Portsmouth Cathedral to stage memorial service for D-Day hero John Jenkins next month

WELL-WISHERS are being called to pay their final respects to a ‘local and national icon’ at a memorial service honouring D-Day hero, John Jenkins.

Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 1:47 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 8:47 pm

Portsmouth Cathedral, in High Street, will be staging the service on Monday, February 10, to honour the 100-year-old’s life.

Mr Jenkins died at Queen Alexandra Hospital on December 17 following a brief illness. The news sparked an outpouring of grief across Portsmouth.

Hundreds of mourners lined the city’s streets outside Southsea’s D-Day Story and Fratton Park as Mr Jenkins’ funeral procession made its farewell trip of Portsmouth earlier this month.

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Preparations for next month’s memorial service are still being finalised, with the event earmarked to begin at 11am.

Anthony Cane, dean of Portsmouth Cathedral, said it was an honour to stage the occasion.

He said: ‘John Jenkins is a local and national hero. We’re delighted and honoured to be hosting this memorial event.

‘I was lucky enough to be present at the D-Day 75 commemorations on Southsea last year. We had all the heads of state there but John was the star of the show.

Portsmouth D-Day veteran John Jenkins pictured on his 100th birthday last year. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘His presence and what he said was the most moving part of the whole day. He changed from a local icon into a national one.’

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Hundreds of people are anticipated to attend the service, which has been organised by Mr Jenkins’ family and supported by Portsmouth City Council’s events team.

Councillor Steve Pitt, Portsmouth’s culture boss and deputy council leader, said the event would be ‘special’.

The hearse carrying John Jenkins arrived at Portchester crematorium for his funeral earlier this month Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘John was a much-loved member of our community and the service will give people the chance to celebrate, and pay tribute, to all he achieved,’ he said. ‘I'm sure it will be standing room only in the cathedral.’

John was born in Portsmouth. His life saw him set off to sea at 14 on fortnightly cruises to the West Indies as a Cunard bellboy on the Mauretania.

A merchant navy sailor, he was called up to serve in the army during the Second World War and worked the ammunition at Gold Beach in Arromanches, France in 1944.

His bravery during the pivotal June 6 invasion of Normandy saw him being awarded the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest medal for valour.

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

He celebrated his 100th birthday on November 16 and told The News his time at war was full of ‘terrible days and good days’.

In later life Mr Jenkins, a keen painter, educated visitors to the D-Day Story in Southsea as a volunteer, and was posthumously awarded a News New Year Honour for 2019.

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

‘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.’

He was also a well-known face at his beloved Portsmouth Football Club, having been a life-long Pompey fan and former boardroom steward at Fratton Park.

Visitors, veterans and family watched whilst John Jenkins casket was carried into Portchester crematorium. Picture: Habibur Rahman