Solihull’s final casualty of 1917, Lieutenant Arthur Lewis Jenkins, Royal Flying Corps, was killed whilst night flying at Helperby, Yorkshire on 31st December 1917. Born in Bristol in 1892, Arthur was the eldest of the seven children (five sons, two daughters) of Sir John Lewis Jenkins, Indian Civil Service, and his wife Florence Mildred (née Trevor) who had married in India in 1890.
All of the five sons, including Arthur, were educated at Packwood Haugh School, where Arthur studied between 1901-1905. He won a Foundation Scholarship to Marlborough College in 1905, and became Head Boy there in due course. He won a classical scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford in 1910, matriculating in 1911 and taking a Second in Honour Moderations in 1913. He left before his Final School, intending to prepare for the Indian Civil Service examination.
However, with the outbreak of war he enlisted in the Army, joining the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry in September 1914. He was gazetted Second Lieutenant on 7th October 1914 and served with the regiment in India and Aden as a machine-gun officer. He was promoted Lieutenant and proceeded to Palestine in the spring of 1917, transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in May 1917, and obtaining his Wings two months later.
He returned to England in August 1917 and, after serving in Hounslow for a time, was transferred to Helperby, Yorkshire for training in night flying before a planned posting to the Western Front. His Commanding Officer wrote to his parents:
It was a great blow to all of us who served with your son to hear of his having been killed while night flying on duty; he was such a good officer and so popular with all who knew him… Whenever I think of him I am reminded of the very gallant way he led his machine-gun section in action on 7 Dec. 1916. He set a very fine example and his men were prepared to follow him anywhere
Lieutenant Arthur Lewis Jenkins is buried in Richmond Cemetery, Surrey. After his death, a book of his poems was published, under the title Forlorn Adventurers, amongst which was the following:
Was it for this, dear God, that they were born,
These sons of ours, the beautiful and brave,
To fall far from us, leaving us forlorn,
Scarce knowing even if they found a grave?
It comforts not that cheerfully they gave
Their lives for England; nay, to us, outworn
With grief, it skills but that they could not save
Themselves in saving her from shame and scorn.
Cometh no answer from the pitiless skies
To us in darkness for our lost ones weeping;
Their place is empty, empty as our hearts,
Or as our prayers unheeded, nor departs
The instant anguish: we but hush our cries
Lest they should trouble our beloved sleeping.
He is commemorated on war memorials at Packwood Haugh, Marlborough College and Balliol College.
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