Two local men died on 3rd May 1917 – 21-year-old Second Lieutenant George Cliffe Jenkins, 2nd/5th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment, and 27-year-old Private Tom Smith, 12th Company, Machine Gun Corps.
George Cliffe Jenkins (pictured at the top of this page) was born on 18th May 1896 and baptised at St Michael’s Church, Coventry. He was the only son of parents George Edward Jenkins (1865-1931), a surveyor, and Harriett Cliffe Jenkins (née Newey) (1870-1940), who had married in Aston in 1892.
Cliffe was the maiden name of Harriett’s mother and so was given to Harriett and her son as their middle name.
George Cliffe Jenkins had two sisters – Doris Valentine (1893-1976) – known as Dot – and Elsie Winifred (1899-1994) – known as Billie. Doris’ grandson was also given the middle name of Cliffe, which was the name by which George Cliffe Jenkins was known.
By 1911, the family had moved to Hampton-in-Arden. Cliffe was educated at King Edward’s School, New Street, Birmingham and was serving his articles with engineering firm John Hands & Sons Ltd. when war broke out.
He immediately volunteered as a Private in the Royal Fusiliers and was promoted Sergeant whilst on active service, first seeing overseas service on 14th November 1915. He was wounded in 1916, and was gazetted Temporary Second Lieutenant with 2nd/5th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment in July 1916.
He was posted as missing on 3rd May 1917 and, in August 1918, it was announced that he was officially presumed to have been killed on that date. His field glasses, bearing his name on the case, were subsequently found at Bullecourt and were returned to his family.
An announcement in the Birmingham Daily Mail of 8th June 1917 gives the family home as Brooklands, Hampton-in-Arden, and says that Second Lieutenant Jenkins was last seen alive “when leading his men bombing German trenches.”
He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. He is also commemorated locally on Hampton-in-Arden War Memorial. His name is also included on his parents’ gravestone in Quinton Cemetery.
Tom Smith was born in Beausale in 1890 and baptised at Hatton on 18th May 1890. He was the second of three sons of parents John (an agricultural labourer) and Emma (née Cox) who had married at Shustoke in 1883. His older brother, John, was born in 1884 and his younger brother, George, was born in 1895.
Tom became a vanman (defined in the Dictionary of Occupational Terms Based on the Classification of Occupations used in the Census of Population, 1921 as: “drives a horse-drawn van used for collection and delivery of small goods”). He volunteered for the Army, enlisting in Coventry on 11th December 1915, aged 25, giving his address as 58 Cromwell Street, Coventry. His parents were living in Waste Lane, Balsall Common.
He initially joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment but was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) in May 1916 before going overseas on 15th July 1916. He spent a brief spell in hospital in France in September 1916 before rejoining his company in October 1916 and serving on the front until his death. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. He is also commemorated locally on Berkswell War Memorial.
If you have any further information on either of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977