Private George Jenkins, 1325417, 2nd/4th Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
George Jenkins was born in Featherstone in late 1916, the son of John Thompson F. (Jack) Jenkins and his wife Maria (nee Blaydon), who married in Featherstone in the spring of 1909.
In 1911, Jack, a coal miner, born in Gloucestershire and Maria of Featherstone were living at 24, Station Lane, Featherstone with their second born child, Joseph. The couple had lost their first born child, but were to have four more children: Gilbert E. Jenkins, born in 1912; George born in late 1916; Mona Jenkins, born in 1917 and Ernest Jenkins, born in 1921.
In September 1939, textile worker, Mary Moore, born the 21st July 1919 was living at 1, Howroyd's Yard, Gawthorpe with her widowed mother, Bertha.
In early 1941, George Jenkins married Mary Moore, of Gawthorpe, Ossett and they had three daughters: twins Hazel and Wendy Jenkins, born in Spring 1941 and Carole Jenkins, born in 1943.
George Jenkins joined the British Army in 1933 as a regular soldier and served with the 138th Infantry Brigade as part of the 46th Division of the Eighth Army during WW2. He saw a lot of action and was killed during the bitter fighting at the Battle of Gemmano, Italy during the action by the Allies to drive the Germans back from the Gothic Line.
It took the Allies four attempts to take Gemmano, near Rimini, a stronghold position, defended by crack German 'Gebirsjaeger' troops of the 100th Mountain Regiment. On the third attempt, which started on the 11th September 1944, the 2nd/4th K.O.Y.L.I. Regiment of the 46th Division were given the task of spearheading the attack on the village of Gemmano. Before the attack commenced, the entire area from Gemmano to Farnetto and Marrazzano was heavily shelled and bombed from the air. The Royal Navy also shelled the position from the Adriatic, killing many Italian civilians in the process.
The 'Gebirsjaegers' put up a stubborn defence of their position and fought back the K.O.Y.L.I. attackers for every inch of ground and every blade of grass, often in close combat fighting. Casualties on both sides were very heavy. The ultimately failed defensive action fought by the German 100th Mountain Regiment became a legend in German military history with many medals being awarded posthumously.
At the centre of Gemmano village was a stone cross, or Point 449, which was finally captured by a British platoon from the Lincolnshire Regiment on the 13th September. All around the bullet chipped cross at Point 449, the dead, in khaki and field grey lay heaped and unburied, in score upon score. At their centre, was a soldier of the Lincolns, whose hands were still frozen in death around the cross itself, which he had reached in his battalion's first attack. Few regiments of the British 8th Army had ever known fiercer fighting than that at Gemmano, which was nicknamed the ' Cassino of the Adriatic.' One British General wrote: "A good show, Gemmano full of dead and smells like another Cassino." One of the many British dead on the 11th September 1944 was Private George Jenkins.
The "Ossett Observer" had this short obituary for George Jenkins:1
"Private G. Jenkins - Gawthorpe - Information has been received from the War Office that Private George Jenkins (28), of 6, Howroyd's Yard, Gawthorpe was killed in action in the Central Mediterranean theatre of war on September 11th 1944.
A native of Featherstone, he came to Ossett a few years ago, and married Miss Mary Moore, of Gawthorpe, he joined the Army as a regular soldier when about 17 years of age, and during the present war has served in France, Norway, North Africa and Italy, latterly with the Eighth Army. He is survived by a widow and three daughters.
A brother, living in Dewsbury, is also serving, and his brother-in-law, Private Willie Moore, of Gawthorpe, who had served in Norway and Iceland, went to Normandy on D-Day, and is at present in hospital, making satisfactory progress towards recovery from wounds received in action."
George Jenkins died on the 11th September 1944, aged 28 years, and is buried at grave reference XVII, K, 3. at the Coriano Ridge War Cemetery, Italy. Coriano Ridge War Cemetery is 3.5 kilometres west of Riccione, a seaside resort on the Italian Adriatic coast.
On the 3rd September 1943 the Allies invaded the Italian mainland, the invasion coinciding with an armistice made with the Italians who then re-entered the war on the Allied side.
Following the fall of Rome to the Allies in June 1944, the German retreat became ordered and successive stands were made on a series of defensive lines. In the northern Appenine mountains the last of these, the Gothic Line, was breached by the Allies during the Autumn campaign and the front inched forward as far as Ravenna in the Adratic sector, but with divisions transferred to support the new offensive in France, and the Germans dug in to a number of key defensive positions, the advance stalled as winter set in.
Coriano Ridge was the last important ridge in the way of the Allied advance in the Adriatic sector in the autumn of 1944. Its capture was the key to Rimini and eventually to the River Po. German parachute and Panzer troops, aided by bad weather, resisted all attacks on their positions between the 4th and 12th September 1944. On the night of 12th September the Eighth Army reopened its attack on the Ridge, with the 1st British and 5th Canadian Armoured Divisions. This attack was successful in taking the Ridge, but marked the beginning of a week of the heaviest fighting experienced since Cassino in May, with daily losses for the Eighth Army of some 150 killed.
The site for the cemetery was selected in April 1945 and was created from graves brought in from the surrounding battlefields. Coriano Ridge War Cemetery contains 1,939 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War.2
Above: Gemmano, Italy, September 1944.
1. "Ossett Observer", Saturday, October 14th 1944.