The Shipley Times & Express often picked up on stories of families who had several men serving in the forces and for a short time in 1915, they published several stories about the four Jenkinson brothers of 5 Chapel Walk, Eccleshill.That was where they were living at the time of the 1911 census. Alfred Jenkinson was head of the house, a Yeadon born woolcombing overlooker. He and his Yeadon born wife, Annie, nee Walton, who had married on 22 November 1890, had had 11 children, nine of them still living.The eldest Arthur was not at home – possibly at sea, but we also can’t find him in the 1901 census. Then came two sons who had been born in Listerhills, Bradford: 17-year-old Ernest, a card cutter, and 14-year-old Harry, a Mule Piecer. 12-year-old George, who had been born in Greengates, was still half time at school and half time as a Tier in.The other children Helena, Norman, Mary, Lawrence and 10-month-old Albert, had all been born in Eccleshill and were too young to fight in the war.The first time we become aware of the family being at war is in a report on 2 April 1915:‘Mr and Mrs Jenkinson of 5 Chapel Walk are very proud of their four sons who are serving their country and the mother has travelled scores of miles to see them.‘Arthur, who is the eldest, has been seven years in the Royal Marine Light Infantry and is at present on HMS Erin, which was built at Barrow to the orders of the Turkish Government but was commission as part of our fighting fleet.Journeyed to Barrow‘Before the ship was launched the mother journeyed to Barrow to express her good wishes for her son’s safety.‘Harry, who joined the colours over a year ago, is now in the Royal Horse Artillery. He is spoken of as a daring horseman and is keenly interested in his work. ‘He is with the force in France and in a recent letter says: “We are going on all right out here and have plenty of good food and clothes, so please don’t be anxious on my account. I have never felt better in health than I do now.”‘Last September Ernest joined the 6th West Yorkshires and is with his regiment at Gainsborough. Writing home from camp he says the people treat them like princes and never think they have done enough. ‘Recently while on parade they set about cooking their dinners over wood fires. It was a regular pantomime and he doesn’t know how they managed to ‘down’ what they had prepared.‘The last member of the family to enlist is George who is only just old enough. He joined the 2nd Battalion of the Bradford Pals.’
Harry’s reassurances didn’t last long because the following week we read:‘Word was sent by Driver Harry Jenkinson of the Royal Horse Artillery to a friend that he had received the parcel sent him in the morning and was wounded by a piece of shrapnel the same day.‘He enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery about 18 months ago and was selected a few months back to join the Royal Horse Artillery and was shortly after sent over to France.‘Both parents and friends are anxiously awaiting further news.’That further news arrived the next week:‘A letter was received on Wednesday morning by Mrs Jenkinson from her son who was wounded whilst fighting with the Royal Horse Artillery in France.‘He says there is not much the matter with him. He had a piece knocked off his head and could not hold the pencil with which he was writing very well as he had a bandage round the fingers of the right hand.‘He is nearly better now and was expecting having to go back to the fighting line in about another week.On 30 April the attention switches to Ernest, who has been shipped out at short notice:‘Pte Jenkinson, a bugler in West Yorkshire Regt wrote to his family in Eccleshill reporting that he was well and resting before “we commence the serious business of actual warfare.“The authorities gave us a rather sudden shift from old England. We had a very smooth crossing and after landing had a seven hours journey by train but of course we are not allowed to say where we are though for that matter most of our men don’t know.Picking up French“I am picking up the French language marvellously and can make the people understand what I require by now.“This place is simply alive with service planes for they are always on the wing.”‘The Jenkinson family had four sons serving and another, Henry, wrote from hospital where he was recovering from wounds.“I am almost better now and feel in better health than I have done for years. I think this is partly due to the sea air which we get at this place.”Harry was recovering but Ernest was not so lucky, as we read on 25 May:
