Able Seaman William Knowles was a member of the Royal Naval Reserve (New Zealand) serving on board the New Zealand cruiser HMS Philomel in 1915. He was one of the landing party from the ship which went ashore near Alexandretta (now Iskenderun) on 8 February and ran into a Turkish ambush. Seriously wounded in the fighting, he died early the next day and was buried at sea. He has the dubious distinction of being the first member of the New Zealand Naval Forces to be killed as a result of enemy action.
In 1902 William commenced an association with the Antarctic, when he joined the Morning which transported supplies to Scott’s first polar expedition.
William Edward Knowles was born in Liverpool in 1877 and later emigrated to New Zealand, settling in Lyttelton. He went to sea as a young man and joined the Royal Naval Reserve (New Zealand) after that force was established in 1904, completing periods of training in HM ShipsPioneer and Pyramus. In 1902 William commenced an association with the Antarctic, when he joined the Morning which transported supplies to Scott’s first polar expedition. This was continued in 1910 when he joined Scott’s ill-fated 1910-13 expedition as an Able Seaman on the Terra Nova. Also joining the Terra Nova for this expedition was another seaman from Lyttelton, Charles Williams. William was awarded the Polar Medal in bronze for this expedition. At the outbreak of war William was mobilised and joined HMS Philomel. Philomel formed part of the escort for the occupation of German Samoa in August 1914 and was then part of the escort for the ships carrying the main body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, as far as Fremantle. From there Philomel proceeded to the Middle East, via Singapore and after a refit in Malta in January 1915, was deployed to patrol the coasts of Syria and southern Turkey.