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Mr. Richard Knagg


By the death of Mr. William R. Knagg, Glenbarr, Argyle Road, Whitby, which occurred in the early hours of Friday the town and district lost an active link with the wreck of the hospital ship "Rohilla" in 1914, and one who spent all his life in furthering the cause of the St. John Ambulance Brigade. Will Knagg, as he was familiarly known, was a man of deep compassion for his fellow men. From an early age he appreciated something that has come to be commonly accepted today namely that qualified first aid is a tremendous weapon with which to counteract the pain and shock of serious accidents. As long ago as 1904 Will Knagg attended what was then the North Eastern Railway ambulance class and a year later he gained his first certificate for first aid.

Mr Richard Knagg

It was significant that the year 1904 also marked his apprenticeship to Messrs, Wilcock's Stores, and both ambulance work and as a grocer, Mr. Knagg achieved considerable distinction. Possessed of considerable business acumen he served Wilcock's Stores for the whole of his working life and when he retired in 1958 he occupied the proud position of chairman of the directors. This, in itself, is a tribute to his loyalty and to his administrative capabilities. His retirement marked also the end of the company he had served so well for 54 years, for it was then sold, the main business in Whitby being taken over by Whitby Co-operative Society Ltd.

In the sphere of the St. John Ambulance Brigade, Mr. Knagg with a few other enthusiastic first aiders, was put to a severe test in the early days of the first world war. It was, in fact, the wreck of the hospital ship "Rohilla" which brought to these handful of men the reward for the long hours they had spent in acquiring first aid knowledge. At that time the Whitby Division of the St. John Ambulance Brigade had been formed for only a month but to a man Mr. Knagg and his co-first aid workers turned out and did outstanding work for those who were rescued from the sea. From this trial Mr. Knagg's emerged firmly convinced that there should be an organisation which could cope with any emergency which might arise. The Whitby Division, very much the "child" of Mr Knagg, had withstood a great test, and it is worth recalling that Mr. Knagg was the first superintendent.

That he retained this proud position until his retirement in 1951 was an indication that his enthusiasm for ambulance work never faltered, and that he kept in touch with the most modern developments in the work of bringing succour to the injured. He and his fellow ambulance workers helped to man the hospital established at Mulgrave Castle during the 1914-18 war; they emerged with great credit from the shock of the Blue Bank disaster in 1929; and, until 1948, and the establishment through the National Health Service of professional ambulance facilities, the name Will Knagg, St. John Ambulance Brigade, and service to humankind, were synonymous. When he retired many words were spoken in appreciation of all Mr. Knagg had done for his fellow men and women in the Whitby district and it was his proud boast that no call was ever made to which he and his men did not respond.

Although he retired from the Superintendency he did not sever his links with the Whitby Division until April of last year when he resigned the honorary divisional vice presidency for health reasons. It was not only in Whitby that his services were recognised. He was known throughout the County for his, enthusiastic ambulance work he and his wife were very proud when he was appointed a serving brother of the Order of St. John and invested at Buckingham Palace in 1928. A still greater honour was bestowed upon him on September 28th, 1950. when he was invested as an officer (Brother) of the Grand Priory of the British Realm of the Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. With his characteristic attitude to those who served in the


During the first world war Mr. Knagg served with the Royal Army Medical Corps and on June 16th, 1918, was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on the Somme. He then held the rank of sergeant. On his return home the people of the town presented Mr. Knagg with an inscribed silver tea pot and stand in recognition of his, award.

To Mr, Knagg his work and his ambulance service, together with his devotion to Church activities filled practically his whole life. He did not seek office on Whitby Urban Council but he was closely identified with the Mutual Plate Glass Insurance Company of which he was a director and, for some time, he was chairman of Whitby Grocers' Association and a vice-president and former member of the Executive Committee of Whitby Chamber of Trade.

Mrs Joyce Kangg

In his Church activities he was associated with St. Michael's and St. Mary's Parish Church being a warden at St. Mary's for some time and also serving on the Domestic Council and as a member of the Parochial Church Council.

Mr. Knagg delighted to visit the Spa Floral Pavilion during the summer season to hear light orchestral music and he also took a great interest in football in recent years being a regular attender at matches on the Turnbull Ground.

Much sympathy has been extended to his wife and their only daughter Miss Joyce Knagg. Interment took place on Monday following a service at St. Hildas Church, West Cliff, at which the Rector of Whitby, Canon Arthur Ferryman, paid tribute to Mr. Knagg

Copyright © Colin Brittain 1999 - 2014