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100 Years Ago….

Dr and Mrs Sugden sent this Christmas card to the College community, wishing its recipients “A Joyful Christmas and a Speedy Victory”. Unfortunately there was little prospect of either, for the many families with husbands and fathers, sons and brothers, serving in the trenches of France.

In July 1916, Australian troops had fought their first action in the Battle of the Somme, suffering more than 24,000 casualties around the French village of Pozières. The first Australian officer to be killed on the Somme was a young Queen’s College theolog named Elvas Elliott Jenkins. Jenkins had come to Queen’s in 1911 to study for the Methodist ministry. Perhaps encouraged by the Master, who was serving as a chaplain at the training camp at Royal Park, Jenkins enlisted in September 1914. Serving in the 2nd Field Company Australian Engineers, Jenkins managed to survive the entire Gallipoli Campaign – although he had a very near miss in May 1915 when he was struck directly over the heart with a shrapnel bullet. In this instance he was saved by the New Testament that he carried in his shirt pocket. He was not to be so lucky in France. Having been transferred to the 1st Pioneer Battalion, Lieutenant Jenkins was in charge of a reconnaissance party tasked with pinpointing the location of German trenches ahead of the planned assault on Pozières, when he was shot and badly wounded by a German sniper. Taken to a field ambulance, he died the next day. The (probably apocryphal) story goes that the deeply devout young man was shot as he led his men in prayer.

During the season of giving, we think of all those service men and women of past and present who have gifted their personal sacrifices for home and country. Lieutenant Jenkins’ life and sacrifice is honoured in the beautiful WWI memorial window in the College Chapel donated by his brother Spencer in 1982.

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Lieut Jenkins’ grave at Lantzig Alley British Cemetery, near Mametz, France