13th Essex Regiment, attached 9th Essex Regiment
Synopsis of Life and Military Service
Frank Arthur Jenns was born on 17 September 1891 in Lewisham, London. He was one of nine children of Joseph Jenns and Margaret Wood. In 1911 he had taken on a job as a builders clerk and was living in Camberwell with his brother Frederick, who was a shopkeeper, and his mother. His father was living with Frank’s sister Lucy in Forest Hill.
Frank joined the 13th (Service) Battalion (West Ham) Essex Regiment in June 1915. This was a Pals Battalion that was officially formed on 29th December 1914. Many of its early recruits were from the Thames Ironworks, the same company that formed West Ham United Football Club. The recruits wanted their cap badge to have the crossed hammers which was the Clubs logo but this was refused. However, they were officially given the nickname “The Hammers”.
Frank was exceptional. He was appointed as an unofficial Assistant Adjutant and was given the task of maintaining the Battalion War Diary. On 17 November 1915, he and the rest of the 13th Battalion travelled by train to Folkestone where they embarked on the SS Princess Victoria. Departure was delayed as she had to wait for the Hospital Ship Anglia to enter port, arriving from France decks full of wounded. At about 1 nautical mile east of ‘Folkestone Gate’ (a designated set of defences) the Anglia struck a mine laid by a German submarine that morning. She sank in 15 minutes with the loss of an estimated one hundred and twenty nine lives. One of the vessels that went to her aid was the collier ‘Lusitania’ (named after the liner torpedoed earlier in the year), she too hit a mine but fortunately no further lives were lost.
It was against this backdrop that Frank travelled to France arriving in Boulogne at 6pm before spending the night in Ostrohove Camp. On 24 November, the 13th were transferred to the 2nd Division where they mixed with regular battalions of the ‘Old Contemptables’ and by 10 December had been placed in the line at the ‘Brickstacks’ near Cuinchy. It was here, just after midnight the next day, that the 13th had their first fatality. Private Percy Victor Price was killed by a German shell.
By January 1917, Frank was a Sergeant and was recommended for Officer’s Training. He returned home to England in February and commissioned on 13 April 1917. He returned to the 13th Battalion.
On 28 September the Battalion were in the Givenchy Sector when Frank was given leave to go to England, where he married Alice Mary Boutlwood on 30 September 1917 at St Barnabas Church, Manor Park. He returned to France on 12 October when the Battalion was at Lozinghem and resumed the role of Assistant Adjutant (and temporary Adjutant until 28 October). Further leave followed early in 1918 as records show that Frank was baptised at St Barnabas Church on 11 March.
The 13th Battalion were disbanded on 10 February 1918 as part of a reorganisation of the army and Frank was attached to the 9th Battalion. On 1 April, they were attached to 17th Division and were sent into the line at Albert. Two days later the Germans started an artillery bombardment accompanied by trench mortars and machine gun fire and on 5 April assaulted the British lines. There was heavy fighting over a number of days and Frank died of wounds on 6 April. He is buried in the Varennes Military Cemetery, Somme, France.
The following family information has been ascertained :-
- Wife: Alice Mary Boultwood, born 14 September 1894 at Forest Gate, Essex, died 12 June 1985.
- Father: Joseph Jenns, born c.1854 at Lambeth.
- Mother: Margaret Wood or Jenns, born c.1856 at Thornley, Durham.
- Brother: William, born c.1877 at Newcastle.
- Brother: Frederick Ebenezer, born c.18820 at Forest Hill, London.
- Brother: Charles, born c.1880 at Caterham, Surrey.
- Brother: Richard, born c.1883 at Forest Gate, Essex.
- Sister: Grace D., born c.1887 at West Ham, Essex.
- Sister: Frances, born c.1888 at Forest Hill, Kent.
- Sister: Daisy, born c.1889 at Forest Hill, Kent.
- Sister: Mary A., born c.1889 at Lewisham, Kent.
- Sister: Lucy Harriett, born c.1893 at Lewisham, Kent.
Records show that Frank lived at the following addresses :-
- 1901: 4, Toronto Avenue, East Ham.
- 1917: 62 Shelley Avenue, Essex.
- 1918: 87 Essex Road, Essex.
A memorial to the West Ham Pals was unveiled by Sir Trevor Brooking at the Boleyn Ground in 2009. It’s now located at the London Stadium, the new home ground of West Ham United.
Links to Additional Information
- Lives of the First World War – Frank Arthur Jenns.
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Frank Arthur Jenns.
- A Street Near You – Frank Arthur Jenns.
- Find A Grave – Frank Arthur Jenns.
- Imperial War Museum Memorials – 13th Battalion, Essex Regiment – West Ham Pals.
- 1901 England, Wales and Scotland Census.
- 1911 England & Wales.
- Up the Hammers: The West Ham Battalion in the Great War by Elliott Taylor and Barney Alston.
- IWM – Lives of the First World War.
- Find a Grave.
- London Gazette dated 15 May 1917.
- Trevor Torkington