CRANBROOK MAN IN BRITISH EAST AFRICA
Corpl. H. Jenner, of the Legion of Frontiersmen, writes from British East Africa to Mr. S. Russell as follows:-
“I have had one or two slight touches of fever, but I am pleased to say I have quite recovered. I have not seen Jim Goldsmith or any of the Cranbrook boys for about two months, but I heard the other day that they were well. I am away from the Battalion at present on special duty, and I must tell you that I and some more are in one of the prettiest spots in East Africa. Our camp is situated in the hills about halfway up, and the view from here is very nice, but the view from the top is magnificent. We get up there now and then when on patrol duty, but it takes us about two hours to get there from here, and it is 8,200 feet at the highest peak. The atmosphere out here is very clear, so you may guess what a view can be had, including Kilmanjaro (a snow-capped mountain in German East). Most of the land at the top is cultivated by the natives, and is kept very nice by the women. They seem to do all the work. I have never seen a man out doing anything in the field yet. It does not cost them a lot for clothing, as they go about nearly nude. They are descended from the cannibal tribes, and they still file their front teeth to a point and go about with bows and arrows (some poisoned), but they seem to be very friendly with us. They always call out ‘Jambo’ to us, which means, ‘How do you do?’ They grow Indian corn, mealies, sugar cane and bananas, besides other things. They seem to possess a lot of cattle and goats, and they are often losing their goats as wild animals abound here. There are lions, leopards, rhinocerous and elephants, besides snakes, as the most dangerous, and then, of course, there are all sorts of animals less vicious. As I am writing this I can see about 50 baboons sitting on the rocks above us, and some are as big as a St. Bernard dog. I have often wished you could have been with us, as I feel sure that the sights to be seen out here would appeal to you. We have been about a lot since we have been out here, and have had a lot of work to do, and I am pleased to say our deeds out here have brought us praise up to now, and I trust we shall continue to claim a good name. Of course, you have not read a lot about us, as it is guerrilla warfare; but I may tell you that the Germans treat the Frontiersmen with the greatest respect, and never get in our way if they can help it, as each time they have done so they have had cause to be very sorry for it. You should have seen the boys at Bukoba; there was no holding them. It is a wonder to me we did not have a lot more casualties, but you must know we are not chickens. I was in a blockhouse at Mactan for a time, and while there there were five men on one side of it whose ages totalled 252. That is the sort of men we have got to fight with, and I am proud to be out with them doing my little bit. I often wonder how the young men can stick it at home at such a time while men between 50 and 60 forward to do their bit. I am very pleased to see by the papers (which I might say are over a month old when we get them) that Lord Derby is fetching them out of their shells; but they never ought to have waited till they had to be fetched. I would like to have a few of them out here with me on outpost duty in the face of a crafty enemy lying in the thick bush, with all sorts of wild animals roaming round. It is enough to put fear into any man; but we do not mind it so much now we have had so much of it that we have got used to it. Only a short time ago we had a lot out after a marauding party of Germans, and we had just taken up a position in the bush for the night when they were charged by a rhino, but I am pleased to say all cleared all right except one native-carrier, who got in the way, so you may guess his number went up. I must tell you that we did not do so bad at Christmas. We were getting bully beef and biscuits out when our outlook spotted some carriers coming, and they brought us some plum pudding, a bottle of beer per man, some tobacco and cigarettes, and, best of all, some letters from home. I reckon our countenances went up 60 degrees, as we had been on bully and biscuits for six weeks. I must also tell you that George Lansdell is out here with me. He is in good health, and is looking much better than he has done for a long time. I think you know him; his home is at Benenden, and he was a member of the Rifle Club. I am in high hopes that you will have read some good news from East Africa before you receive this; also that we shall soon have this job finished out here.”
Harry Jenner was born in Cranbrook, Kent in 1875, the second son of John, a gardener and domestic servant, and Margaret Jenner. His birth was registered in Cranbrook Registration District in the June Quarter of that year and in 1881 the family, including elder brother Ernest and younger siblings Herbert and Caroline, was residing at The Hill in Cranbrook.