‘Mrs Jenkinson of 5 Chapel Walk, received a letter from the front the other day intimating that her son Ernest, who has been fighting with the 6th West Yorkshires, had been wounded in the first two fingers of the right hand.‘His rifle had gone off accidentally and inflicted the injury. This occurred on the sixth day in the trenches.‘Since the accident, Pte Jenkinson has been sent to a hospital at Liverpool. Writing from the hospital – of necessity with his left hand – he says the bones are badly shattered and the doctor calls it a septic compound fracture of the first and second fingers. He is progressing as well as can be expected.’We learn more about Ernest’s injury and get a picture of life at the front on 2 July when he is home on leave and speaks to a reporter from the newspaper:‘On reaching the war area they witnessed a duel between several British and German aeroplanes. ‘One night several of them were told to fetch the ammunition and they had no sooner got out of the trench than the Germans discovered them by means of a star shell. A machine gun was turned on to them and they took cover under the walls of a ruin close by. Hostile shells‘When things had quietened down, they made their way to the depot and having loaded up, set off on the return journey. Luckily for them they got safely back without another shot being fired.‘Jenkinson saw a smart piece of work done by artillery. Some guns were rushed up to the edge of a wood when a German aeroplane passed over and gave the range. ‘Hostile shells came hurtling over but no sooner had the German shells begun to fall than a British battery opened fire and finding the exact range, put the hostile guns out of action.‘Another smart thing was done by a scout. He was sent out to gather what information he could of the opposing force. ‘As he failed to return in a reasonable time, they thought they had seen the last of him. Two days later, however, he turned up and reported his findings.‘The chief news was this that at 10 o’clock each day he had noticed ammunition supplies come to three houses that could be seen from the English lines. ‘Steps were accordingly taken to fit in with the German timetable and a trial shot was sent over. The range was found and three other shots
followed in quick succession, all of which hit the mark. ‘A terrible explosion followed and the three houses became a heap of ruins.‘Pte Jenkinson had a spell in the trenches at Neuve Chapelle and while he was there quite a number of dead bodies, both British and Germans, lay between the opposing forces. To have fetched them would have involved useless sacrifice. Buried in the trenches‘While here, one of his comrades foolishly looked over the parapet and paid the penalty by being shot through the temple. He was buried in the trench. ‘Narrow escapes from death were quite common. Two fellows were by a small pool of water and one was having a wash. A Taube passed overhead and a British gunner tried to bring it down. A large part of the bursting shrapnel shell fell right between the two men by the pool but neither of them was struck.‘Pte Jenkinson met with an accident while on sentry duty. He had been firing at the foe when one of the cartridges jammed and on reporting this to the officer, he was ordered to remove the bayonet. ‘In doing so the gun accidentally went off, the shot passed through the first two fingers of the right hand. Fortunately, it has not been found necessary to have the amputated.‘Pte Jenkinson says there were about 200 casualties in his regiment while he was with them.’On 12 November we read:‘Mr and Mrs Jenkinson of 5 Chapel Walk, Eccleshill had four sons serving. Their eldest, Arthur, had been in the Royal Marines for seven years and was on board HMS Erin, ‘somewhere in the North Sea, anxiously awaiting a contest with Von Tirpitz’s ships.’Soldiering days‘Pte Ernest Jenkinson was in hospital in Leeds having had his rifle go off while he was seeking to unjam it and badly injuring his hand. “The doctor is of the opinion it will take two years for the bones in my fingers to set properly again. If that is so, it looks as if my soldiering days are over for the present.”‘Driver Harry Jenkinson was in the Royal Horse Artillery and, having recovered from being wounded in the head with a piece of shrapnel, was back at the front.‘Pte George Jenkinson was training with the 2nd Bradford Pals at Colsterdale.’For some reason the newspaper then stopped publishing stories about the Jenkinson brothers and we have been unable to find any more information on line. If anyone knows what became of them in the rest of the war and thereafter, we would love to know and add it to their story.