10 November 2015

Frank Jenns & William Gilbert


One of the earliest things to intrigue me when I began this journey of research was who the handwriting in the War Diary belonged to. It took me quite a while to work out and was only resolved when I found the file of a young Officer and suddenly noticed the similarity between his handwriting 'letter J' and the same letter in the War Diary. Further investigation quickly unfolded another fascinating story

Frank Jenns, from Manor Park, was responsible for writing up the West Ham Battalion's 'Daily Intelligence Summary'. He was the assistant Adjutant for The Hammers but this in itself is highly unusual as he was only a Corporal. The role of assistant Adjutant was always to be carried out by an Officer, at least a 2/Lt minimum.

Frank was somehow appointed to this position from the very beginning of the Battalion's life. Perhaps it was on the instruction of Lt-Col Papillon, it must have been down to what job he did before enlisting. I still haven't discovered this yet but hope one day to find the answer. Whatever he did it required good, and I mean VERY good, typing and fast note taking and limitless organisation. This is all borne out by the lengthy after-action reports he typed up without a mistake (in the days before typex!)

Over the course of the Great War Frank progressed from Private all the way through to Commission and Officer training. He's the only one who did that. Many 'Other Rank' Hammers became Officers, but were always posted to other Regiments, as is the British Army convention.

Frank did it all in the West Ham Battalion.


His handwriting is on the very first page of the War Diary and on the very last.




This is Sgt William Gilbert from Walthamstow, another voice in "Up the Hammers!".



Recognised by his grandson Richard (in the same photo as the 'possible' Frank Jenns), I was fortunate to be given a transcript of a voice recording made some years earlier in which he describes his experiences during the early days with the West Ham Battalion on the Western Front.

1 comment:

Jonnerrs said...


Hi I am the great nephew of 18748 Pte John Delaney 13th Bn Essex Rgt. Thank you for all your posts. I have ordered the book. is there some way I can contact the group as I wish to research further, but hope some spade work may already have been done.