Sapper Rupert Alfred Knowler

680 Gen. Constr. Coy. Royal Engineers

Town Memorial World War II


Service Number 1910294
Died 30/05/1940
Aged 28
680 Gen. Constr. Coy.
Royal Engineers
Son of Harold and Annie Knowler; husband of Eva Knowler, of Leatherhead, Surrey.
Commemorated at DUNKIRK MEMORIAL,
Location: Nord, France
Cemetery/memorial reference: Column 26

The inscription of his name can be seen by clicking here.

The War Diary for 680 Gen. Constr. Coy. provides the following information. It reminds us of the huge difficulties that needed to be overcome to get anything done:

[Forms C2118/22]
Month and Year: May 1940 WAR DIARY or INTELLIGENCE SUMMARY (Erase heading not required)
Unit 680 General Construction (Wimpey) Coy Royal Engineers,
Commanding Officer - Major L. A. Little.

Summary of Events and Information

May 23
.. Road on the way to Dunkirk and there await orders to move into Dunkirk ready to embark. Arrived early morning and waited on side of road all day. Could obtain no orders - at approximately 1700 hours runner arrived with instructions to return company to Honschoote. Returned company to Hondchoote. Still had all unit and other transport. Reported to Lt./Col. Poole and received instructions that unit was to help form a defensive line protecting Dunkirk. This was a second line, well in the rear of the fighting to stop any infiltrations of the enemy. Position was to defend Canal, Houthem, Bergues. Took up position and contacted British Troops on right flank and Belgian Left flank. Did not like look of Belgian Troops.
24, 25
Held position. No signs of enemy. Plenty of Air activity, bombing and machine gunning. Rations low. Buying food from countryside.

Received orders from Lt. Col, Poole, No.1 Army Troops Engineers to move to Dunkirk by march route. All transport to be destroyed. Smashed up ..

[The page for 27 May remains to be found]
Place: -
Date May 28
Spent day on sand dunes,. Place was actually Malo-les-Bains. Found Brigadier ??? trying to organise units into some kind of order for embarkation. O.C.
680 Company joined his conference and worked all day to get formations made up of different bodies of men. O.C. was given formation no.18, which consisted of 680 Company, R.A.S.C. detachment, some heavy and light Artillery Units. Embarkation by boats to ships lying off shore had started, progress of embarkation very slow. Each serial number lined up on beach, in lines awaiting their turn. Situation got difficult to control as unorganised bodies of men kept drifting down and joining the earlier serial numbers.

Place -
Date 29 May
Dawn revealed that there were still as many men on the beach as earlier in evening and formation No. 12 was still awaiting their turn in the dunes. Made determined effort to get show organised, found ambulances with wounded arriving. By 08.00 hours heavy swell was running and it was impossible to get ships boats close into shore. Conference on beach and decision arrived at to move all men back to Dunkirk to embark from Mole. Made one

Place: Dunkirk
Date 29 May
more effort to get wounded off the beach, but could not get stretchers through swell. Enemy very active in the air but was still bombing Dunkirk and did not drop much near us. Formations moved off down beach towards Dunkirk, organised 8 men to each stretcher to carry wounded. Heavy going in sand. O.C. 680 Company ordered by Naval O i/c embarkation to report that embarkation Malo-les-Bains had ceased and that all bodies were being moved back to Dunkirk. Carried out this duty and picked up 680 Company half way between Malo-les-Bains and Dunkirk. O.C. went into Dunkirk to reconnoitre position. Town in ruins, Bombing all day.

[Place: Dunkirk]
Date 30 May
Company waited turn for embarkation. Heavy bombing on beach, going on all day, but very few casualties.
[Was Rupert Knowler one of them? Or was 30th May the day he died of injuries received earlier?]

[Place: Dunkirk]
Date 31 May       
Company embarked for England. On arrival at Dover company was broken up and sent to different reception camps. Company got split on disembarkation from boat and got on different platforms and put in three different trains.
680 Gen. Constr. Coy. was also know as the Wimpey unit as it recruited particularly from that business. Other General Construction Companies were similarly named after their main sources of recruitment.

Rupert Alfred Knowler was baptised on  31 Mar 1912 at St Barnabas, Surrey. His father was recorded as Henry Knowler, a Plumber, of 14 Morland Road, Sutton and his mother as Annie Emma Knowler. By the 1930s the family had moved to 28 Morland Road, Sutton.

In January 1936 Rupert's marriage to Eva Jessopp was registered and they lived at 31 Avondale, Waverley Avenue, Sutton & Cheam. In 1937 they were at 7 Colston Court, West Street, Carshalton and in 1938-39 at 49 Culvers Avenue, Carshalton.

In the 1939 Register Rupert A Knowler is listed as born 22 Jan 1912, now resident at 10 Poplar Avenue, Leatherhead, Surrey. He was a Joiner Carpenter, classed as a Heavy Worker. Also in the household was Eva Knowler, birth date 11 June 1911.

Post-war, Eva, with Gladys Corbett, was listed at 21 Barnett Close, Ashtead, Surrey (1945-7) and then with a member of her Jessopp family, Frederick, 1949-1952.
In 1954 the marriage of Eva to Herbert S Rapley was registered in Q1, Epsom District. Herbert joined Eva and Frederick Jessopp at 21 Barnett Close. Later James A Knowler joined the household. Frederick was not listed after 1961.
Eva Rapley, born 11/6/11, died aged 81, her death was registered in October 1992. The Probate address was 58 Woodlands Road Epsom, date of death 24 Oct 1992.

Rupert is remembered on the Leatherhead Town Memorial and the Croydon Roll of Honour (p417). 

the website editor would like to add further information on this casualty
e.g. a photo of him, and of any recollections of him

last updated 22 May 20: badge corrected 16 Jul 20