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City pays respects to D-Day hero ‘who taught people what Normandy was all about’

Funeral procession passes Portsmouth museum where John Jenkins described to thousands of visitors what happened during the Allied landings.

Funeral of WW2 veteran John Jenkins (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Funeral of WW2 veteran John Jenkins (Andrew Matthews/PA)

By Ben Mitchell, PA

More than 100 members of the public turned out to show their respects to D-Day veteran John Jenkins as his funeral procession passed the museum where he volunteered and the football club he loved.

Mr Jenkins, who served as a platoon sergeant during the Second World War and was awarded the Legion d’Honneur for his part in D-Day, died in December at the age of 100 following a short illness .

The veteran, who celebrated his birthday in November, stayed active through his role as boardroom steward at Portsmouth FC and as a volunteer at the city’s D-Day Story Museum.

He received a standing ovation from world leaders including Donald Trump and the Queen when he took to the stage during the 75th anniversary D-Day commemorations on Southsea Common in his home city in June.

Dr Jane Mee, Portsmouth City Council’s museum and visitor services manager, said: “John was a huge and valuable asset to the D-Day Story Museum.

“If you look at the TripAdvisor reviews, John is mentioned often as a highlight of people’s visit. He will be missed.”

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Members of the public applaud as the funeral cortege passes The D-Day Story museum (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Andrew Whitmarsh, D-Day Story curator, said: “Over the years, thousands of visitors have learnt first hand from John what it was like to be at Normandy.

“He was good at putting people at their ease and chatting to them.

“He wasn’t telling glorious war stories but talking about his experiences with a sense of humour and a wise perspective on the world.”

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John Jenkins pictured during the commemorations for the 75th Anniversary of the landings (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Mr Jenkins summed up D-Day in one word – “terrifying”.

Staff at the museum’s cafe reserved his regular table with a plate of his favourite biscuits for a final time as a gesture of respect.

After leaving school, Mr Jenkins became a bellboy for the Cunard cruise line in 1933.

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A plate of biscuits was left in honour at the cafe of the D-Day Story museum in Portsmouth, where John Jenkins was a volunteer guide (Ben Mitchell/PA)

He later attempted to join the Royal Navy but was turned down because of his eyesight.

But he went on to join the Hampshire Regiment of the Army before moving to the Pioneer Corps, in which he served as a platoon sergeant during the Second World War.

After the war Mr Jenkins became a trolley bus driver before working as a crane operator in Portsmouth Naval Base.

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Members of the public gather outside of the D-Day Story museum (Andrew Matthews/PA)

He became the oldest man to abseil down Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower at the age of 95 in 2015, carried the Olympic torch in 2012 , was awarded Portsmouth Volunteer of the Year in 2016 and was named National Museum and Heritage volunteer of the year in 2019.

Mr Jenkins and his late wife Peggy had one daughter, two granddaughters, five great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandson.

PA

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