1. Book:The (1921) Masonic Roll of Honour 1914-1918Pg.123
2. Grave:Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension, BailleulI.E.11

Awards & Titles:

1914-15 Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal

Early Life :

Isaac Gorfunkle, for years, offered an intriguing mystery as he is clearly recorded in the Roll of Honour entries of Knole Lodge (West Kent), but no record can be found of him in the ledgers at the United Grand Lodge of England. This legend previously displayed the only masonic referenced Isaac Gorfunkle, who turned out to be more senior in age than the actual Isaac who died. This record therefore, now shows the casualty Isaac Gorfunkle, whose existence as a Freemason could only be proved by Knole Lodge of West Kent. The portrait image displayed above is family sourced via Ancestry.

A theory exists that Isaac was initiated in Kent whilst on military service and was either initiated or waiting to be initiated, but soon after went on to active service and was killed. Another example of this scenario happening in the legend of Thomas Louis Grenet STEWART M.B., D.P.H.

Prior to 1871, families "Gorfunkle" emigrated from from Poland/Russia, to Liverpool, West Lancashire. One such family group gave rise to the West Lancs Freemason, and another group, who went on to move to what is now Northern Ireland gave rise to the soldier who died in the Great War and who might have been a West Kent Freemason.

"It has been estimated that some 2.7 million Jews migrated west from eastern Europe between 1881 and 1914. Many were seeking work or a better standard of living. Others sought to avoid compulsory military service or persecution. The assassination of the Russian czar in 1881 was followed by a series of campaigns (pogroms) against Jews in the Russian empire: Jews were forbidden from settling on or owning land outside towns or moving between villages, and restrictions were placed on their entering higher education or the professions."

From Knole Lodge's perspective, the entry in the record book shows that Bro Isaac Gorfunkle was initiated into the lodge on 1st January 1918. He was 26, with the profession given as Lieutenant, "[Ll?] R Lancs F" (which is taken to read either 'Lieutenant' or 'Loyal,' Royal Lancashire Fusiliers). His address was "Kippington Vic [Park?]," in that locale of Sevenoaks. Tragically, in Knole records he is listed as "Killed in Action – Sep 1918". He was never passed or raised. The Attendance Register shows he did not attend the next meeting scheduled following his initiation in February 1918, as he had probably been mobilised to France. So his initiation was almost certainly the only meeting he ever attended, and the most likely reason he was not included on the Lodge returns to Grand Lodge at the end of that year.

He was born 1892 son of Samuel and Annie Gorfunkle and had the following siblings: Emanuel (b.1873), Eva (b.1876), Annie (b.1878), Esther (b.1879), Lena (b.1886), Lily (b.1888), Wolff (b.1874), Harry (b.1890) and Philip (b.1896).

Service Life:


Unit / Ship / Est.: Lancashire Fusiliers 

Action : France & Flanders 

France & Flanders covers all the dates and corresponding locations which are outside the official battle nomenclature dates on the Western Front. Therefore the actions in which these men died could be considered 'normal' trench duty - the daily attrition losses which were an everyday fact of duty on the Western Front.

Detail :

Captain, Isaac Gorfunkle, 13th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers. Attached 1st Battalion.

Deployed for service with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, landing on the 5th September, 1915.

British Jews in the First World War reveals a great deal of context about his military service in a letter to a publication unknown, signed by William I. ARONSTAM.:

"CAPT. I. GORFUNKLE. - It is my sad task to write a few lines concerning Captain Isaac Gorfunkle, Lancashire Regiment, whose untimely death, when it became known in Belfast, caused widespread sorrow and regret in the Community. Isaac Gorfunkle joined His Majesty's Forces early in 1915 from the O.T.C., having previously been connected with the Ulster Volunteer Force. He saw service in the Gallipoli Campaign, where he was wounded and then was sent to hospital in Malta. on recovering he was granted leave of absence for a short period, and then went to France, where he took part in some hard fighting. He was then promoted to a Captaincy and sent to a camp at Galway, where he was stationed for a considerable time, and whence he again returned to France in April of this year. Captain Gorfunkle met his death at the hands of a German sniper while in charge of a scouting party on the 14th inst. If ever there was a Jew imbued with a spirit of patriotism, it was Isaac Gorfunkle. If ever there was a man in His Majesty's Forces brave and fearless unto recklessness, it was he. He was educated at the Jaffe Memorial Schools and the Belfast Technical Institute, whence he proceeded to an appointment on the staff of one of the leading timber and slate merchants in this city. He acted as Secretary of the local branches of the Order of Ancient Maccabeans and Bnei Brith. These institutions made a presentation to him of a silver cigarette case, in appreciation of his service, when he joined up. His father only lately relinquished the Vice-Presidency of the Congregation. His mother and sisters have sent many a parcel of home-knit socks and underwear to the local Prisoners of War Help Association. His brother, Philip, is an officer in the Royal Irish Rifles. How proud his parents were of the service their sons have been rendering their country is well known, and Isaac's supreme sacrifice for the great cause should enhance their pride and minimise their sorrow at the irreparable loss they have sustained."

With further reference to the death of this Officer, Colonel F. Stewart Noders, of the Lancashire Fusiliers, writing to Mr. Gorfunkle of 43 York Street, Belfast, says: - "I am now able to give you further details of the circumstances in which your son met his death. On the day previous to that on which your son was killed, the company he was commanding made a very successful advance. He was leading his men on the gain another important piece of ground on the following day when he met his death. The operation was not wholly successful, inasmuch as we did not gain the ground until the next day, when we found the body of your son. If I can at any time give you any further information, I shall only be too happy t do so. In the meanwhile, I feel sure that you will be proud to know that your son lies where he fell, leading his men. I am certain that this would have been your son's great wish had he known that he was to meet his death fighting for his country.

The CWGC shows that he died on the 12th August, 1918 as a Lieutenant near Bailleul, France where he is buried at the Outtersteen Communal Cemetery Extension. Plot I.E.11. No relatives are recorded against the War Graves entries.

Probate GORFUNKLE Isaac of 96 Antrim-road Belfast died 12 August in France Administration Belfast to Samuel Gorfunkle house furnisher. Effects £315 16s 9d. in England. Sealed London 20 March.

For his service in the Great War he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and Victory Medal, the latter would show his rank as Captain.

Masonic :

TypeLodge Name and No.Province/District :
Mother : Knole No. 1414 E.C.West Kent

1st January 1918

The National Roll of Honour Book 1921 shows Captain Isaac Gorfunkle under Knole Lodge No. 1414 (Kent) and referenced under no other Lodge. By the time of the 1940 Scroll, Isaac has been removed. The investigation of this casualty is made difficult by the fact that there is no Isaac Gorfunkle listed within the ledger of Knole Lodge at the United Grand Lodge of England. It has been further complicated by an Isaac Gorfunkle who was initiated into Lodge of Israel (West Lancs) and also joined Bootle Lodge, but who was initiated in 1900. There are connections between the two men, most likely that they are family but not directly related in the same family group. As Isaac is listed in the 1921 book this legend and his reference to Knole only will remain.

With grateful thanks to Geoff Cuthill (West Lancs), Alan Copleston and Neville Fourie (West Kent) for their invaluable assistance.

Source :

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Additional Source:

Last Updated: 2021-03-03 15:40:00