A tribute has been unveiled to a Leeds soldier originally from Headingley who was awarded a Victoria Cross for his outstanding bravery during the First World War.
Following a special service this week, a dedicated Victoria Cross paving stone is now proudly on display at St Chad’s Church war memorial in Far Headingley to honour the deeds of Captain David Philip Hirsch. Originally from Weetwood Grove in Headingley, Captain Hirsch served in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France with the 4th Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment as part of 150 Brigade.
Captain Hirsch’s inspirational leadership in what became known as ‘The Second battle of the Scarpe’ on St George’s Day (23 April), 1917, against a German assault on a strategically important British position, was described by the London Gazette as ‘a magnificent example of the greatest devotion to duty’.
Aged only 20, Captain Hirsch lost his life in the battle whilst standing on the parapet above the position his men were holding and steadying them in the face of machine gun fire and counter-attack. Captain Hirsch had previously been wounded twice during the battle having established a defensive rank against the German offensive. The London Gazette said that he had ‘returned over fire-swept slopes to satisfy himself that the defensive flank was being established’.
Attending the service with the Lord Mayor Cllr Gerry Harper and Cllr Jack Dunn and leading on the unveiling of the paving stone were members of Captain Hirsch’s family. Also included in the service at the war memorial was the playing of the Last Post and the laying of wreaths. Before the unveiling, a short church service was also held at St Chad’s Church to remember Captain Hirsch.
The establishment of a commemorative paving stone to honour Victoria Cross (VC) recipients in England from the First World War was introduced by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in 2013. Working with local councils, these paving stones are placed in appropriate locations linked to the recipient’s birth place.
Councillor Jack Dunn, Leeds City Council’s lead member for parks, said:
“To win the Victoria Cross as Leeds soldier Captain Hirsch did for his outstanding bravery and heroism during the First World War should never be forgotten. It is therefore only right and fitting that a paving stone tribute is now in place at St Chad’s Church war memorial close to where he was brought up in Headingley as a lasting reminder of his courage and sacrifice.
“To see some of Captain Hirsch’s family in attendance and be able to lead on the unveiling was extremely poignant, and we would like to thank everyone who helped organise the event and worked on the tribute.”