b. 23/12/1896 Leeds, Yorkshire. d. 27/11/1949 Manchester.
Jack White (1896-1949) was born Jacob Weiss of Russian Jewish parents, Isaac and Olga (nee Braverman) Weiss, in Leeds, West Yorkshire on 23rd December 1896. The Jewish family later moved to the Hightown district of Salford. Jacob attended Marlborough Road School, Garnet Street, Higher Broughton, and in 1907 joined the Jewish Lads’ Brigade and Grove House Lads’ Club. At some point the family name was anglicised to White and Jacob became Jack. Name changing was common as at this time immigrants were victimised, especially with regard to jobs.
After leaving school and following in his father’s footsteps, Jack entered the waterproofing industry, beginning work in his father’s factory. He was on a trade trip out to Sweden in August 1914 when war broke out, so he hurried back to England in order to enlist, becoming a member of the King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment. In the early part of his service he was booked to go to France, but missed the departure of his draft as he had been given two days’ compassionate leave in order to attend his father’s funeral; he had been killed when trying to escape from a burning factory building. White’s Battalion, the 6th (S) Battalion, King’s Own, left for Gallipoli in July 1915 and he was made a signaller; he was to spend most of the war in the Middle East.
Eventually, he and his unit were ordered to join the Tigris Corps, attempting to relieve the Siege of Kut. After the failure of the relief effort, White’s unit participated in the counter-offensive in 1917. It was during the 13th Division’s crossing of the Diyala River that he earned the Victoria Cross. On 7th/8th March 1917 on the Dialah River, Mesopotamia, Jack, during an attempt to cross a river saw the two Pontoons ahead of him come under heavy machine-gun fire, with disastrous results. When his own Pontoon had reached midstream, with every man except himself either dead or wounded, finding that he was unable to control the Pontoon, Pte. White promptly tied a telephone wire to the Pontoon, jumped overboard, and towed it to the shore, thereby saving an officer’s life and bringing to land the rifles and equipment of the other men in the boat, who were either dead or dying.
After the war, Jack returned home to a hero’s welcome and was one of three Jewish men to receive the VC, the others being Leonard Keysor and Issy Smith. White visited his old school on 19th March 1919, and on 30th April, was presented with his VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace. Soon after his return to Manchester, he was given some money to put into a firm that sold mackintoshes called White Bros (Manchester) Ltd. Unfortunately, 464 of his mackintoshes were stolen by a gang of Russian Jews.
White moved to Broughton, Salford, and in 1921 married May Daniels. He became a travelling salesman, specialising in antiques and Persian rugs, and kept an office and stockroom in central Manchester. He was a founder member of the Jewish Ex Servicemen’s Association and spent a great deal of his spare time looking after the welfare of Jewish Ex Servicemen. As a result of his VC, he was in public demand for talks and appearances, and was instrumental in organising events to attract funds. He set up a sub branch of the British Legion in Salford with Captain Sydney Frankenburg, and he was life vice-president.
Jack attended the House of Lords dinner in 1929 of VC holders, and met Captain Patterson, the officer whose life he saved, at a West End hotel. It was the first time they had met since 1917. They vowed to meet annually from then on. On 7th November 1937, he took part in a parade by Jewish ex-servicemen on Horse Guards Parade, and he laid a wreath at the Cenotaph. On the outbreak of World War II, Jack applied to become a member of the Manchester Local Defence Volunteers (later Home Guard) and was made a group commander. He was later told he was not eligible for the post as his father was not a naturalised British citizen. White was deeply upset by the slight, and rightly so. A lobby was made to Parliament on this issue, but to no avail. Instead, Jack worked as a volunteer ARP officer.
Jack decided to write a letter to The Times where he called for a separate Army made up of British Jews willing to fight the Nazis. After the end of World War II, he attended the VE Parade in June 1946, followed by the dinner at The Dorchester. Jack was heavily involved in helping refugees who had escaped the Nazi persecution. He found them training and employment. Jack died suddenly on 27th November 1949 at the early age of 53 at his home, 5 Bentley Road, Salford. He was buried with full military honours in the Jewish Cemetery, Blackley, Manchester.
In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Medaglia Al Valore Militaire (Bronze). His medals are not publicly owned, though the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum does have an album with a number of items about Jack White VC.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: BLACKLEY JEWISH CEMETERY, BLACKLEY, LANCASHIRE.
Section F, Grave 341