Ten years on and the 1891 census records that Harry, now fifteen years old and employed as a stable lad, is still living with the family in Cranbrook. Ernest had departed, having enlisted into the Royal Artillery, but the rest of the family and now including another sister, Ellen, are shown to be resident at Waterloo Road in the village, yet another younger sister, Edith, was away from home and staying with her grandparents.
In 1901 the census records the Jenner family still living in Cranbrook but having now moved to Tan Yard in Stone Street. Parents John and Margaret are there with children Carry, Edith and another younger sister Kate but Harry, Herbert and Ellen are no longer with them.
On 30th December 1899, with the war in South Africa going on, Harry had enlisted into the Imperial Yeomanry’s 28th Company at Bedford. Enlisting on short service terms, one year with the colours or as long as was required if the war continued for more than the year, 14937 Trooper Harry Jenner proceeded overseas with the 28th (Bedfordshire) Company Imperial Yeomanry on 7th February 1900 aboard the “Kent” and arrived in South Africa on 5th March 1900.
Just over a year later Harry was back in England, arriving from South Africa, possibly aboard the “Mongolian”, on the 8th June 1901. Within a week, on 15th June 1901, he was officially discharged from the service on the Termination of his Period of Engagement, at Bedford, having served one year 168 days. For his service in the Second Anglo-Boer War Harry was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps Johannesburg, Cape Colony, Orange Free State and South Africa 1901.
The September Quarter of 1904 saw the marriage registration, in Cranbrook Registration District, of Harry and Matilda Emily Smith and by the time of the 1911 census the couple, along with children Flora Ella, Violet Beatrice and Harry Percival were living at 2 Rectory Cottages in Cranbrook. Harry’s occupation at the time was given as an omnibus driver working for a hotel proprietor.
During this period the Legion of Frontiersmen was going through a period of expansion. In 1907 a Kent Troop of the London Command was formed and in 1910 this Troop was transferred to a newly formed Kent Command with North, South, West and Mid-Kent sub-units. The South Kent sub-unit was based in Cranbrook and Harry Jenner joined this unit of the Legion of Frontiersmen around this time.
With Daniel Driscoll and the Legion of Frontiersmen finally being given approval to form an infantry battalion, under the auspices of the Royal Fusiliers, on the 12th February 1915 the call for volunteers went out to the various Frontiersmen Commands. It would appear that as a result Harry Jenner attested between 16th and 18th February 1915, along with his Legion of Frontiersmen comrade James Goldsmith (12944), and was accepted for service with the 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. He was allotted service number 12945 and subsequently proceeded overseas as a Lance Corporal with the battalion aboard the “Neuralia” on 10th April 1915.
Harry Jenner’s Great War service record no longer survives so it is difficult to know the exact details of his overseas service with the 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. His medal roll entries show that he arrived in the East African theatre with the battalion on 4th May 1915, was promoted to the rank of Corporal whilst with the battalion in theatre and that he served overseas until 1st January 1918 when he arrived back in the UK having been invalided home.
As with so many of the men of the 25th Battalion it is likely that Harry was invalided to the UK having suffered sickness. A period of treatment and recovery would have followed and then he would have been medically re-assessed, the result of which was a medical downgrading to garrison service in the UK. Harry was transferred to the 25th (Reserve) Garrison Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, allotted service number 213937 and appointed a Lance Sergeant. The battalion was stationed at Falmouth and it was here that Harry saw out the rest of the war.
For his service with the 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers Harry Jenner earned the 1914/1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.
British Army Service Records, 1760-1915
British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
WO 100/121 Queen’s South Africa Medal Roll, Imperial Yeomanry.
WO 329/2824: 1914/1915 Star, Rifle Brigade other ranks, Medal Roll
WO 329/1730: British War & Victory Medal, Rifle Brigade other ranks, Medal Roll.
1881, 1891, 1901 & 1911 England Census
England & Wales Birth Records
England & Wales Marriage Records
Kent & Sussex Courier, Friday 14 June 1907
Dover Express and East Kent News, Friday 8 July, 1910
Kent & Sussex Courier, Friday 19 February 1915
First published in;
The Kent & Sussex Courier, Friday 24th March, 1916
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