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Philip Kirkup (1893-1959)

Captain with the 8th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry, from Birtley

Philip Kirkup was born in Cornsay in 1893 to Philip Kirkup, a mining engineer, and his wife Mary Ann. They lived in Leafield, Birtley, Durham. In 1911, Philip Kirkup was a mining student in Birtley. He became a colliery manager before 1914.

In 1912, Philip Kirkup joined the Territorial Forces with the 8th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. According to the Chester-le-Street Chronicle, at the outbreak of war in 1914 he was ‘one of the first territorials to volunteer for Foreign Service’ in his area. The 8th Battalion arrived in France on 20 April 1915. Soon after, they took part in the Second Battle of Ypres, and many were taken prisoner, including Philip Kirkup’s friend Angus Leybourne, who went on to marry Philip’s sister Constance. The Battalion saw action again on the Somme in 1916, at Arras and Passchendaele in 1917, and again at the Somme and in Battles of the Lys in 1918.

Philip Kirkup became a temporary captain in June 1916, a position that was made permanent in the November. He soon rose further, becoming an Acting Major and then Acting Lieutenant Colonel for both the 8th Battalion and the 7th Battalion of the Border Regiment in 1918.

In 1917, he was presented with an award by the Birtley Heroes Committee for his bravery and service during the war. In 1918, he was mentioned in despatches for his bravery. Having gone to the field ambulance with a fever, Philip Kirkup had attempted to rejoin his unit when it came under fire. Unable to, he rallied more men and held up the enemy advance, running to resupply ammunition himself, often straight into the line of fire. The despatch noted, ‘throughout the whole period he did much to organise the stragglers and keep them in the fighting line being without sleep, and having little food for five days.’

Philip was the brother of Constance ‘Connie’ Kirkup, and a friend of Ernest Angus Leybourne. It is through this friendship that Constance began writing to Angus whilst he was a prisoner of war, and subsequently interned in Switzerland, where Connie visited him. They went on to get married in 1918.

Philip Kirkup remained in the Army after the end of the war, rising through the ranks to Lieutenant Colonel by 1930. He married Kathleen Scott on 6 October 1925.

During the Second World War, Philip Kirkup commanded the 70th Brigade of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) during the retreat to Dunkirk in 1940. He then commanded the brigade in Iceland for a year. In July 1942, Brigadier Kirkup moved to North Africa, before finally returning home in 1943 to take up a post in the Ministry of Fuel and Power. He died in 1959.

For further information:

Civil Parish: Birtley

Birth date: 26-Sep-1893

Death date: 9-Jun-1959

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: Leafield, Birtley, Durham

Education: Marlborough College

Employment: Mining Engineer and Colliery Manager

Family: Philip Kirkup (Father)
Mary Ann Kirkup (Mother)
Ernest Kirkup (Brother)
Constance Kirkup (Sister)
Kathleen Scott (Wife)
B.S. Kirkup (Son)

Military service:

Second Lieutenant with the 8th Battalion DLI 18-Nov-1912
Lieutenant 31-May-1914
Captain 10-Nov-1916
Acting Major 13-Jan-1917 to 10-Mar-1917, 18-May-1917 to 10-Apr-1918
Acting Lieutenant Colonel 11-Apr-1918 to 20-Sep-1918
Temporary Lieutenant Colonel to the 7th Battalion, Border Regiment 11-Apr-1918 to 20-Sep-1918
Major 23-Dec-1926
Lieutenant Colonel 23-Dec-1930
Temporary Brigadier 25-Aug-1939 to 23-Jul-1943
Brigadier 13-Jun-1943
Honorary Colonel 1-Jul-1951 to 30-Jun-1956

Medal(s): British War
1914-15 Star
Military Cross 1916
OBE 1938
Coronation Medal 1937 and 1953
Silver Jubilee Medal 1935
1939-45 Star
Africa Star
War Medal

Gender: Male

Contributed by Jessica Rome, Durham