August 9th 1917

Major Alan Jenks (Royal Engineers)

Over a week has gone by since the new battle at Ypres started and it is only now that news of casualties sustained on that first day are coming through. Sadly one of them, as reported in The Times yesterday is Major Alan Jenks, killed by a sniper on July 31st.

His CO was good enough to write to his family the following day:

“It happened yesterday afternoon. An attack had been made in the morning, and during the afternoon he went out to reconnoitre the ground gained. He insisted on doing this, though the Brigadier for whom he was working did his best to dissuade him. He had not gone far beyond our first line before he was hit by a sniper and fell.”

This was Alan’s way, winning the MC in 1915 “for conspicuous gallantry and ability… He made a valuable reconnaissance of the enemy’s trenches and in the ensuing fight displayed great personal dash, initiative and resource.” He was twice mentioned in dispatches.

Alan wrote us a most amusing letter at the end of last year, recalling his school days and complaining that water in France fails to flow downhill.

 

January 5th 1917

Not all our correspondents focus entirely on the War. Some, such as Lieut. Alan Jenks (RE), like to recall their schooldays  –  and playground warfare:

jenks-arc24.12.16 “I remember Martin Collier quite distinctly, also Jack Haldane. When engaged in tactical skirmishes with the latter, my motto used to be ‘he who fights and runs away will live,’ a motto which I have faithfully pursued (so far) through life. If I am caught, it will be through not running away fast enough…”

(I think Leslie Grundy with his water-pistol was equally guilty of getting the vast but clumsy Jack into such a state that he uprooted a sapling to attack his tormentor with wild swipes of trunk and root.)

“As for France and Flanders, which is where I am (Censor Volens, or words to that effect) – well, one’s chief impression is mud and water. I learnt at Lynam’s or elsewhere that water flowed downhill. France is the exception. No well-behaved water does it here. It just stays.

As for work, generally one digs a trench or ditch in peace-time in order to drain a field. Here one has to try to drain the trench into the field. That is what sappers are endeavouring to do here. Action and reaction being equal and opposite, result nil. The only feasible method is to use language so warm that the water boils and so evaporates. This is only a temporary expedient however.

Very best wishes for the School and Staff.”