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Jack's Story

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Jack Weiss was born in Leeds in 1896. His parents were Isaac and Olga Weiss; their name was later anglicised to White. The family moved to Manchester when Jack was a baby.

Following the outbreak of World War One, Jack volunteered for service and joined the 6th Battalion King’s Own (Royal Lancaster). He saw active service as a signaller in the Middle East. In March 1917, while advancing on Baghdad, Jack bravely saved the life of the other men in his pontoon and prevented vital equipment from falling into enemy hands. Three months later, due to his actions, the King awarded Jack the Victoria Cross. He was decorated in April 1919.

After his military service, Jack began an apprenticeship as a pattern cutter in a raincoat factory. By 1937 he owned the business. Seventy years later, his great-grandchildren brought the business back into family ownership and the company now carries Jack’s name, Jack White V.C.

Jack’s connection to the military remained throughout his life through his membership of the Association of Jewish Ex-servicemen and Women. But in 1940, when the Home Guard was formed in Britain, Jack’s request to volunteer was refused. Having won the highest military honour in the previous war, he was rejected on the grounds that his father had not been born in Britain.

Jack died at the early age of 53 in 1949. He was buried with full military honours.

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On the night of the 7/8 March 1917, Jack’s regiment were tasked with ferrying men across the Diala River (8 miles from Baghdad) under heavy enemy fire. Many men died, including 14 men from Jack’s pontoon. Jack showed extreme courage by towing his boat back to shore, saving the life of his officer, 2nd Lieutenant Patterson, and preventing their equipment falling into enemy hands.

His story was immortalised in an edition of Victor in 1987.

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Lieutenant Patterson: Watch yourself White, there’s nothing you can do.

Jack White: I’m the only bloke not dead or wounded in this pontoon Sir. Got to do something. I’ll be all right… I hope…

If I can just get into those reeds, they’ll not be able to spot us.

We made it Sir. Hang on while I get it tied up. Then we can get the dead an’ wounded ashore.

Lieutenant Patterson: White, you saved all the wounded and the equipment in the pontoon. You deserve a medal… and I’ll see you get one.
Jack White: Aw, that’s alright Sir, Only doin’ a job o’ work.

The following citation appeared in The London Gazette on 27th June 1917:

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“War Office, 27th June, 1917.

His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned Officer, Warrant Officer, Non-commissioned Officers and men:

No. 18105 Pte. Jack White, R. Lanc. R.

For most conspicuous bravery and resource.

This signaller 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.”

When growing up in Manchester, Jack, like many Jewish boys his age, was a member of the Jewish Lads Brigade. In April 1919, the Brigade honoured Jack with a special event where he was presented with an illuminated address by the mayor of Salford and a £310 sum of money from the JLB to place him in a business to ensure his future career.

The event was reported in The Jewish Chronicle on 11th April 1919. On the occasion Jack said:

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“Words fail to express my gratitude for the honours conferred upon me for the little I tried to do in the campaign. Ten years ago, I joined the Brigade, I could neither swim nor play football, or take part in any other sport. But after one year’s practice I was able to swim two miles, thanks to Mr Alex Jacobs. I owe my life to being able to swim. Life in the army was hard, but it was brightened by what I had learnt in the Bridge as being able to take his part in sport, life became much brighter. I urge the boys to do their best and they would never regret having joined the Bridge.”

Jack White VC And Leonard Keysor VC Laying A Wreath On The Cenotaph, National Armistice Day, 1935.
Jack White VC And Leonard Keysor VC Laying A Wreath On The Cenotaph, National Armistice Day, 1935.

Jack White VC and Leonard Keysor VC laying a wreath on the Cenotaph, National Armistice Day, 1935.

Jack White Celebrating Receiving The VC, 1919.

Jack White celebrating receiving the VC, 1919.

Jack White Shaking Hands With Captain Patterson, 1928.

Jack White shaking hands with Captain Patterson, 1928.

Jack White In The Jewish Lads Brigade, 1911.

Jack White in the Jewish Lads Brigade, 1911.

Miniature Versions Of Jack White’s Military Medals, The Victoria Cross, The 1914–15 Star, The British War Medal, The Allied Victory Medal And The Italian Bronze Medal For Military Valor.

Miniature versions of Jack White’s military medals, the Victoria Cross, the 1914–15 Star, the British War Medal, the Allied Victory Medal and the Italian Bronze Medal for Military Valor.

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