Each month staff at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum look back to what the Norfolk Regiment was doing 100 years ago, and tells their story through objects from the museum’s collection. See previous blog posts here.
Contained in this leather-bound volume are the letters of perhaps the most eccentric officer to have ever fought in the Norfolks; Robert Millington Knowles.
Knowles was born into a rich mine-owning family. He spent his childhood at the 200-acre Newent Court Estate in Gloucestershire before moving to Tavernham Hall, just outside Norwich. In his teens, Knowles went to Dulwich College public school and Trinity Hall Cambridge. He enjoyed riding his motorbike and playing golf, and was a keen member of shooting clubs. He played in the Cambridge freshers rugby match and raced his Rolls Royce at Broadlands.
His spirit of adventure would not be curtailed and at the outbreak of War he left Cambridge to take a commission in the Norfolks. After training with the Special Reserve Battalion he joined the 1st Battalion and left for the Western Front.
His letters home give us a startling insight into his daily life. He regularly thanks his mother for the Fortnum & Mason hampers she sends him, and in a letter to his sister dated 1st June 1915, writes;
“If you’ve got time will you please run down to the Golf Club and ask Donald for 30 (or as many as he had got) old golf balls. Will you please send these out to me together with my Mashie I want to keep up my golf and intend practicing Mashie shots into the Deuchers trenches! If you tell Donald whom and for what purpose they are for he will probably let you have them quite cheap! I should like them as soon as possible. (Am quite serious about the above, and am not ragging)”
Knowles was later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, a dream of his for a long time, where he won a Military Cross for bravery. He died on 1st June 1950.