The Airmen's Stories - P/O W L McKnight
William Lidstone McKnight was born on 18th November 1918 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the son of William Crozier McKnight (1894-1957) and Rosella Elizabeth McKnight (nee Lidstone 1895-1930).
He was educated at Crescent Heights High School and the University of Alberta. He was a medical student before joining the RAF on a short service commission in February 1939.
McKnight joined the newly-reformed 242 Squadron at Church Fenton on 6th November 1939. He went to France on 14th May 1940 on attachment to 607 Squadron. After moving to 615 Squadron on the 16th, he shot down a Me109 near Cambrai on the 19th. McKnight returned to England two days later.
Over Dunkirk on 28th May McKnight destroyed a Me109, on the 29th a Me109, a Do17 and a probable Me109, on the 31st destroyed two Me110s and a Me109 and on 1st June destroyed two Ju87s and damaged two more.
He was awarded an immediate DFC on 4th June and decorated by the King three days later.
242 Squadron flew to Le Mans on 8th June 1940 to reinforce the hard-pressed squadrons in France and support the Army in its rearguard actions back to the Atlantic ports. On 14th June McKnight destroyed two Me109s. The squadron returned to England on the 18th.
Above: (L to R) McKnight, S/Ldr. DRS Bader, F/O GE Ball
McKnight claimed two Me110s and a He111 destroyed on 30th August, two Me110s on 9th September and a Do17 and a shared Ju88 on the 18th.
He was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 8th October 1940) and on 5th November he claimed his final victory, a shared Me109 over Gravesend.
Above: The artwork on his Hurricane.
On 12th January 1941 McKnight, in Hurricane I P2961 and accompanied by P/O MK Brown, was on a Rhubarb operation. They crossed the French coast near Gravelines and strafed enemy troops. As they turned to make a second attack, a Me109 was seen, at 500 feet. Brown attacked the troops but, when he looked for McKnight, he had vanished. He did not return to base and either fell to the flak or the Me109.
McKnight is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, panel 30 and also by a commemorative plaque at Calgary Airport (https://calgarymosquitosociety.com/feature16/feature16.htm).
Above: his portrait was made by Eric Kennington
Above image courtesy of Dean Sumner.