Knight, Peter Austen

He was the son of George Brook Knight and Madeleine Florence Knight (daughter of the Reverend Arthur Burr), formerly of Chawton House, near Alton, then of Farnham, Surrey. He came in September 1929 from Horris Hill to Culver’s Close (now Bramston’s) (Mr. Robinson), where he rose to be head of the House and a leader in many spheres of school life. He was a boy of outstanding gifts – a great lover of literature and the arts, a not unskilful draughtsman, a pianist of real feeling and a leading spirit in dramatic productions. His life was deeply rooted in the best traditions of the English countryside; and he was passionately devoted to his Chawton home where his great-great-great-aunt, Jane Austen, had written some of her novels.

In 1935 he passed in to RMC Sandhurst with a Cadet Scholarship, and in 1937 he joined the Royal Scots Fusiliers. On July 20th 1939 he married Miss Alexandra Vivien Anne Struan Robertson (daughter of Major K. Struan Robertson of Edinburgh).

Promoted in due course to Lieutenant, he went to France with the British Expeditionary Force in 2nd Battalion, serving in 17 Infantry Brigade in 5th Division, part of the BEF’s reserves. By May 26th the collapse of the Belgian army left only one British brigade between the Germans and the coast. 5th Division was rushed into the gap to form a 10,000 yard line along north-south along the Ypres- Comines Canal.   17 Brigade arrived on May 26th just as the German 6th Army approached, and was greeted by heavy German mortar fire.

17 Brigade’s line, facing south, extended from a bend in the canal near Hollebeke to the village of Zillebeke south-east of Ypres, and centred on St. Eloi to the west. The canal was dry, the British positions were on forward slopes open to the enemy, and a railway embankment provided the enemy with excellent cover.

On the morning of May 27th the German assault began. From 1000 17 Brigade came under heavy pressure, 6th Seaforth Highlanders being driven back and 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers almost surrounded. By 1300 both units had pulled back to the west. However, British reinforcements and counter-attacks meant that by the end of May 28th most of the Ypres-Comines line was fairly secure once more. Their defence of the line had made Dunkirk possible; it was only on May 28th that the officers learned that evacuation was planned. At 2200 a gradual withdrawal began.

It came too late for 17 Brigade. During the 28th, a four-hour battle near St. Eloi had seen 2nd Northamptons over-run (only one company escaped), and 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers annihilated. Only a counter-attack by 10 Brigade had saved the situation.

It was during this confused fighting – most probably on May 28th – that Knight lost his life, aged twenty-three.  He rests in grave I.A.9 of the Gaurain-Ramecroix War Cemetery.


War: World War 2

  • Surname: Knight
  • Forenames or initials: Peter Austen
  • House: H
  • Years in School: 1929-1935
  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Regiment: Royal Scots Fusiliers
  • Date of Birth: 29th August 1916
  • Date of Death: 28th May 1940
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Inner G1
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Gaurain-Ramecroix War Cemetery, Tournai: Grave I.A.9