Battle of Britain London Monument – F/O W R A Knocker

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Privacy Statement The Airmen’s Stories – F/O W R A Knocker


William Rodney Alexander Knocker, of Sevenoaks, attended Wellington College from 1933 to 1938 and then St. Johns College, Oxford, where he read Law.

He was a member of the University Air Squadron and was called to full-time service on 1st September 1939. He went to No.1 ITW Cambridge in November 1939 and was posted to FTS Cranwell on 1st January 1940, on the second war course.

He finished his training at 5 FTS Sealand and then went to No. 1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum.


Above image courtesy of Will Knocker (son).


On 10th June Knocker was posted to 5 OTU Aston Down and after converting to Defiants he joined 264 Squadron on 19th June. In its last spell of day-fighting, he claimed a Ju88 destroyed and a Me109 damaged on 24th August 1940.

Knocker was flying Defiant N1547 on 15th November when it caught fire. Making an emergency approach to Rochford, he hit a tree and crashed and burned out on Rochford Golf Course. He was was unhurt but his gunner, P/O FA Toombs, was badly burned and died of his injuries.

On the night of 16th/17th April 1941 Knocker was aloft in Defiant N3369 when it was hit by anti-aircraft fire over Crowborough, Sussex. He and Sgt OA Hardy baled out safely. The aircraft came down at Redbridge Farm, Crowborough.

On the night of 31st August, this time in N3453, they were engaged in a searchlight co-operation exercise when the aircraft became uncontrollable. Both baled out but at low altitude and suffered leg injuries, Hardy’s being both broken. The Defiant came down between Slaugham and Cuckfield in Sussex.

Knocker was made an OBE (gazetted 14th December 1945), the citation read:

On 21st March 1945 a light bomber crashed and burst into flames while attempting to take off.
Wing Commander Knocker immediately rushed to the scene and on arrival found that the pilot of the aircraft was trapped in the blazing wreckage. Heedless of warnings, Wing Commander Knocker crawled under the burning aircraft and twisted the entangling metal away from the pilot’s legs, and then helped to remove him to safety. This officer displayed gallantry, and a complete disregard for his own safety in the face of the possibility of bombs exploding.

Knocker was released from the RAF in 1946 as a Wing Commander.

He later went to live in Kenya and established a business there.

He died in Kenya on 27th December 1990.



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