Captain John Jenkinson

Fencing

'Captain Jenkinson died carrying out his duties...standing up under a murderous fire to see that his men were properly extended, and thus doing all in his power to minimise their losses.'

Letter to The Herald, Major Longstaff
13 November 1915

Submitted by Malcolm Fare, the National Fencing Museum

Jenkinson is commemorated on the Loos Memorial. His parents, Sir Edward Jenkinson, K.C.B., and Lady Annabella Jenkinson erected a memorial tablet to their son at St Editha church, Tamworth.

John Jenkinson was a talented three-weapon fencer (epee, foil and sabre) of imperturbable good temper, who always displayed courtesy and loyalty to his opponents.

He first came to notice in 1899 when, as a member of the Inns of Court School of Arms, he won the Colmore-Dunn Challenge Cup and the following year the German Gymnastic Society’s foil gold cup. Jenkinson went on to become British foil champion three years in succession – 1902, 03 and 04 – and was runner-up in the sabre championship twice – 1905 and 06. He was also a member of the first two British epee teams to fence abroad, in 1903 and 04 at the Coupe Internationale in Paris; later in 1904, he captained a British team at an international epee competition in Ostend.

In 1908/9 Jenkinson established a seed and plant nursery at Hopwas, a small village near Tamworth. With a new business to establish, he did not compete again in the British Championships but did take part in the 1908 Olympic Games in London, where foil was a demonstration event. He was invited to fence exhibition bouts with foil champion, Robert Montgomerie, and with the first British woman foil champion, Millicent Hall.

Jenkinson’s connection with the Army began in 1888 when he joined the Inns of Court Volunteers. When he moved to Hopwas he joined the North Staffordshire Territorials. In 1909 he was promoted to Captain and placed in command of the Tamworth Company. At the outbreak of the war, his company was mobilised and Jenkinson was posted to France.

Captain John Jenkinson was killed in action at the Battle of Loos on 13 October 1915. In a letter to his father, a soldier in the regiment described what happened: ‘He jumped over the parapet first and stood under a fearful fire, calmly taking a compass bearing of our direction, then we started off. About 100 yards from the second line trench he fell. He was hit in the top of the thigh and said to me, ‘”Take the men on Paget, never mind me”, then he seemed to become unconscious. Two stretcher bearers carrying him back were shot and he was hit again. By this time I was hit myself and out of action, and I know no more.’

One of the soldiers who rescued Captain Jenkinson remembered, ‘He lay in the open for several hours for it would have been certain death to have gone out to him. After a struggle, we got him in. As he lay on the fire step, he asked for a doctor. We could not do anything, for there was not an ambulance man to be found. We made him as comfortable as we could. I could see he had been hit again, for he had an awful wound in his stomach. I could see he would not last long. He lasted about an hour. Then we put him in a small disused trench close by and covered him over.’