The Dewhirst Brothers

The Dewhirst Brothers

Captain Stanley Dewhirst,
CCXLVIII (IV West Riding) (Howitzer) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.

Lieutenant Harold Dewhirst,
2/IV West Riding (Howitzer) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, and Royal Flying Corps

Cross Gates Methodist Church (Leeds Library & Information Services)

Stanley Dewhirst was born on 1st October 1892 at the home of his parents, Isaac Jowitt Dewhirst, a well known and nationally important businessman, and his wife, Clara. Stanley was the elder of two sons born to the couple, the younger being Harold who was born on 29th December 1894. Daughters, Elsie, May, and Ruth completed the family. The eldest daughter, May was born in 1888. Elsie was born in 1890 and in 1901 Ruth was born, identified on the 1901 Census only as ‘Baby Dewhirst’. Unfortunately, Ruth died in 1907 aged 6 years.

The family lived on Station Road in Cross Gates during the early part of the children’s lives, and they employed two domestic servants and a sick nurse. Almost nothing now remains of the residential properties that stood along Station Road. The modern Shopping Centre dominates the area. Hints of the past can be seen in the buildings of the railway station, the Station pub, and the original structure behind some of the shops opposite the library close to the junction with Austhorpe Road where the Methodist Church where Mr & Mrs Dewhirst were valued members of the congregation stands. In time the family moved to a larger house called Whinmoor Lodge which stood at the side of the main Leeds to York Road almost opposite the Old Red Lion pub. This house has since been demolished, although the foundations may still be traced in the ground. Whinmoor Lodge was, according to the Express obituary, a ‘beautiful house’ presided over by Mrs. Dewhirst. She regularly opened her house and garden to groups of people from Scholes for celebrations and gatherings. Alderman and Mrs. Dewhirst hosted a children’s party at the end of the Great War and for many years the memory of tramping across the fields between Scholes and the lodge burned bright for those who had attended. With the formation of the Women’s Institute in Scholes in 1924 and Clara Dewhirst being installed as the first Branch President, the lodge found another role and became an unofficial base for the W.I. Mrs Dewhirst’s daughter, Elsie, and her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Barbara Dewhirst between them put in service to the W.I. which spanned over 60 years, indeed this may have been even longer as the information on which this claim is based is taken from “Scholes is our Village” which was written in the early 1980s and at the time that book was written the family, though no longer living in Whinmoor were still very much involved in the W.I.
A Dewhirst advert from the early 1900s (Leeds Museums Service)

Isaac Dewhirst was the proprietor of a wholesale clothiers and haberdashers and had a warehouse on Harper Street, near the Markets in central Leeds. A Polish immigrant to Leeds, one Michael Marks obtained a small loan from Isaac Dewhirst which he then used to buy stock from Dewhirst for his travelling selling business. Marks’ business grew and expanded requiring him to form a firm base, which he did with the acquisition of a stall in Leeds Market. Marks continued to source his stock from Dewhirst and business flourished. In 1894 Michael Marks went into partnership with Isaac Dewhirst’s cashier, Tom Spencer. Marks and Spencer went from strength to strength selling Dewhirst stock. The rest of the story of Marks and Spencer is a well known one and does not need re-telling here. Dewhirst’s business remained based on clothing, particularly men’s shirts and uniforms and those business areas have suffered through cheaper labour costs and lower manufacturing costs in the Far East, but I J Dewhirst (Uniforms) Ltd is still a major company in this area of business, and an important employer in the City of Leeds.

When Isaac Jowitt Dewhirst died in 1937, he was widely mourned, and it was evident that his city held him in high esteem. His obituary in ‘The Express’ was printed over three half-columns and has a sub-heading of ‘From Parish Councillor to County Alderman’. He was also a Magistrate. Clearly, he had been a very able man.
The Gryphon badge of Leeds University Officer Training Corps

Stanley Dewhirst joined the Army from the Leeds University Contingent of the Senior Division of the Officer Training Corps. He had previously attended Leeds Grammar School and Château de Lancy, near Geneva in Switzerland. This school was a well-known school taking the sons of gentlemen from the UK, Continental Europe, and the USA. The school managed to continue for much of the Great War but the war eventually forced it to close. He was commissioned into the 4th West Riding (Howitzer) Brigade, which was a Territorial Force formation based in Burley. The unit, the 4th W. Rid. (How.) Bde, was attached to 49th (West Riding) Division but was broken up on 18th October 1916 after being redesignated as CCXLVIII (H) Bde in May of that year. It seems clear that Isaac Dewhirst’s influence and connections came into play, as it is noted on Stanley’s correspondence file that there was no vacancy in this unit, however, it was recommended as a special case. The following notice was posted in the London Gazette dated 15th December 1914:

War Office,15th December, 1914.


4th West Riding (Howitzer) Brigade.
Cadet Stanley Dewhirst, from the Leeds University Contingent, Senior Division, Officers Training Corps, to be Second Lieutenant.
Dated 16th December, 1914.
Stanley Dewhirst marries Barbara Troup (The Dewhirst Family)

It is impossible to be certain as to why there was a special recommendation, but it is likely that a friend of the Dewhirsts was already an officer in the same unit and offered to look after him. As was common for many junior officers, Stanley Dewhirst attained and relinquished acting ranks with regularity as he was temporarily in command of his battery. Promotions for short periods could be granted to cover periods of leave or hospitalisation.

