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The Great Fallen: Jim Knight

Remembering Croft McKenzie The precious wartime diaries of former Carlton footballer Private Croft McKenzie have been made available to the club by his descendants, some 98 years after he first put pen to paper. (Narrated by Sam Docherty)

Flying Officer James Bell Knight
229 (Spitfire) Squadron
Died Goodenough Island, Milne Bay, October 11, 1943,
Aged 25
15 games for Carlton, 1942-’43

In October 1941, through the darkest days of the Second World War, the President of the Geelong Football Club confirmed that the club was going into recession until the conflict was over. As such, its players were free to join other clubs  in League competition until such time as Geelong rejoined.

Geelong’s Best and Fairest award winner of that year was Jim Knight; a strong, tenacious rover/forward recruited from neighboring Geelong Scouts. In two seasons at Corio Oval, Jim had managed 42 games for the healthy return of 54 goals. A fitness fanatic who could run all day, Jim was considered one of Geelong’s most popular players, and widely regarded as a future captain.

Jim had already volunteered for active service with the RAAF prior to Geelong’s withdrawal. But Carlton’s newly-appointed coach Percy Bentley was an admirer of the speedster, and convinced him to keep his football skills up to scratch by pulling on the dark Navy Blue No.11 guernsey now worn by Robert Warnock when his military training allowed.

Jim Knight played just 15 games for the Blues in 1942-43, but impressed everyone with his attitude, ethics and football ability. In June 1943, he played his last game for Carlton (against Collingwood at Princes Park) before he was sent to join in the fierce battles against the Japanese in New Guinea.

On October 11, 1943, Flying Officer James Bell Knight was killed when the bombs aboard his Douglas Boston bomber (A28-26) exploded after the aircraft crashed during take-off from Goodenough Island in Papua New Guinea. F/O Knight's crew - F/Sgt K G Thompson and LAC R F McGlade - survived the crash.

Jim was laid to rest  at the Bomana War Cemetery in Port Moresby.

Both football clubs joined Jim's family and the wider community in mourning, and vowed to commemorate him. In 1944, Geelong donated a trophy to Carlton in Jim’s name, which was later presented to the Blues’ Best and Fairest winner of that year, Bob Chitty.

Geelong also declared that from that same year on, the annual award to the Best & Fairest runner-up would be known as the Jim Knight Memorial Trophy. The then Carlton President KG Luke contributed £10 to be awarded to the trophy winner.