John Knight, who died on 8 March 2018, a few days before his 90th birthday, became a father figure in The Queen’s Own Hussars. He was loved and respected by all who served with him.
He was born on 20th October 1927 in Christchurch, Hampshire. After leaving school he initially trained as an apprentice clerk for the Bournemouth and Poole Electricity Supply Company.
He enlisted at The King’s Royal Rifle Corps depot in Winchester in October 1945 (‘for the duration of the Emergency’ which was the status even after VE day that August), and in August 1946 joined 3rd The King’s Own Hussars, the Reconnaissance regiment in 6th Airborne division, on active service in difficult circumstances in Palestine (now Israel).
Together with his good cavalry sports of boxing, fencing and riding, his airborne fitness and stamina stood him in good stead through his long life.
Later in 1946, he went back to Bovington on a crewman upgrading course as a Lance Corporal. However there was a career change back to his civilian trade: in May 1947 he went on a Units Clerks Course at the Middle East Training Centre, then to the Orderly Room, where he was promoted corporal in October 1947 and Sergeant in December as the Orderly Room Sergeant, the deputy to the Chief Clerk.
He must have been pleased with these developments as he was attested into the Regular Army by the Adjutant, John Melhuish the noted regimental historian and founder of the Battle of Dettingen studies and tours.
He and Isobel were married in 1949 while the Regiment was at Lubeck and they had three children, Fiona who married the now Lieutenant Colonel Colin Strong (whose son Andrew served in the Regiment – making three generations to do so), and their sons John and Timothy.
Apart from a two-year tour with the North Somerset Yeomanry, John served with the Regiment in Germany until it returned to Tidworth in 1958 to amalgamate with the 7th Queen’s Own Hussars to form The Queen’s Own Hussars.
Soon after Amalgamation, he became SQMS of ‘B’ Squadron, when he was said to be ‘highly helpful and efficient and plenty of goodies on his truck’ and earned the respect of ‘Blackie’, an ex 7th Hussar Quartermaster with fiercely high standards, after whom the Blackshaw Museum at the Regiment is named.
John then ran the Officers’ Mess for a period before becoming SSM of ‘C’ Squadron to first Major Robin Carnegie (with whom he was later RSM and did much Museum work), taking the Squadron to Aden as the independent tank squadron – a demanding task for the SSM; and secondly and Major (later Field Marshal Sir John) Stanier.
He was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1964 before a tour as Permanent Staff Instructor to the Warwickshire and Worcestershire Yeomanry. He returned to the Regiment to become RSM early in 1967, succeeding his good friend Pat Cooper, and took the Regiment from Maresfield to Aden on Active Service, and to Singapore with independent Squadrons in Cyprus, Singapore and Hong Kong – both complicated and exacting tasks for RSM.
He was immaculate, punctilious, firm but fair and always ready to listen and give genuine, helpful advice where needed. As our Airportable Unit Emplaning Officer, he could get the armoured cars unlashed and off Hercules faster than the RAF had ever seen.
He was commissioned from Singapore in 1969, in those days by no means automatic for the RSM, and then had periods as second in command of Headquarters Squadron, MTO and ‘A’ Squadron, in Maresfield.
From 1972 to 1974 he was a PSO at the Recruit Selection Centre Sutton Coldfield Hohne, Bovington and Detmold. Finally, he has 3 years as HQ Squadron Leader, including the 1977 tour in Northern Ireland and his management of the Rear Party during the 1979 tour.
Throughout all that he was ably and wonderfully supported by Isobel with her boundless energy and loyalty to the Regiment and her encyclopaedic knowledge of its families, her work on welfare, and the legacy of the Kindergarten that she ran where so many of our children were given their first schooling.
When he retired from the Active List in 1982, John succeeded Major Jack Sutherland as Regimental Secretary in Warwick until the Amalgamation with The Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars in 1993.
Solo with a clerk, (there was no Assistant in those days), he was Staff Officer to the Colonel of the Regiment especially on officer recruiting, Journal Editor, ran the Old Comrades Association and their functions and parades, and ran as Curator of the Regimental Museum, including research and enquiries, plus all the accounts.
He was our representative in our West Midlands area, liaising with civic authorities, the recruiting organisation, the QOH cap badged cadets and the Polish Association.
He played a leading part in the 1985 Tercentenary Parade and celebrations at Catterick at what must have been the largest gathering of old comrades, and the high point of his civic links was that for the Freedom of the City of Birmingham he handled all the OCA aspects and liaising with the Lord Mayor’s office.
He finally retired on The Queen’s Royal Hussars Amalgamation so Major Bob Smith could become Regimental Secretary at Regent’s Park Barracks. Living in Warwick he continued with much work on the Museum and as an anchor to two redevelopment phases and the teams led by Gen Sir Robin Carnegie being involved and contributing ideas to the last.
Asked some years ago to be President of what was then Birmingham Troop, he accepted immediately, and brought with him both wisdom and knowledge, throwing himself into the role of leader of the Troop.
He was a very supportive member, attending virtually every event he could. When Coventry troop amalgamated with Birmingham, so neither lost their identity, John decided simply on Birmingham & Coventry Troop. He will be greatly missed by all the members.
This tribute started and will end with the words of his son John at his Service. ‘Although we mourn his passing we can also celebrate what he was and what he achieved as a soldier, an old comrade and importantly a family man. He will be missed but never forgotten. There are so many of us who will remember his kindness, his generosity, his welcoming smile and his deep love for his family and the Regiment’.