History of Alfred Knappe

Post date: Aug 19, 2016 7:56:33 PM

To begin our club's celebration of 50 years of fencing at UNB, our Director (Evan Schriver) has put together an exposé about the club's first coach, Alfred Knappe.

Born in 1933 in the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, Nazi Germany took control of his homeland in 1938. He lived through the Second World War as a child, losing his father just after the war to a Gulag in Siberia, where he died. Alfred, and the rest of his family were loaded on cattle cars and sent to West Germany, where they set down roots. Alfred only joined a fencing club in 1950, one year after the Allies lifted the ban on fencing in Germany (as fencing swords were considered ‘weapons’ under Germany’s surrender terms). He quickly flourished in foil and sabre, being invited to numerous national competitions and winning many gold and silver medals between 1952 and 1954. However, the German economy was still weak in the 1950s, so Alfred turned to Canada to begin a new life, arriving on May 11, 1955. He found work in the woods and worked hard learning English, then found a job in the metal industry, where he worked for 10 years. In 1966, he was hired as the Chief Technician in the Chemical Engineering Department at UNB. When he arrived, his past caught up with him when the UNB Fencing Club, a newly formed club in 1966, approached him to be their first coach. His acceptance of their invitation would lead to fencing as we know it today in New Brunswick.

Alfred did everything for Fencing in New Brunswick over the next ten years: coaching, refereeing, competition organization, equipment sales and repair, training of coaches and referees, and administration work for the New Brunswick Fencing Association (being President of the organization from 1969-72). He worked until he burned himself out, then returned to fencing at the club level before becoming the NBFA President again in 1981. He also worked at the national level, becoming a board member for the Canadian Fencing Association (now known as the Canadian Fencing Federation) from 1969-72, and helping to found the National Committee of Fencing Instructors in 1971.

Two of his most lasting contributions to fencing in New Brunswick have been the Alfred Knappe Tournament (which he founded and sponsored from 1973-79, and again from 1997 until his death in 2010) and the Alfred Knappe Trust Fund (a fund used to sponsor the training of F-ENB members). Alfred continued to train fencers, coaches and referees, as well as attend numerous fencing events in New Brunswick (showing particular interest in the UNB Fencing Club – his home club) until his death in September, 2010 at the age of 77. His legacy lives on, in the tournament and trust, which bear his name, in the organizations he founded and built, and in the sport of fencing in New Brunswick, which would not be what it is today without his work.

Evan Schriver

Director

UNB Fencing Club