- Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial
- Panel: 21
Distinctions and medals
Arthur William James Knightbridge was born in 1896 in East Ham, Essex. He had two brothers. His father died a young age, and Arthur was raised by his mother and his aunt, who owned a tobacco shop in Maldon, Essex. When he enlisted in the army he joined the Somerset Light Infantry 8th Battalion, part of the 63rd Brigade of the 37th Division. Arthur, 21, was killed in action on July 31st 1917 during the Battle of Pilckem Ridge, the opening stage of the Third Battle of Ypres.
The 37th Division attacked with the 63rd Brigade. In the night of the 30th, the 8th Somersets moved into the frontline. They occupied a line of shell holes between Grass Farm on the right and the Wambeek stream on the left in anticipation of the attack. The attack was carried out in two phases. During the first phase, at zero hour, 3.50 a.m., the 4th Middlesex Regiment and the 8th Lincolns Regiment (both part of the 63rd Brigade) attacked Rifle Farm and July Farm. At 5 a.m. it was reported that Rifle Farm had been captured.
In the second phase of the operations, at 7.50 a.m., the attack by the 63rd Brigade was carried by the 10th York and Lancs and the 8th Somerset Light Infantry. At 7.50 a.m. “D” Company of the Somersets, with “C” Company on the right, and two companies of the Lincolns on the left, advanced to clear Beek Wood and established a new line from the Wambeek, just south of Wam Farm, to a post south of Grass Farm.
At 9 a.m. it was reported that the western outskirts of Beek Farm and the enclosures of the Farm had been reached and that “A” Company was digging-in. At 10 a.m. a new report came in that two platoons from “D” Company had gone forward to clear Beek Wood and that the remainder of the company were digging-in on the left of “A” Company, of which all the officers had become casualties.
Meanwhile, Rifle Farm, which had been captured in the first phase of the attack, was recaptured after a German counterattack. At 1.50 p.m. it was reported that the “D” Company had failed to clear Beek Wood. The remainder of the two platoons withdrew and established posts at the Beek Farm Enclosures. Later reports state that at about 5.40 p.m. platoons that had been sent forward had returned and two posts had been established north and south of Beek Farm. At 8 p.m. the Germans were massing for a counter-attack, but an artillery barrage checked the attack before it could develop. Throughout the night all positions were consolidated. Only Beek Wood and Beek Farm hadn’t been captured.
Throughout the day, German artillery- and machine-gun fire had been very heavy. German snipers targeted the Somersets’ new positions. Casualties in the 8th Battalion were high.
Private Arthur William James Knightbridge, 21, was killed during the attack on Beek Farm and Beek Wood. According to a report in the war diary, many killed and wounded soldiers had been left behind in the Beek Wood enclosures, as it was impossible to evacuate them behind the frontline. The frontline in the area, remained static for the greater part of the offensive and Beek Wood would remain in German hands.