From Cumbria to Cambrai - John Dennis (Jack) Jenkinson (29 December 1898 - 25 November 1917)
From Cumbria to Cambrai - John Dennis (Jack) Jenkinson (29 December 1898 - 25 November 1919)
Three photos: two portraits and grave image.
My grandmother is to be credited with keeping Jack Jenkinson’s memory alive within the family. She kept two photographs of her first cousin, which she treasured – one of him as a little boy, dressed in a sailor’s outfit. In the other – a poignant counterpoint to the first – he is dressed in military uniform. She would show these photographs to us, her grandchildren, and retell the story of his untimely death in the War. The photograph of the little boy was particularly moving, bearing, as it did, no trace of the horrors that lay ahead of him in his short life, and yet inextricably linked to the soldier of the second picture. Jack Jenkinson was the eldest son of John Jenkinson and Norah Daly of Ulverston, Lancashire. Both he and my grandmother were directly descended from soldiers who had served in the British army at least as far back as the Peninsular War, many of whom were in the 17th Lancers. Following family tradition, Jack enlisted on 29th December 1912 at the age of only 14 under special War Office authority, joining the 16th Lancers at the Curragh Camp, County Kildare, Ireland. Here he would undergo training until he was old enough to join the regiment in India. He left for India in December 1913 and was drafted into the 17th Lancers in Sialkot, India (now in Pakistan) where he was appointed trumpeter. When the First World War broke out in August 1914, the 17th Lancers were deployed to France with the 1st Indian Expeditionary Force, but because he was so young, Jack Jenkinson was left behind in India and temporarily employed by the Catholic Soldiers’ Institute. In December 1914, he was sent back to the Curragh, a difficult journey during which his ship was attacked by the Turkish Army while passing through the Suez Canal. A skilled horseman, upon returning home, he was put to work training other soldiers in horsemanship and breaking in new horses. When the Easter Rising broke out in April 1916, he was one of the Lancers put into action against the rebels on Sackville Street, Dublin. According to my grandmother, the events of the Easter Rising marked a turning point in his military career. Because of his Anglo-Irish ancestry and his many relatives living in Dublin, he was deeply traumatised by having to follow orders to shoot at Irish people, “his own,” as he saw them, and so, immediately after the Rising, he decided to volunteer for every cavalry draft sent to the regiment at the Curragh. Despite his abilities as a marksman, machine-gunner and bomber, he was again and again refused permission to go to France because of his youth. He was advised to apply for a commission instead, but he refused to do so. Finally on 30th October 1917, after home leave, he was sent to France as part of the D Squadron, 12th Battalion, the King’s (Liverpool Regiment). Less than a month later, on 25th November 1917, he was dead from wounds sustained during the British advance at the Battle of Cambrai (20th November – 7th December). He lies buried at Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery in France.