Born in London, the youngest of ten siblings, Jacob was educated at Dulwich College in South London, England. His career almost ended before it began. He enlisted in the Field Artillery to serve in World War I when he was 19. The vagaries of war pushed him into the infantry, in the trenches in the front line. He was taken prisoner of war in 1917, and was one of only 60 men in his battalion of 800 to survive. He amused himself and his fellow POWs by forming a small prison camp “orchestra” of any instruments they could muster, and arranging music for it. At this period he received the news that his brother Anstey, who had enlisted with him, had died on the Somme, and this he commemorated some years later in his first Symphony.
After being released he spent a year studying journalism, but left to study composition, theory, and conducting at the Royal College of Music. Because of his cleft palate and a childhood hand injury, his instrumental abilities were limited; he studied piano but never had a performing career. Jacob’s first major successful piece was composed during his student years: the William Byrd Suite for orchestra, after a collection of pieces for the virginals. It is better-known in a later arrangement for symphonic band. While a student Jacob was asked by Ralph Vaughan Williams to arrange the latter’s English Folk Song Suite for full orchestra.Gordon Jacob on internet