Portsmouth D-Day veteran John Jenkins looks back at his life as he celebrates 100th birthday
DESPITE sea adventures from the age of 14 and surviving D-Day at Gold Beach, veteran John Jenkins MBE has always returned to Portsmouth, where he is celebrating his 100th birthday.
Centenarian John was born on November 16, 1919, and has looked back at growing up in Southsea’s Collingwood Road to his time in the war to now educating visitors in the city’s D-Day Museum.
John, of Eastern Road, took centre stage at Portsmouth’s D-Day 75 commemorations earlier this year.
Unfazed by speaking in front of world leaders, John said: ‘My wife always said I had the gift of the gab.’
John started his travels aged 14, when he set off on fortnightly cruises to the West Indies as a Cunard bellboy on HMS Mauretania.
Fondly remembering helping himself to tins of biscuits and the time a boardroom steward caught a shark, John said: ‘I enjoyed my life at sea, I didn’t mind it at all. Quite a life, really.’
His war years were full of ‘terrible days and good days’, with John feeling lucky he managed to survive D-Day with no injuries.
He said: ‘I’m not so quick on my feet these days as I was a few years ago, but on the whole I don’t feel too bad. I feel very lucky that I’ve reached this age and still kept pretty fit.’
Considering what brought him this far, John paid tribute to his late wife Peggy.
‘For 74 years I had a wonderful wife who looked after me,’ said John.
‘I used to go to meet a friend of mine and I happened to see a lady in the window of a hat shop. I thought I wondered if I can get a date - we had a very romantic evening.’
This tongue-in-cheek comment referred to a night watching wrestling matches, which Peggy enjoyed enough to embark on a second date.
John said: ‘Things between us grew and I fell in love with her naturally. I had a lovely 74 years with her, she was the love of my life.’
A Pompey fan since 1928, John is a familiar face at Fratton Park and loves supporting the team.
After the war, he worked as a trolley bus driver but couldn’t stay in the role: ‘I used to get annoyed when I had to drive the bus to Fratton Park and everyone got off but I couldn’t.’ he said.
He left and joined the naval services, where he stayed for 35 years.
John will be visited by his whole family this weekend, including his daughter, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild, who will take him to a party on Saturday night followed by Sunday lunch at The Queens Hotel in Southsea.
Looking back on his life, John said: ‘It’s all been very enjoyable, I have enjoyed every minute of it and I suppose that’s half the battle.’