Joy L Passchendaelle

On an appropriate date: the 11th day of November, the above book, written by Graham Knight’s grandfather: Frederick Alfred Knight, when he was 83, was published.

Its writing was no easy task, for – by then – ‘Fred’ was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and had to type the manuscript with a device worn on his head, and his left hand, having lost his right arm from severe wounds inflicted in World War I. Quite a feat! But then, Fred was no stranger to life’s knocks, disappointments, hard work or pain.

Born in the late 1800s, Fred was one of, eventually, twelve children born to his parents, and they even had a boarder too! Times were hard, but at least his father had employment, and when Fred was fourteen and left school, he was apprenticed to a boot and shoe repairer. Over-worked and bored, he dreamed of becoming a cowboy when offered a job on a farm in Canada. But how to get there, that was the rub, for he had little money. With his dream growing larger, he borrowed the required money, and despite being only seventeen, found himself on the long and exciting journey to Canada.

Elation was soon followed by bitter disappointment, when promised employment evaporated, but he found work with a “homesteader” who owned a large tract of land and badly needed help.

Fred quickly discovered that his cowboy dream was a far cry from the back-breaking farm work required of him. With a huge acreage to work, and the attendant hardships, the transition from teenager to man was swift! Made of stern stuff, Fred buckled to and discovered a surprising, but growing pleasure, for the hard work; becoming proud of his bulging muscles. Despite working in alternately freezing and soaring temperatures, he grew to love the seemingly endless prairie space, the horses and the simple life.

World War I put paid to so many dreams and aspirations and was an obscenity which shouldn’t have happened, but did.

Wanting to help his fellow Canadians in their brave struggle against the enemy, despite discouragement by his employers (for he had moved on), he eventually joined the ranks of the 10th Canadian military unit (Known as “The Fighting 10th” for good reason). They quickly grew in stature, especially with such brave men as Fred in their ranks. Sadly, serious wounds put paid to his fighting days, resulting in the eventual loss of his right arm. His valour on the battlefield led to his being awarded the Military Medal, but what price to pay?!

By then, with a wife and four sons to provide for, Fred could no longer farm, However, proving to be as tough and formidable in business as he was in battle, he retrained as an accountant, returned to Kent in the UK with his family and prospered.

This book lets you linger in the early and mid 1900s and share the rich while hard experiences of one man and the times he lived in. It provides an uplifting read, revealing the sheer guts and hard graft of a young boy who had justdreamed of “Being a cowboy!” No wonder Graham Knight is so proud of his grandfather.

I feel privileged to have been asked to adapt Frederick’s book about his fascinating journey through life.

Note. Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele.

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