It was one of those stories that melt your heart, as Cunard welcomed back one of their oldest living former crew members back on board, ahead of his 100th birthday.
Ahead of the prestigious liner’s centenary celebration in November, Cunard invited John Jenkins to join in the celebrations, with the former bellboy sharing the huge milestone birthday with the cruise line.
It’s been 100 years since the record-breaking superliner RMS Mauretania took to the seas from Southampton, making her grand voyage across the Atlantic, linking the south coast city with the US.
On that ship nearly over 80 years ago was John ‘Jack’ Jenkins MBE, who worked on the ship as a bellboy, beginning his career at the age of just 14. To celebrate the occasion, John was invited back onboard by Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 by Captain Aseem Hashmi MNM for a celebratory lunch, where John also met the ship’s current bellboys.
Regaling them with tales of life on 1933’s Cunard voyages, John inspected the bellboys to make sure they met the high standards of 1930s Cunard service, with all Queen Mary 2’s crew easily passing inspection.
Talking about how different life onboard is today, John said: “I remember one of my first trips, when we sailed to the West Indies. When we would arrive in port I would then have to walk around on deck with a gong, as we had no tannoy system back then, and bang the gong and say, ‘all visitors ashore, all visitors ashore.”
Born during the Golden Age of Travel, John joined Cunard in 1933 as a bellboy and lift operator, with the RMS Mauretania the first Cunard ship he was appointed to.
When the Mauretania was taken out of operation in 1934, John jumped ship to Cunard’s Ascania, where he stayed until the outbreak of World War 11. During the war he fought in D-Day, recently giving a speech at the D-Day commemoration ceremony in Portsmouth, attended by HM The Queen.
“It was such an honour to welcome back Mr Jenkins to the Cunard family,” said Captain Hashmi. “It felt like a very fitting way to start our centenary celebrations, here in Southampton, and of course to congratulate Mr Jenkins on such a special milestone birthday that he will celebrate later this year.
“The members of the ship’s company and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to stories of what life was like on board, and we look forward to the opportunity to do so again.”
To commemorate its centenary, Queen Mary 2 will depart Southampton on 19 November to complete the historic Transatlantic crossing, finishing its journey in New York City.