Remembrance - The Yorkshire Regiment, First World War

Captain D Philip HIRSCH, VC

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For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in attack near Wancourt on the 23rd April 1917.   Having arrived at the first objective, Captain Hirsch, although 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 counter-attack until he was killed.   His conduct throughout was a magnificent example of the greatest devotion to duty. Captain D Philip Hirsch, VC

David Philip Hirsch was born in Leeds on 28th December 1896, the eldest son of Harry and Edith Hirsch ofWestwood Grove, Leeds.   In May 1908, he entered Willeston School, Nantwich, where he later became head boy.   Phil, or 'Pip' to his parents, was a fine all-round athlete; he took more wickets for the school than any previous bowler and also held the record for the mile.   He was also a star pupil, winning an open exhibition in history to Worcester College, Oxford.
Philip Hirsch left school in December 1914 and went straight into training with Leeds University Officer Training Corps, obtaining a commission on 7th April 1915 in the 11th West Yorkshire Regiment.   On 22nd September he was transferred to the Yorkshire Regiment (The Green Howards) as a Second Lieutenant.   He attended a Machine Gun Course just before he went to France to join the 4th Battalion in April 1916.
His battalion fought through the Battle of the Somme and Philip Hirsch was wounded at Eaucourt L'Abbaye, commanding the battalion machine guns, and promoted to temporary Lieutenant on 23rd September 1916, aged 19 years.   He was appointed Acting Captain on assuming command of 'Y' Company on 16th November 1916.   On the 10th February 1917, he moved with his battalion to Foucaucourt, then relieved units of the French Army to become the extreme right battalion of the British line on the Western Front.   He was Mentioned in Despatches on 9th April 1917 .
Captain Philip Hirsch was killed in action and awarded the posthumous Victoria Cross at Wancourt on 23rd April 1917 .   The announcement was published in The London Gazette in 14th June 1917.   Today, his name is listed on Bay 5 of the 'Memorial to the Missing' at Arras.   Philip Hirsch's parents paid for a swimming pool in his memory to be built at Willeston School, now an ecumenical Theological College.   There is a 'Hirsch Close' in Nantwich and a plaque in his memory outside Leeds City Art Gallery.   In 1918, the VC became the property of his brother Major Frank Hirsch who died in 1995, when it was handed on to Phil Kilpin, the nephew who lived in Elgin, South Africa.   He loaned Captain Hirsch's VC and medals to the Green Howards Regimental Museum in September the same year.   The Hirsch papers were presented to the Liddle Collection in the Brotherton Library, Leeds University, by Mrs Dorothy Kilpin in July 1997.

Information on the medal holders on this page, and other pages relating to the regiment's WW1 VC holders, is taken from "Beyond Their Duty" by Roger Chapman.   This book was specialy written to commemorate the only occasion on which all 18 Victoria Crosses won by members of the Green Howards regiment were together (April to October 2001, in the Green Howards Museum).   The book may be purchased from the Green Howards Museum Shop.

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