Cruise liner welcomes back oldest living crewman - Portsmouth D-Day veteran John Jenkins - ahead of his 100th birthday

A CRUISE LINER has welcomed back one of its oldest living former crew members as he prepares to celebrate his 100th birthday in the same month the operator is celebrating 100 years of sailing from Southampton.

Wednesday, 26th June 2019, 1:47 pm
Updated Wednesday, 26th June 2019, 4:49 pm
John Jenkins. Picture: Christopher Ison

Former Cunard bellboy, John Jenkins MBE, from Portsmouth, recently attended a celebratory lunch ahead of his birthday and a century since the record-breaking superliner RMS Mauretania inaugurated Cunard’s Southampton express transatlantic service.

Mr Jenkins, who recently gave a moving speech at the D-Day commemoration ceremony in Portsmouth, was welcomed on board Cunard’s iconic ocean liner Queen Mary 2 by Captain Aseem Hashmi.

Whilst on board, the captain invited Mr Jenkins to inspect the ship’s bellboys – to ensure they met the high standards of 1930s Cunard service.

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The Mauretania

Queen Mary 2’s crew passed the inspection, though Mr Jenkins was quick to point out that working on board Mauretania was quite different to how it is today. 

‘I remember one of my first trips, when we sailed to the West Indies. When we would arrive in port I would then have to walk around on deck with a gong, as we had no tannoy system back then, and bang the gong and say, “all visitors ashore, all visitors ashore”,’ Mr Jenkins said. 

Born at a time when ocean liners were the only way to travel, Mr Jenkins went on to join Cunard in 1933 as a bellboy and lift operator. RMS Mauretania was the first Cunard ship he was appointed to – the very ship that established Cunard’s Southampton hub in the year of his birth. 

After Mauretania was retired in 1934, Mr Jenkins served on board the Cunard ship Ascania until the outbreak of war. He fought at D-Day in 1945, before returning to the UK to take up a career in the merchant navy. 

Sports on the Mauretania in 1907

Captain Hashmi said: ‘It was such an honour to welcome back Mr Jenkins to the Cunard family. It felt like a very fitting way to start our centenary celebrations and of course to congratulate Mr Jenkins on such a special milestone birthday that he will celebrate later this year.’

Departing on November 19, Queen Mary 2 will undertake an historic crossing from Southampton to New York – in tribute of the century-long relationship between the city and Cunard.