News and press releases

  • Royal Mail
    29 September 2017
    Royal Mail honours Post Office Rifles WW1 Victoria Cross recipient
  • Royal Mail has dedicated a postbox in honour of a Post Office Rifles serviceman who was awarded a Victoria Cross for bravery during the First World War
  • Sergeant Alfred Knight VC MBE’s courageous actions saved the lives of his fellow soldiers in Ypres at the battle for Wurst Farm Ridge 100 years ago
  • A special plaque has been unveiled on a postbox in Sergeant Knight’s hometown of Birmingham

Royal Mail has dedicated a postbox in honour of a Post Office Rifles serviceman who was awarded a Victoria Cross for bravery during the First World War.

Royal Mail has recognised the heroic actions of Sergeant Alfred Knight VC MBE during the battle for Wurst Farm Ridge in Ypres, Belgium by unveiling a special plaque on a postbox in his hometown of Birmingham.

Alfred Knight was working at the General Post Office (GPO) as a clerk in Nottingham when he enlisted in the 2/8th Battalion of the Post Office Rifles. In 1917, his battalion left for France and he was sent to fight on the Western Front.

The Post Office Rifles fought at Ypres and suffered tremendous losses. More than half of their fighting force was lost at the battle for Wurst Farm Ridge, part of the Menin Road battle in Ypres of 20 – 26 September 1917.

While his comrades were pinned down by machine-gun fire from the enemy position, Sergeant Knight single-handedly rushed the position, endangering his own life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. After the platoon suffered heavy casualties, he took command of his own and of other platoons without officers to consolidate the forces. For this courageous action, he received the Victoria Cross. He later achieved the rank of Second Lieutenant.

The Rifles lost 1,800 and 4,500 men were wounded by the end of the First World War.

The plaque was unveiled on the postbox at the corner of Islington Row Middleway and Tennant Street, Birmingham, B15 1LA, on the street where Alfred lived when he worked for the GPO. The plaque on the box reads:


Sergeant Alfred Joseph Knight VC MBE
Born in Birmingham, former resident of Islington Row
City of London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) and Postal Worker

Awarded the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery at the battle for Wurst Farm Ridge, Ypres, Belgium on 20th September 1917. After his platoon came under very heavy machine-gun fire, Sergeant Knight rushed through our own barrage and captured it single-handed. Following heavy casualties sustained by the officers in his platoon that day, Sergeant Knight took command not only of all the men of his own platoon but of the platoons without officers, and his energy in consolidating and reorganising was untiring. He later achieved the rank of second lieutenant.

His Victoria Cross is on display at The Postal Museum, London.


Unveiling the plaque, Sergeant Knight’s granddaughterAnne Walshsaid: “I’m very proud that the heroic actions of my grandfather Alfred 100 years ago have been marked in this way. He was, and remains, a legend in our family.”

Royal Mail’s Delivery Leader for the West Midlands, Natalie Frowsaid: “We’re delighted to dedicate this postbox in honour of Sergeant Knight on the centenary of his brave actions. Most of the men who left their postal jobs to serve in the military during the First World War were ordinary people and most had no previous military experience. This makes Sergeant Knight’s courage whilst under attack truly heroic.

“We believe this unique and highly visible tribute will ensure that Sergeant Knight’s bravery and heroism is never forgotten.”

After the war Alfred transferred to the Ministry of Labour, where he worked until his retirement in 1951. He was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the same year. He died at home on 4 December 1960 at the age of 72. He is buried in Oscott Catholic Cemetery, New Oscott, Birmingham.

The Victoria Cross is the highest award that can be bestowed on any soldier in the British and Commonwealth forces. Sergeant Knight was one of only four of the Post Office Rifles servicemen to receive this honour.


For journalist enquiries contact:

Sally Hopkins, Royal Mail press office

Tel: 020 7449 8252/07801 094345


Royal Mail press office: 020 7449 8246

Notes to Editors

  • The Post Office Rifles comprised around 12,000 employees from across the UK. The first duty of the Post Office Rifles was to protect the GPO premises against any enemy spies or saboteurs.
  • To accommodate the swell of recruits in the First World War, a second Post Office Rifles Battalion was formed in September 1914. They were titled the 2/8th Battalion, City of London Regiment. 
  • The Post Office Rifles Cemetery is just outside the village of Festubert in France. It contains the graves of 26 identified POR men but has over ten times as many unnamed gravestones dedicated simply to ‘A Soldier of the Great War’.