 5'4" in height. He was noted as having a dark complexion, brown eyes and dark hair. He had been a labourer and was in good physical condition. His religion was listed as Church of England, and he was not married.

Having spent one year previously with the militia, in the 25th Regiment, George was signed up with and trained for many months with the 33rd Overseas Battalion, as a private, and left Canada on March 13th, 1916, on the S.S. Laplander. Arriving on March 25th, he was attached to CAMC training school (Canadian Army Medical Corps) in Sandgate for two weeks before being transferred back to the 33rd OB in Dibgate on May 3rd.

On June 2nd, the Canadian 3rd Division front, south-est of Ypres, near Sanctuary Wood, which included the men of the 4th CMR, the 1st CMR and the P.P.C.L.I, were surprised by a sudden and vicious artillery attack on their positions around Mount Sorrel. The five hour artillery attack culminated in three mines being sprung in front of the 4th CMR line, and was quickly followed up by a German infantry attack. The 4th CMR suffered the highest losses with many men killed (most of whom were lost without trace in the rain of steel and explosives), or were taken prisoner.

With reserve battalions being called upon for fresh numbers to make up the 4th CMR, George was transferred from the 33rd OB, still in England, on June 6th, 1916, to help re-build the ranks. He arrived in France on the 7th and he and 498 other men joined the unit in the field on June 9th.

On September 8th, George and the rest of 4th CMR moved away from the Mount Sorrel area near Ypres to billets in Franqueville, on the Somme. The Battle of the Somme had started when the British attacked on July 1st, but there was still heavy fighting going on even in September. On the 15th George took part in the attack on Courcelette and again the 4th CMR took heavy losses, including 34 men killed and 52 wounded. On October 1st the 4th CMR took part in the further attack to take Regina trench. 66 men of the 4th CMR died that day, including three Corporals: Stanley Otis Clark, James Hulland and Philip Robert Lizmore. George was promoted in the field to Corporal that day, so it is likely he replaced one of these men when they were killed.

While the repeated attacks on Regina Trench were still going on George, was treated for a neck abscess on October 7th and it is not stated if this was a result of a wound or not. He started out at the No. 11 Stationary Hospital in Rouen and on the 12th went to the No. 2 Convalescent Depot, also in Rouen, and finally to the Base Depot in Harfleur on the 14th. He was back on active duty on the 25th.

In February, 1917, the 4th CMR was pulled out of the front lines to start 5 weeks of training and preparation for the attack on the German stronghold of Vimy Ridge. The ridge was thought to be impenetrable as the French had tried for 3 years, with 150,000 casualties, and still not been able to take it. On April 9th, 1917, the 4th CMR, with snow blowing at their backs, attacked the ridge with rest of the 4 Canadian divisions. The 4th CMR had the objective of crossing 3 German trench lines and capturing a large wooded area called La Folie Wood, which was just beyond the crest of the ridge. They had taken all of their assigned objectives by mid-afternoon on the first day but it was not without significant cost, as 43 men were killed, 131 wounded and 19 were missing that day.

One of the men killed was Sgt. Percy Roy Lawson (401326) and George was promoted on the spot in the field to replace him. George must have had strong leadership abilities and have been cool under fire to have been promoted twice in battle within 6 months. The 4th CMR was relieved on April 11th, after 63 hours of holding the line in the most trying of weather conditions. For the Canadians, this was their first major victory of the war.

On May 26th, 1917, George was well behind the lines at Toronto Camp. It was 8:30pm and the 4th CMR was enjoying a game of baseball when another soldier, Pte. Clarence McCabe, picked up a blind (unexploded) shell. The shell went off killing Clarence and George instantly.

George was the highest ranking soldier of the 9 men who died as a result of that accident that day. In addition to Clarence and George, they included:

Pte. George Griffin and

Pte. Charles Hartin also died immediately;

Pte. Shurley Asselstine,

Pte. Arthur Carroll and

Pte. Bertie Traviss died the next day at no. 6. Casualty Clearing Station;

Pte. James Dunn survived until May 31st and

Pte. Edwin Payne died on June 18th.

10 more were wounded, including: Pte. Thomas Davy and Pte. Morley Gilbert.

George is buried in La Targette British Cemetery, Neuville St Vaast, Pas De Calais, France, and a picture of his headstone can be seen courtesy of the Maple Leaf Legacy Project website. George's older brother, John, spent 15 months in hospital in Germany recovering from a bullet wound to his left shoulder and survived his three and a half years as a prisoner of war. He returned home February 5, 1919 and died in Victoria Hospital December 23rd, 1978, at the age of 89.

Credit and many thanks go to Bryan Joyce for the above biography.

Bryan has written a book about the earlier mentioned Clarence McCabe's life. This can be reviewed and bought via this link: Clarence McCabe