(24) Wilfred Walter Jennings
Battle of the Menin Road Ridge
Private Wilfred Walter Jennings (24) was the last person to be found and for a long time we had him as our unknown warrior. The breakthrough came when local WW1 historian Len Hawkins lent me some standard reference books. In one of them I found a record for a Fred Jennings from South Benfleet. This was unusually well documented with the enlistment record providing links which make it certain that the two names are the same; Fred being a short form of Wilfred. This is also confirmed by a thorough search for “W Jennings” on the Common Wealth Graves Commission site, which produced no results for a suitable WW Jennings.
Wilfred Walter Jennings was born in January 1893 to William John and Alice Annie Jennings in Great Wakering and he had a sister named May. His family are shown as living in Benfleet in the 1901 and 1911 censuses, the address being No 2 Fleet Villa, Fleet Road. Before he joined up he was the mate of the “Thomas” barge at Benfleet. During 1917 his family were living at 8 Poly Road, Stanford-le-Hope, Essex.
He enlisted on 13th December 1915 and the next day placed in the Army Reserve. On 1st March 1916 he was mobilised and the next day joined the 12th Battalion of the Essex Regiment. On the 1st September 1916 he was transferred to the 25th Training Reserve Battalion before being transferred again on 21st September 1916 to the 10th Battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment. This was posted to France arriving on the 22nd September. On the 4th October 1916 he was posted to the 11th Battalion.
He was wounded twice. The first time was on the 13th June 1917, highly likely at the Battle of Messines. He rejoined his Battalion on 1st July 1917. The second wound was on the 26th July 1917, highly likely at the Battle of Pilckem Ridge. This time he received gunshot wounds to the side and neck. He was in hospital in Rouen before rejoining the Battalion on 2nd September 1917. He was killed in action on 20th September 1917, at the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge while his unit were taking Gheluvelt plateau. He was 24 years old.