Jack White (23rd December 1896 to 27th November 1949)

 

On an overcast Sunday afternoon I drove to Blackley in Manchester to find the grave of Jack White who was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry. He lies in a Jewish cemetery which doesn't advertise its location loudly (I drove passed it twice.) I’m not sure when Jewish folk traditionally visit their dead but I've only ever visited one Jewish cemetery that was open. I had to climb over the tall fence to get into this one. I suffered a heart-pounding moment as I had to grip a horizontal stone wall level with my face and hoist my body onto it. Some other visitors were there but didn't follow me. I found the grave after ten minutes of searching.

 

Jack was born Jacob Weiss in Leeds two days before Christmas in 1896. His dad was a Russian Jewish immigrant father and his mum was British. After school he joined the family waterproofing company but the First World War erupted and he joined the army. Aged only 20 he was fighting at Siege of Kut (100 miles south of Baghdad.) The troops were there to attack an 8,000 strong British-Indian garrison.

 

On Wednesday 7th March 917 Jack was one of 60 soldiers crossing the Diyala River on boats when they came under heavy machine-gun fire. The enemy had waited patiently for the best moment to attack. Jack and the troops were mid-stream and couldn't find cover or organise a defence; it was “every man for himself”. Many men died instantly and those who lived were seriously wounded. Jack tied a telephone wire to the boat, jumped overboard and somehow pulled it back to shore. Many lives were saved and the wounded got treatment. Moreover artillery and equipment didn't fall into enemy hands.

 

After the war Jack moved to Salford and aged 25 he married May Daniels. He became a travelling salesman, specialising in antiques and Persian rugs. He founded the Jewish Ex Servicemen’s Association and spent much time looking after the welfare of Jewish Ex Servicemen. Bearing a rare VC medal he was in public demand for talks and appearances. As the Second World War raged he tried to join the Home Guard but was oddly refused. It was claimed his parents had failed to be properly naturalized as British Citizens. He became an apprentice cloth cutter at a factory that produced raincoats. With a business head he rose to become the General Manager and then the owner. Life cares nothing for fairness and Jack died of poor health aged 52.

 

I put a stone on the grave to show I had visited. I expected more stones but there only three. He was buried here with full military honours. His bravery featured in a comic strip in Victor comic in 1987. Jack’s name lives on now. The factory he owned now makes high-quality carefully-crafted clothing and is run by his great-grandson. I’ve had a look on the website (too expensive for me - jackets for Ł350 - you can buy a car for that!) The website is here if you want a look : www.PrivateWhiteVC.com

 

The clothes have an army feel in line with the heroics of Private Jack. The company has made gas suits for the Gulf War, uniforms for heads of state, school wear for Harrods and Burberry raincoats. For 25 years they made the bright red eye-catching Virgin Atlantic red suits for the air-hostess.

 

I strolled around the cemetery populated by many names ending in “Berg” and "Man." I ate a packet of crisps then got my belly and bum dirty getting back over the wall. I didn’t mind getting mucky for Private Jack. I did one more salute and left. I've since visited again and now have to code for the security gate (it works on all Jewish cemeteries in Manchester.)

 

Grave - Jack White 1

 

About to start looking for Jack…

 

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Touching the “VC” as usual…

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Leaving a stone to showed I had called by…

 

I called in the cemetery in September 2016 and looked for Jack again. I couldn’t drive passed and not leave a pebble on his grave…

 

white jack meets mayor of manchester

 

When Jewish folk visit a loved one they leave a stone to showed they visited…

 

Grave - Jack White 3