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William Edward Knowles

Portrait of Able Seaman William Edward Knowles, Auckland Weekly News, 18 February 1915. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19150218-46-4. Image has no known copyright restrictions.

Portrait of Able Seaman William Edward Knowles, Auckland Weekly News, 18 February 1915. Auckland Lib …


  • Title
  • Forenames
    William Edward AWMM
  • Surname
    Knowles AWMM
  • Ingoa
  • Also known as
  • Service number
    WWI NZ663 AWMM
  • Gender
    Male AWMM
  • Iwi
  • Hapū
  • Waka
  • Rohe
  • Religion

Civilian life

About birth

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  • Birth
    • 16 February 1875 Public Source
  • Date of birth
    16/02/1875 Public - Jackie Leanne - Direct descendant - 2 August 2018 - Marriage and death certificate
  • Place of birth
    Liverpool Public - Jackie Leanne - Direct descendant - 2 August 2018 - Death certificate
  • Birth notes
  • Address before enlistment
    WW1 Lyttleton, New Zealand AWMM
  • Post war occupation
  • Next of kin on embarkation
    WW1 Jane Knowles (wife), Lyttelton, New Zealand AWMM
  • Relationship status
    Married AWMM


Wars and conflicts

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  • War
  • Campaign
  • Armed force / branch
    Navy AWMM
  • Service number
    WWI NZ663 AWMM
  • Military service
  • Promotions/ Postings/ Transfers

Military decorations

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  • Medals and Awards

Training and Enlistment

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  • Military training
  • Branch Trade Proficiency
  • Enlistment
  • Occupation before enlistment
  • Age on enlistment


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Prisoner of war

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  • Capture details
  • Days interned
  • Liberation date
  • Liberation Repatriation
  • POW liberation details
  • POW serial number

Medical history

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  • Medical notes
    Died of wounds, Cause of Death AWMM

Last known rank

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Biographical information

Biographical information

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    • William Knowles was the son of Thomas and Kathleen Knowles, and the husband of Jane Knowles of Lyttelton, New Zealand.

      Able Seaman Knowles was the first New Zealander of a regular force to be killed in action in the Great War. Knowles was one of three sailors killed on 8 February 1915 after a party of 2 officers and 15 ratings encountered a strong force of Turkish troops

      Incorrectly recorded by CWGC as dying at Gallipoli

      Killed aged 39 serving ashore when operating against Turkish defensive positions 8 February 1915 - Third New Zealander to be killed in action died of wounds - Name on Canterbury Provincial Memorial - born in UK emigrated to NZ AWMM
    • Able Seaman William Edward Knowles became one of the first New Zealanders to die in the First World War as a result of enemy action, following an ambush by Ottoman forces outside Alexandretta (İskenderun) on 8 February 1915.

      The New Zealand Expeditionary Force had suffered its first combat-related death just three days before, when Private William Ham succumbed to wounds received during an Ottoman raid on the Suez Canal on 3 February. The first New Zealander to die on naval active service was Able Seaman John Reardon, who was lost when the Royal Australian Navy submarine AE1 disappeared while on patrol near New Guinea in September 1914.

      Knowles, a 38-year-old naval reservist from Lyttelton, was serving on New Zealand’s first warship, HMS Philomel, as it patrolled the eastern Mediterranean Sea in early 1915. At 4 p.m. on 8 February a landing party consisting of Knowles, 14 other ratings and two officers was sent ashore to intercept a mule caravan heading towards Alexandretta. Once it had landed and moved inland, the landing party was fired upon by an Ottoman force of approximately 100 men who were waiting in ambush. In the ensuing skirmish Knowles was badly wounded in the abdomen.

      The landing party retreated back to the shore under covering fire from the Philomel, which sent more than 100 shells onto the Ottoman positions. During the retreat Able Seaman William Stanbury, an Englishman, was killed outright by Turkish rifle fire as he attempted to carry the wounded Knowles. The party took cover in a dry riverbed close to the shore until nightfall and then moved off under cover of darkness. Knowles died of his wounds on board Philomel at 12.55 a.m. that night and was later buried at sea.

      Able Seaman John Moreton, another New Zealand naval rating, died a few days later from wounds he too had received in the 8 February skirmish. Public - Jenifer - Researcher - 17 April 2018 - Reference : New Zealand History Online :
    • William had previously sailed to Antarctica as part of the ships company on Scotts Terra Nova. Public - Greig - Direct descendant - 23 April 2018 - Various books on Scotts ill fated Antarctic expedition
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About death

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  • Death
    8 February 1915 AWMM
    Age 38 AWMM
  • Date of death
  • Age at death
  • Place of death
  • Cause of death
  • Death notes
  • Cemetery
  • Cemetery name
  • Grave reference
  • Obituary
  • Memorial name
  • Memorial reference



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  • Memorial name
    • Canterbury Provincial Memorial, Christchurch, New Zealand AWMM
    • Auckland War Memorial Museum, World War 1 Hall of Memories AWMM

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Command item
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DateFirst namesLocationRelationshipContact
02 August 2018Jackie Leanne Brisbane Australia Direct descendant
23 April 2018GreigAustralia Direct descendant
17 April 2018JeniferWairarapaResearcher

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