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From Salvationist 4 April 2020

FEATURE | Sacrificial service

Attempting the impossible

Major Rosemary Dawson recalls the international service of Lieut-Colonels Brian and Dorothy Knightley, members of the Order of the Founder, who were both promoted to Glory in late 2019

ADMITTANCE to the Order of the  Founder – The Salvation Army’s  highest honour – is relatively rare. Instituted on 20 August 1917 by General Bramwell Booth, it is specifically given to mark ‘outstanding service rendered by officers and soldiers such as would in spirit and achievement have been specially commended by the Founder’.

Lieut-Colonels Brian and Dorothy Knightley were admitted to the Order of the Founder by General John Larsson during territorial family celebration meetings at London’s Royal Festival Hall in November 2004. They are the only UK married couple to be given this honour.

The citation described their 13 years of sacrificial and dedicated service in Liberia, West Africa, as ‘above and beyond the call of duty’. The couple had returned to the UK earlier that week for imminent retirement, after farewell meetings in Liberia were cancelled because of an upsurge in the civil war.

The Army had been established in Liberia in 1988 by pioneer officers from Canada, Majors Len and Dorothy Millar. When the outbreak of civil war forced them to leave in May 1990 there were 10 corps, 700 soldiers and a number of schools.

Seventeen months later, during which time the civil war had disrupted the Army’s work, Brian and Dorothy arrived, with two suitcases, two Bibles, a cornet and precious little else. At the end of their 13-year leadership there were 18 corps, 16 outposts, two large clinics, two hostels, an officer training college, 30 national officers, 2,000 soldiers and more than 4,000 children receiving education in 11 Army schools. This was achieved through dogged determination, sheer hard work and dedication.

Living in constant danger often meant leaving at short notice – once involving a rescue by Ghanaian soldiers and evacuation by an American helicopter.

Easter 1996 was a particularly tense time, as told in Brian’s book, Mission Liberia. They hid in a cupboard under the stairs for safety when war broke out again. It was a tight squeeze, particularly when their dogs pushed in and competed to be closest to Dorothy.

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