b. 28/12/1896 Leeds, Yorkshire. d. 23/04/1917 Wancourt, France
David Philip Hirsch (1896-1917), known as Philip or “Pip”, was born in Leeds, West Yorkshire on 28th December 1896. His father, Harry, was born in Dundee, Scotland, and entered the firm of Messrs Julius Cohen & Josephy, wool merchants, in 1887. He married Edith nee Brindley, who was distantly related to the great canal builder James Brindley, in 1895 in Leeds. He later became a partner in the business, before the firm became Hirsch & Son in 1933. Philip was one of three children to the couple, with Frank Brindley Hirsch born in 1898 and Margery B Hirsch born in 1900.
Philip was educated at Willaston School, London Road, Nantwich, Cheshire from 1908, where he was the head boy in his final year. He was a talented athlete, holding the record for the mile and as a cricketer he took more wickets for the school than any previous bowler. He won an open exhibition in modern history for Worcester College, Oxford but left in December 1914 and joined Leeds University OTC.
He was commissioned into 11th West Yorkshire on 7th April 1915 and later served in 13th (Reserve) Battalion. He transferred to 1/4th Yorkshire on 22nd September 1915 and attended a machine gun course before going to France in April 1916. He was wounded in September at Eaucourt l’Abbaye while commanding the Battalion’s machine gun section. He was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant on 23rd September and then Acting Captain on assuming command of Y Company on 16th November. He became Temporary Captain in March 1917.
On 23rd April 1917 near Wancourt, France, he led an attack on enemy positions. Having arrived at the first objective, Capt. Hirsch, although already twice wounded, returned over fire-swept slopes to satisfy himself that the defensive flank was being established. Machine gun fire was so intense that it was necessary for him to be continuously up and down the line encouraging his men to dig and hold the position. He continued to encourage his men by standing on the parapet and steadying them in the face of machine gun fire and counterattack until he was killed.
Sadly, his body was not recovered after the action, and he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. As he was unmarried, the VC was presented to his parents by King George V outside Buckingham Palace on 21st July 1917. Although he was killed in April 1917, he continued to appear on the Army List under the West Yorkshire Regiment and in June 1918 his VC was included. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf. The medals passed to his brother Frank, on the death of his father in 1951. Frank owned them until his death, when they passed to his grandson, Philip D Kilpin, who lived in Elgin, South Africa. He presented them on loan to the Green Howards Museum, Richmond, Yorkshire in September 1995.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: GREEN HOWARDS MUSEUM, RICHMOND, YORKSHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: NO KNOWN GRAVE – ON ARRAS MEMORIAL, FRANCE. BAY 5
Andrew Swan – Image of Hirsch’s VC Medal Group at Green Howards Museum, Richmond.
Mark Sanders – Image of Hirsch’s Medal Card.