Cecil Leonard Knox VC

b. 09/05/1889 Nuneaton, Warwickshire. d. 04/02/1943 Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

Cecil Leonard Knox (1889-1943) was born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire on 9th May 1888, and was the eighth of nine brothers of whom six served in the Great War and sadly two were killed in action. They were the children of Mr and Mrs James Knox of The Chase, Higham Lane, Nuneaton. Cecil attended King Edward VI Grammar School in the town, where the Reverend S Waters, later vicar of Meriden, was headmaster. Knox finished his schooling at Oundle Public School, where he developed a passion for fives.

Cecil L Knox VC

Two of his brothers were in Canada at the start of the war but did not hear news of it for some time and then immediately enlisted. Cecil, already a qualified engineer, was commissioned as a Temporary Second Lieutenant into the Royal Engineers and joined the 150th Field Company, RE, who were then serving with the 36th (Ulster) Division of IX Corps, Second Army. He was present at the Battle of Messines in June 1917 and two months later the division was transferred to the XIX Corps of the Fifth Army and his field company was used for road work in preparation for the Battle of Langemarck. Knox later served at Cambrai with IV Corps of the Third Army and in November the 36th Division rejoined VI Corps.

On 22nd March 1918 at Tugny, Aisne, France, Second Lieutenant Knox was entrusted with the demolition of 12 bridges. He successfully carried out this task, but in the case of one steel girder bridge the time fuse failed to act, and without hesitation he ran to the bridge under heavy fire, and when the enemy were actually on it, he tore away the time fuse and lit the instantaneous fuse, to do which he had to get under the bridge. As a practical civil engineer, Second Lieutenant Knox undoubtedly realised the grave risk he took in doing this.

In June 1918, Nuneaton Council moved a resolution of congratulations on Mr and Mrs Knox and to their son Cecil on the announcement of his VC in the London Gazette on 4th June. He received the medal from King George V at Blendecques, near St Omer, France on 6th August 1918. He had also received the Freedom of the Borough of Nuneaton on 17th July. After the Armistice, Knox was promoted to Lieutenant on 2nd December 1918, although he had already been given the temporary rank of Captain. In 1919 he was demobbed and returned to his civilan life as a civil engineer. He became a director of the family business of Haunchwood Brick and Tile Company and of G.W. Lewis Tileries Ltd. In addition his family also owned the Arley Colliery.

Between the wars, Knox attended a couple of VC events. He took up flying and was based at Castle Bromwich aerodrome, serving with 605 Squadron (County of Warwick), Royal Auxiliary Air Force between 1926 and 1932. He was promoted to Flying Officer on 23rd May 1928 and later to Flight Lieutenant on 1st January 1930. He relinquished his commission in 1931.

In 1931/1932, he decided to build himself a house in the small hamlet of Caldecote to the north west of Nuneaton. The house was named Fyves Court, due to the fact it had a fives court. Knox’s father died in 1931, aged 82, and his mother passed away three years later. In October 1941, Cecil’s wife Eileen gave birth to their only child, Catrina Victoria Knox. In the Second World War, he was a Major and Second in Command of the local Home Guard unit.

Tragedy struck however, on 4th February 1943, when travelling down Buck’s Hill. Nuneaton on his motor bike, he inexplicably skidded, was thrown on his head and died of his injuries. He was just 53. The accident occurred at around 10.30am and he was taken unconscious to hospital, where he died three hours later. Knox was cremated at Gilroes Crematorium, Leicester, and his ashes were scattered in the grounds of his home at Fyves Court. His medals were passed from his wife to his daughter Catrina. The medals are still held by the Knox family.






Brian Drummond – VC Stone in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.