Remembrance Day 2012

Remembrance Day is held on 11th November every year to mark the day that World War One ended in 1918. In the UK, there is a two minute silence to remember those who fell.

There is an act of remembrance on campus, on Friday, 9th November at 10.50am in front of the University War Memorial in Crawshay House and simultaneously in the entrance of the Tramsheds Building on the Glyntaff Campus.

This year’s act of remembrance tells the stories of two fallen students.

A poppy in a field. Photo by Alfonso Salgueiro.

Remembrances

This year we remember two former students. The first is Lieutenant William Knox, who lost his life during the First World War. The second is Captain Alex Eida, who lost his life in Afghanistan in 2006.

2nd Lieutenant William Knox

2nd Lieutenant William Knox, 1893 – 1918

William Knox was born in 1893 in Glenbuck, a tiny Scottish mining village now abandoned. He was the second of the three children of George and Agnes Knox: his elder brother being John, and a younger sister who was named Agnes, after her mother. William’s father, George Knox, became the first principal of the South Wales and Monmouthshire School of Mines, or the University of Glamorgan as we now know it. William’s family moved home at least three times; necessitated by his father’s growing professional reputation and career advancement. Following the move to Treforest where his father had taken up the new, prestigious post of Principal, William enrolled in the School himself as a student, obviously with plans to build a career in the mining industry or perhaps become an academic, as his father had done. The family lived in Heol Isaf in Radyr and William was active both in his studies and in sport – he was the President of the first ever rugby team of the School of Mines and we can see him pictured with his team in a photograph taken before the urgencies of war swept aside many such youthful and light-hearted activities.


William Knox's name on Radyr War Memorial
William Knox’s name on Radyr War Memorial

In 1917, William volunteered to train as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps – not something to be undertaken lightly since the average ‘flying life expectancy’ of a pilot on the Western front has been calculated as low as 93 flying hours in periods of peak combat. As well as the obvious dangers of combat, pilot and air crew were at additional risks from their own under-developed training programmes and the rudimentary nature of the early aircraft – with more air crew being killed in training accidents than in combat at times.

2nd Lieutenant Knox was posted to 54th Squadron in Northern France early in 1918 – an example of extremely unlucky timing as the massive German Spring Offensive was about to begin. The Spring Offensive was Germany’s final concerted effort to bring the war to a victorious end while they were able to make use of the troops who had returned from the Russian front, and take advantage of the short time before American troops arrived in numbers and became fully effective. It was into this arena that the inexperienced, 25 year old pilot arrived to ‘do his bit’.

The Germans’ big push meant that William’s squadron returned to their low level attack missions of earlier in the war and this posed a risk from both ground fire and enemy fighter aircraft. With even worse luck in his timing, William was flying in the same area at the same time as the famous German fighter pilot, Baron Manfred von Ricthofen: the ‘Red Baron’. On the 24th or 26th March 1918, William took off with his squadron to take part in a patrol over the German lines. In most cases, despite the infinite chaos of war, considerable detail is recorded about engagement with the enemy. But in this case there is some confusion about the date. If the date was the 26th March as some historians have written, then William’s Sopwith Camel C1553 lagged slightly behind his colleagues and his vulnerability was spotted by von Richthofen. Ernst Udet, one of the other German pilots flying that day, later wrote that the British airman did not see the descending Fokker until too late and author Floyd Gibbons writing in 1927 says that William Knox was shot down in flames, becoming von Richthofen’s 69th victim. His plane was last seen, falling in flames, 2 miles south west of Peronne.

Later historians re- evaluating Baron von Richthofen’s own combat reports and the records of the airmen he killed have taken the loss of William Knox to be the 24th March and this would mean he was not killed by the famous Red Baron, but by another or by ground fire. But it matters little. William was talented, full of promise and well-loved, but now he has no known grave and instead his name is recorded on the Arras Flying Services Memorial to the missing, on the Radyr village memorial and here at the University where he is still thought of, and his photograph still hangs on our walls.

William’s father went on to serve as Principal of the College until his retirement and, possibly significantly, William’s student record card no longer exists here. One can only wonder whether it was removed by a sensitive and sympathetic member of staff to save his father’s feelings.

Today we remember William Knox of the South Wales and Monmouthshire School of Mines, and as a student of the University of Glamorgan.

Captain Alex Eida

Graduate of the University of Glamorgan

Alex Eida

Captain Alex Eida, who died on 1 August, 2006, aged 29, was a professional and diligent officer who was “universally admired” by his colleagues.

Captain Eida, a member of 7 Parachute Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, was killed when the Spartan armoured reconnaissance vehicle in which he was travelling was attacked by Taliban insurgents with rocket propelled grenades in northern Helmand Province.

Originally from Coulsdon in Surrey, Captain Eida had been in the Army for five years during which time he had also served in Iraq and Kosovo, earning a reputation as a calm and dependable leader of men.

Major Matt Crisp, second in command of 7 Para, said: “He was a man with style and charisma yet not a hint of arrogance or over confidence – always prepared to go the extra mile for his soldiers, colleagues and friends who willingly did the same for him.”

Alex Eida was born in Surrey on 1 January, 1977, the only son of Derek and Jenny Eida. He had two sisters – Tamsyn and Bryony.

He joined the Territorial Army while studying for a degree in Technology Business Studies at the University of Glamorgan.

Captain Eida had a passion for travel and adventure and after graduation worked as an instructor at Camp America and as a ski rep and instructor in France.

Returning to Britain he enrolled at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in April, 2002, taking his Young Officers’ course at the Artillery Centre, Larkhill.

The MoD said: “Though extremely easygoing and self-effacing, he always displayed real enthusiasm and passion for his work, on the sports field, during adventure training and socially.”

During training, Captain Eida’s determination, commitment and high level of fitness marked him out as an outstanding prospect and ensured his selection for an arduous appointment with 7 Para which he joined in October, 2002.

He was deployed to Iraq in 2003 as part of Operation Telic and to Kosovo in 2004 in a demanding covert surveillance role. During both of these challenging tours, Captain Eida enhanced his reputation as a courageous officer who was always prepared to lead from the front.

Major Crisp added: “His maturity, professionalism and light yet authoritative command approach, combined with a sharp sense of humour and fun, inspired those around him.”

In Afghanistan, Captain Eida served as a Forward Observation Officer where his technical expertise, calm and diligence ensured the respect of all those around him.

An MoD statement said: “Captain Eida completed his whole Regular service with 7 Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery and within it he proved himself in the most demanding circumstances whilst maintaining his honour, focus, professionalism and balance.”

Captain Eida was deeply committed to his vocation and carried out all of his duties with an air of self-assured professionalism. He was liked and respected by his troops and superior officers alike.

His Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel David Hammond, said: “His infectious enthusiasm earned him the respect of all those that knew him. We have lost a gifted young officer and friend who was a leading light of the unit and will be sadly missed.”