b. 16/08/1922 Catford, Kent. d. 31/01/1945 Kangaw, Burma.
George Arthur Knowland (1922-1945) was born in Catford, Kent on 19th August 1922, the son of Arthur Philip Knowland and his wife, Mary Elizabeth. After his mother’s death, he spent some time in an orphanage as being “in need of care and protection”. He later lived with his father in Croydon and attended a local school there before enlisting in the Army in 1940 at the age of 18. He first joined the Royal Norfolk Regiment as a private soldier but later volunteered for the Commandos. After training he fought with distinction in Sicily and Italy and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. Selected for officer training, he returned home, where he married Ruby Weston.
In January 1945, the newly commissioned Lieutenant Knowland was posted to the Far East to join No 1 Army Commando in Myebon, Burma, as a section leader in No 4 Troop. No 1 Army Commando had fought in North Africa and taken part in the Torch Landings but for some time now had been training in India for the assault on the Arakan Peninsula. Together with comrades in No 5 Army Commando and 44 and 42 Royal Marine Commandos, they were ordered to take and hold the dominant features of the southern Chin Hills in order to cut off the supply and escape routes of the Japanese and to secure a bridgehead. The objective for No 1 Army Commando was a feature called Hill 170 (code named Brighton), which they took and dug in, with No 4 Troop being given the task of defending the most northerly end of the hill.
On 31st January 1945 near Kangaw, Burma, Lieutenant Knowland was in command of a forward platoon of a troop which was being heavily attacked – some 300 of the enemy concentrating on his 24 men. During the attacks he moved among the men distributing ammunition and contributing with rifle fire and throwing grenades at the enemy. When the crew of one of his forward Bren light machine guns had been wounded, he rushed forward to man it himself. The enemy was only 10 yards (9.1 m) away but below the level of the trench so to fire into them he stood up. He continued to fire until the casualties had been evacuated. A replacement gun team that had been sent for were injured while moving up and he stayed with the gun until a third team arrived.
In a subsequent attack he took over a 2 inch (51 mm) mortar which he fired from the hip directly into the enemy. He returned to the trench for more ammunition and fired the mortar from out in the open. When this was used up he fired his rifle. The enemy were then very close and without time to reload his rifle, he picked up a “Tommy gun” (sub machine gun) and used it. He killed more of the enemy but received mortal wounds. Despite over 50% losses in the platoon the remainder held on. By the time they were relieved the men had held the ground for 12 hours; they prevented the enemy from advancing further on that hill.
Knowland’s body was buried at Taukkyan War Cemetery, near Rangoon, and his VC was received by his widow, Ruby, who passed it on to his father, who proudly displayed it in his public house in Finsbury. In 1958 it was stolen and its current wheareabouts are unknown.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: MEDAL STOLEN.
BURIAL PLACE: TAUKKYAN WAR CEMETERY, BURMA.
PLOT XI, ROW J, GRAVE 1
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.
Derek Walker – Lewisham Shopping Centre Memorial.