Albert Charles Jennings (1879-1917)

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Bert (as he was known to his friends) was born 09 September 1879 in Nelson.  Albert attended the Bridge Street School from  May 1, 1888 to November 1889, reaching standard 3. According to "The Nelson Mail" he also attended Boys Central School. Bert indicated that he had passed the Fourth Educational Standard, or its equivalent, when he filled out forms applying to join the forces in World War I.

Albert Charles Jennings, photo supplied by Cheryl Carnahan
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Boer War

At the time of enlisting for the Boer War, Bert's military history sheet records him as a bushman working for Brownlee and Co of Havelock, Marlborough.

He joined the Nelson and West Coast divisions of the Nelson Volunteer District section of the Seventh Contingent in 19011 and left Nelson for Wellington, in March of that year, with members of the 7th New Zealand Contingent, No 23 Unit on the SS Wainui:  

The Seventh Contingent. This morning at 11 o'clock Nelson's further quota for the Seventh Contingent will leave by the Wainui for Wellington. It was originally intended that the Nelson portion should number 7 men, but it appears that out of 15 applicants, only 5 including Trumpeter Jackson, of the H Battery, who proceeded to Wellington last week, have been selected, the other men having failed to pass the various tests.2

Bert was 21 when he volunteered. He was drafted from the Nelson Rifles (Canterbury), as a private, and had been in the service for one year. With the knowledge that his older brother Aubrey had been killed fighting in the Boer War on 29th November, 1900 it is surprising that he still enlisted.

The contingent went into camp at Newtown Park in Wellington at the end of February, from where they left for Capetown on 6 April 1901. They fought in the Transvaal, at Reitfontein on 14 June 1901, and Meyerton near Vereeniging on 2 September 1901.

The 7th  Contingent travelled by train to Paardekop in pursuit of Botha. By 6 November 1901 they were at Vryheid. They crossed the Drakensberg Range back into Orange Free State on 11 December 1901 and covered the construction of a line of blockhouses between Frankfort and Vrede.  Bert took part in the arduous pursuit of de Wet and had several narrow escapes.

The contingent completed its period of service and sailed from Durban on 22 May 1902 aboard the S.S.Manila, and were disbanded in New Zealand on 30June 1902. Albert Jennings stayed on in South Africa after the Boer War ended and worked at the Kimberley Mine in South Africa, where his brother James Henry Jennings joined him.  Bert served in the Police force as a constable, living in Pretoria, and spent five years in the Transvaal Town Police force. He arrived back in Nelson in 1908.

Bert was allowed two months leave from 26 June 1902, on full pay for the rank of Sergeant. His certificate of discharge on completion of service states his character was very good. His service abroad amounted to one year and three months and the medals awarded to him were Transvaal and O.R.C. clasps.

Between the Boer war and World War 1 Albert Charles worked in the Ronga Valley in connection with Brownlee's sawmill.

World War 1

Albert Charles Jennings, photo supplied by Cheryl Carnahan
Click image to enlarge

Albert Charles Jennings sailed from Nelson on 6 January 1915 to join the 2nd Company, 2nd Battalion Canterbury Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade New Zealand forces, to fight in The Great War. His regimental number was 6/1887 in C Company 4th Rifles. January, February and March were spent training at Trentham and he embarked for Europe via Australia on 17th April 1915.

Bert was not involved in the most famous military actions to involve New Zealanders - Gallipoli - as he was still in Australia on 29 April 1915. However, he was involved in the Sari Bair Offensive in August 1915. Bert's military history sheet records him wounded on the 8th June 1915 in the Dardanelles and again on 7- 9August 1915, in the left arm and right leg. On 23 August he was located in Alexandria, Egypt.

On 19 October Bert embarked on SS Marquette after service injury and recovery from the Gallipoli Campaign. The H.M.Transport S.S. Marquette left Alexandria Harbour, Egypt, in the late afternoon of October 19 1915 for Salonica, Greece. The Marquette was sunk on 23 October by a torpedo, with heavy loss of life, after her French escort had left her.

Bert spent some months recovering from injuries in hospital in England. He sent many letters home, including the following, the day before his death:

Somewhere at the Front, June 6th 1917
Dear Harriet
Just a line to tell you that I am thinking of you all at home. I am just going into a big battle so I may not be able to get home again. But this is a soldiers chance and I must take it with the rest of the boys. Give my love to all at home and I hope you are all well.   Love from Bert.

He was killed at Messines on June 7 1917.

The Register of the Messines Ridge [NZ] memorial records particulars of 840 New Zealand dead. The Register records:

JENNINGS, Sergeant Albert Charles, 6/1887 2nd Canterbury Regiment. Killed in action 7 June 1917, age 37. Son of James and Susan Jennings of Weka Street Nelson. Served in the South African campaign.

To read more information and documentation about Albert Charles Jennings, click here.

2009 

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Further sources - Albert Charles Jennings (1879-1917)

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Other

  • Albert Jennings Letters sourced from Denis Skilton of  Tauranga
  • NZ Contingent to South African War. Albert Charles Jennings 1901. Appendix A page 7. National Archives. Reg No. 4246.Rank-Sergeant. 7th Contingent, Unit No.23 company (Nelson section.)
  • School Admission Records: Bridge St School records  [NZSG Index Version 3.0].Bridge St School records.
    (contact Ancestors Attic)

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