The John Jenkins Story
John Jenkins MBE was a D-Day veteran and life-long Portsmouth resident who spent much of his later life as a community hero. He loved getting involved as a volunteer, taking a spot right at the heart of the community, and was awarded for his work in 2016 as Portsmouth Volunteer of the Year, as well as National Museum and Heritage Volunteer of the Year in 2019. Part of this volunteering duty included informing and educating visitors of his wartime experience in the city’s D-Day Museum as a D-Day Story volunteer.
As a D-Day veteran, John played a starring role in the 75th anniversary commemorations in 2019 where his dedication and heroism were honoured with a standing ovation by world leaders including the Queen herself. In his speech at the commemorations, he humbly talked of his experience in the war, “I was a small part in a very big machine. You never forget your comrades because we were all in it together.” He added, “It’s right that the courage and sacrifice of so many is being honoured 75 years later. We must never forget.”
Born on November 16th, 1919, John grew up in Southsea’s own Collingwood Road. By the age of 14, he set off as a Cunard bellboy on the HMS Mauretania for fortnightly cruises to the West Indies. Just six years later, John joined the army, serving in the Royal Hampshire regiment, and making a move to the Pioneer Corps during the Second World War—where he landed on Gold Beach in 1944 as part of the Allied invasion of Normandy. After the war, John earned an MBE for his role as a company sergeant major in the Territorial Army in 1969.
The John Jenkins Stadium Legacy
John was a lifelong supporter of Portsmouth Football Club—and being a blues fan for a massive 91 seasons is no minor accomplishment! John worked as a boardroom steward at Fratton Park for many years, and marked his 100th birthday at the grounds, with guests including former Pompey chairman, Milan Mandaric.
The John Jenkins Stadium is named after a man whose passion and love for the club and the Portsmouth community alike inspire us all. The facility will be an inclusive, educative, and nurturing community hub that John would have no doubt been proud of.
John Jenkins meant many things to many people: hero, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather—the list goes on. He was a perpetually energetic and enthusiastic individual. In the pursuit of new experiences, John never slowed, even when approaching the end of his years. At 92, he carried the Olympic flame when it came to Portsmouth, as well as remarkably abseiling down the Spinnaker Tower at the age of 95 in 2015.
But what remained most striking of John’s character, as noted in the tribute to John’s memorial service from The News in February 2020, was his attitudes towards kindness and acceptance, being described by family as a ‘humble loyal gentleman’.
His granddaughter described how the horrors he had seen had inspired him to show love to everyone he had met: “He helped out everybody. He always wanted to look after people.” She remembered, “He didn’t want to make any enemies,” “He hated division. That probably had something to do with the war.”
This is why our stadium will be named after the John Jenkins legacy; a legacy of compassion, and belonging, and a space for the community to not only celebrate their love of football, but of the wider Portsmouth community.