Sadly, Stanley Dewhirst suffered enormously in the war and eventually he was retired from the Army as unfit for further service. In April 1917, near Arras, he was blown across a street by an exploding shell. Although not physically wounded the incident affected him greatly and although he did not report sick for a further three months, it is clear that this was the beginning of his problems. A report made out at 59 (Northern) General Hospital at St Omer stated that he presented as very run down, had a heavy look, and poor appetite. It further stated that he was sleeping badly and that what sleep he got was disturbed by dreams. He had endured very arduous duties and had been present during very heavy shelling of his battery’s positions during a period of ‘many weeks’. His symptoms received a diagnosis of neurasthenia and he was transferred to the base by ambulance train. Evidently his health continued to deteriorate and once it became clear to the Army that he would not recover sufficiently to return to active duty the was retired on ill-health grounds, and this was announced in the London Gazette in the following terms:


War Office, 7th October, 1918.


Lt. S. Dewhirst relinquishes his commission on account of ill-health contracted on active service, and is granted the hon. rank of Lt. 8th Oct. 1918.


War Office,2nd November, 1918.


Lt. (actg:. Capt.) S. Dewhirst relinquishes his commission on account of ill-health contracted on active service, and is granted the hon. rank of Capt. 8th Oct. 1918. (Substituted for that which appeared in the Gazette of 7th Oct. 1918.)

He was granted the honorary rank of Captain only after enquiring why he should only be granted the honorary rank of Lieutenant when he had been acting Captain with his battery. As the notifications to the London Gazette show, the oversight was quickly corrected. He was also granted the Silver War Badge which was issued to those service personnel who had been discharged due to wounds or sickness. It was intended to be worn with civilian clothing and was partly designed to ward off the attentions of those people given to doling out white feathers and insults to the men of military age which they encountered out of uniform. Officers, or their next of kin if the officer had died, had to claim the medals which were awarded to them in respect of their war service, and the address of the claimant was recorded on the reverse side of the Medal Index Card. The card compiled to record Stanley Dewhirst’s medal entitlement of a trio of medals comprising a 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal, shows that at the time he claimed his medals he was living at Lillesworth, Park Lane, Roundhay, Leeds. He applied on 12th November 1928, ten years and a day after the war ended. Perhaps the anniversary pricked his memory, but we will never know for certain. What is known though is that for many other men the memories of war were so painful that they were unable or unwilling to claim their medals until many years later, and of those who did claim them many never wore them.

Leeds Grammar School (Leeds Library & Information Services)

Harold Dewhirst, as we have seen, was two years the junior of Stanley, but like his brother, he had also attended Leeds Grammar School. Harold had been a cadet in the school’s unit of the Officer Training Corps. When he came to join the Army, he too chose the IV West Riding (Howitzer) Brigade although he was commissioned into the second line unit. His commission was announced in the London Gazette as follows:


War Office, 10th November, 1915.


West Riding (Howitzer) Brigade.

Harold Dewhirst to be Second Lieutenant.

Dated 27th October, 1915.

Territorial Force units split when war was declared and while the first line units mobilised and went off to war, the second line units continued to recruit men and train them up prior to feeding them into the first line unit at the front. To aid recognition, the units were given prefixes to their titles. While Stanley began his service with 1/IV West Riding (Howitzer) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, Harold went into 2/IV West Riding (Howitzer) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. His Medal Index Card shows that he entered active service while still with the Royal Field Artillery, but soon afterwards he secured a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps where he trained to be a pilot. His transfer the Royal Flying Corps was published in the London Gazette in the following terms:



Mil. Wing.—The undermentioned appts. are made: —
Flying Officers— 2nd Lt. H. Dewhirst, W. Rid. Brig., R.F.A., T.F.
The Aerodrome at St Omer (© IWM Q 12052)

Records show that Harold Dewhirst gained his Royal Aero Club Certificate on 29th August 1916 so it appears that an officer was not appointed the Royal Flying Corps until he was qualified. Unfortunately, his flying career was cut short by a crash in which he was seriously injured, although it was not known how seriously at the time. He was employed as a ferry pilot delivering an aircraft from Farnborough in Hampshire to St Omer in France on 13th September 1916 when the engine failed at low altitude and the aircraft turned over and crashed. He suffered an intracapsular fracture to the neck of his right femur which was not diagnosed for over a year until he was examined with X-rays. As a result, his right leg lost over 1 inch from its length and he had to endure marked limitations in movement at the hip. The disability was permanent, and he was medically downgraded which took him away from flying duties to sedentary duties. After spending months in several different hospitals all over England and a period spent convalescing, he was returned to his flying squadron (12 Squadron) to await a posting order. After returning to duty, he was promoted:




The undermentioned to be Lts. 1st June1916, except where otherwise stated: —
2nd Lt. H. Dewhirst, with precedence as from 1st June 1916, and to remain seconded.

12th  Aug. 1917.

Harold Dewhirst’s final posting was at No. 1 (T) Wireless School in Winchester, Hampshire and he was demobilised from this unit on 10th February 1919. He returned home to his wife at their home at Beechwood, in Halton, Leeds. Lieutenant Harold Dewhirst claimed his medals, a British War Medal and Victory Medal pair, in early 1922 and by this time he and his wife had moved closer to Stanley in Roundhay. They had a home at Hedlea, North Park Grove, Roundhay, Leeds.