yeovil at War
An 18-year old lad, killed within weeks of arriving at the front
Bert Jennings was born in Yeovil in the autumn of 1899, the son of leather parer Robert Jennings and his glove machinist wife, Sarah. In the 1901 census Robert and Sarah were listed at 102 Park Street with their children Fred aged 13, William aged 11, Florrie aged 10, Sidney aged 8, Lilly aged 4 and one-year old Bertie. In the 1911 census the family were at the same address, 11-year old Bert was a scholar and he now had a younger brother Albert.
Bert Jennings enlisted at Yeovil in October 1917, when he turned 18, and became Private Jennings (Service No 35772) of the 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment.
In February the 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment were out of the line preparing for a German offensive that was known to take place sometime in March In the middle of March they took over redoubts west of St Quentin On the 21st March the German attack started and the battalion was very quickly out flanked and were soon completely surrounded. The battalion lost 22 officers and 600 other ranks. The battalion’s battlefield reinforcements were themselves engaged in a desperate rearguard action, not knowing what happened to their comrades.
The 2nd Battalion joined a composite battalion. By April the battalion had been reformed and they were again fighting the Germans near Ypres. After his basic training, Bert Jennings joined his regiment at the front on 2 April 1918. Sadly, Bert was killed in action on 31 May 1918 and initially reported as missing. He was aged just 18.
On 26 July 1918 the Western Gazette reported "Lance-Corporal [sic] B Jennings, Wilts Regiment, son of Mr S [sic] Jennings, of 102 Park Street, has been missing since May 31st. He joined up when 18 years of age last October and went to France on Easter Tuesday. He was formerly a patrol leader in the Boy Scouts and a member of the Yeovil Men’s V.A.D.
The Western Gazette reported on 20 September 1918 "Private Bert Jennings, Wilts Regiment, whose home is 102 Park Street, and who has been reported missing for some time past, is now officially reported as having been killed in action or died of wounds on or about 31st May. The late Corporal [sic] Jennings was an active worker with the Yeovil Parish Church Branch of the Church Army, and also an assistant scoutmaster. On Sunday evening there was a memorial service in the Church Army Mission Hall, conducted by “Captain” Monkhouse, who gave an address referring to Corporal Jennings’ work for the mission, and expressed sympathy with his parents."
Bert Jennings was interred at Chambrecy British Cemetery, Marne, France, Grave I.E.1, and his name is inscribed on the War Memorial in the Borough.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of Bert Jennings.
Bert Jennings' headstone.
Chambrecy British Cemetery, Marne, France.
The Chambrecy British Cemetery was made after the Armistice, by the concentration of graves from the surrounding battlefields and from Courlandon Hospital (French Military) Cemetery. There are now over 400, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site and of these, nearly half are unidentified. The graves are almost all of May/July 1918. The cemetery covers an area of 1,579 square metres and is enclosed by a low stone rubble wall.