John Jenkins: D-Day veteran from Portsmouth dies aged 100

D-DAY veteran John Jenkins MBE has died aged 100.

Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 12:15 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 9:36 am

Mr Jenkins caught the eyes of world leaders and people from across the globe when he was on stage at D-Day 75 commemorations on Southsea Common.

Then one of the last few surviving Normandy Landings veterans he showed no hesitation in addressing the audience including the Queen, then prime minister Theresa May, France’s president Emmanuel Macron and American president Donald Trump.

Former defence secretary, and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, said: ‘John’s life was one of service and dedication.

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‘Earlier this year at the D-Day commemoration we were reminded again of what he and his generation did for our nation. Listening to his account of those times, and the friends he lost, his character shone through: modest, brave and kind.

‘He continued to serve our city in so many ways, including his work with PFC. He was the living embodiment of what Portsmouth stands for. He is much loved and he will be much missed. I feel very privileged to have known him.’

The Portsmouth Football Club boardroom steward, of Eastern Road, Milton, died last night at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham after a short illness.

D-Day veteran John Jenkins at the D-Day Story in Clarence Esplanade, Southsea - John stands outside the D-Day Story Picture: Vernon Nash (180413-003)

Mr Jenkins’ life saw him set off to sea at 14 on fortnightly cruises to the West Indies as a Cunard bellboy in RMS Mauretania.

A Merchant Navy sailor, he was called up to serve in the army and worked the ammunition at Gold Beach in Arromanches, France in 1944.

He celebrated his birthday on November 16 and told The News his time at war was full of ‘terrible days and good days’.

John Jenkins in his home in Milton. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Mr Jenkins joined the army in 1940, and was called upon August 15 of that year.

He was a platoon sergeant with the Royal Pioneer Corps when he landed on Gold Beach, having set off from Portsmouth the day before.

Mr Jenkins, a keen painter, educated visitors to the D-Day Story in Southsea as a volunteer.

He turned 100 on November 16.

Portsmouth veteran John Jenkins receives a standing ovation. D-Day 75 National Commemorative Event, Southsea Common, Portsmouth. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (050619-45)

Tributes are already flooding in on social media to Mr Jenkins, who was married to his late wife Peggy for 74 years.

Pompey Supporters' Trust tweeted: ‘As boardroom steward, John gave many years service to the club he loved and everyone who met him was privileged to be in his company.

‘Fratton Park will be an emptier place without him. RIP John. We will miss you.’

Richard Palusinski, chairman of the Spirit of Normandy Trust - which supported D-Day veterans - was saddened by the news.

He said: ‘The world owes people like John a huge debt of gratitude. It was because of them that Europe has enjoyed 75 years of peace.

‘We are now losing D-Day veterans at a significant rate, which is a tragedy.

‘All of those veterans of D-Day were ordinary men who were pulled out of their ordinary everyday jobs to undertake an extraordinary task that changed the course of world history.

‘They were humble about what they did. Some of the veterans I have spoken to said going somewhere like Margate was an adventure.

‘The idea of being dropped in some alien land to take on a well trained and well equipped enemy - a real war machine - must have been really very daunting.’

Historian James Daly, collections researcher at Southsea's D-Day Story, said staff at the museum had been left crushed by the news of Mr Jenkins’ death.

‘It feels like the end of an era now,’ said an emotional Mr Daly. ‘There were so many things about John that encapsulated Portsmouth: he was a Pompey fan, he was a veteran, he worked in the dockyard.

‘John’s death is a massive loss for the city, it’s hard to put it into words right now.’

Politicians of all colours have paid tribute to Mr Jenkins, who is survived by his daughter, two grandchildren, five great grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said John was an ‘amazing’ ambassador for the city.

‘John has been a Portsmouth institution for many years, he is a legendary character in the city,’ said Cllr Vernon-Jackson, who attended Mr Jenkins’ 100th birthday in November.

‘It would have been difficult to hope for a better ambassador for the city. He was great at showing off not only Portsmouth but the veterans too.’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said it was a proud moment to see Mr Jenkins standing on stage in front of the world.

He added: ‘John was a really great guy. He made a great impression. It’s incredibly sad that he has died but he had a great life.’

While Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, hailed Mr Jenkins as one of the city’s great ‘D-Day heroes’.

Mr Morgan added: ‘It is not often that people get a standing ovation from the world’s most senior leaders, but Mr Jenkins could not be more worthy.

‘His bravery and commitment to serving this country will stand the test of time and it is a privilege to have spent time with him.

‘I would like to join others in paying tribute to Mr Jenkins, whose courage, bravery and good spirits should be an inspiration to us all.’

Former Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones was ‘very sad’ to hear of Mr Jenkins’ death. She added: ‘It is an honour to have known John, one of our most loved veterans in Portsmouth.

‘He was loved across the city and a well-known local character at Fratton Park, being a life-long fan.’

Councillor David Fuller, Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, was ‘extremely saddened’ and described Mr Jenkins as a ‘wonderful man’ who lived a ‘full life’.

‘He was a Portsmouth icon and loved by so many in the city,' he said. ‘We'll never forget the service that he and so many others gave during the war.

The lord mayor added he had been talking to Mr Jenkins about abseiling the Spinnaker Tower together for charity.