D-Day Veteran John Jenkins on 100th birthday 161119 CREDIT PA.jpg
Veterans

D-Day Veteran Who Was Given Standing Ovation From Queen And Donald Trump Turns 100

John Jenkins served as a Platoon Sergeant with the Pioneer Corps during World War Two.

D-Day Veteran John Jenkins on 100th birthday 161119 CREDIT PA.jpg

John Jenkins looks through birthday cards on his 100th birthday (Picture: PA).

A D-Day veteran who took part in a secret reconnaissance mission to look at the beaches of Normandy for the Allied forces is celebrating his 100th birthday.

John Jenkins is marking his centenary with his family in his home city of Portsmouth.

Earlier this year, he received a standing ovation from the Queen and US President Donald Trump when he addressed heads of state during the D-Day 75 commemorations on Southsea Common.

Describing being the centre of attention, Mr Jenkins said: "I've never been a nervous sort of person when faced by people of a higher rank because they are only human beings the same as I am."

Despite reaching a century, Mr Jenkins said he does not "feel any different".

"I think to myself 'how did I get here?', but there it is, time creeps up on you and before you know it you're in your 100th year, which is amazing really," he said.

Her Majesty The Queen and other dignitaries paying tribute to Normandy veterans at an international event on Southsea Common 050619 CREDIT MOD.jpg
The Queen and US President Donald Trump gave Mr Jenkins a standing ovation in June (Picture: MOD).

Mr Jenkins was awarded an MBE for his role as a Company Sergeant Major in the Territorial Army after the war. 

He said keeping fit is the secret to reaching 100.

"I've always been a keen keep-fit chap, I always used to like PT at school," he said.

"I became a physical training instructor in the Army, I also used to do a lot of amateur wrestling in my younger days so that kept me pretty fit."

Mr Jenkins, who said football is a "big part" of his life, also keeps active through his role as boardroom steward at Portsmouth FC and as a volunteer at the D-Day Story museum.

After leaving school, he became a bellboy for the Cunard cruise line in 1933 before he attempted to join the Royal Navy but was turned down because of his eyesight.

He went on to join the Hampshire Regiment of the Army before moving to the Pioneer Corps, in which he served as a Platoon Sergeant during the Second World War.

For his role in D-Day, Mr Jenkins was awarded the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest honour.

Mr Jenkins said: "It's something you never forget.

"I landed on Gold Beach, someone said to me 'What did it feel like?', and I said 'It was terrifying' - it was the only word I could think of at the time."

Royal Marines land on a Normandy beach on D-Day, 6 June 1944 (Picture: PA).

His granddaughter, Alison Baynes, explained Mr Jenkins had also been involved in a secret mission to carry out a reconnaissance trip to the Normandy beaches ahead of the landings to take sand samples to select the appropriate landing sites.

She said: "He was told to keep it a secret so he hadn't told anyone about it, not even his wife."

Mr Jenkins went on to become a trolley bus driver after the war before working as a crane operator at Portsmouth Naval Base.

He was married to Peggy and has one daughter, two granddaughters, five great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandson.

In 2015, he became the oldest man to abseil down Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower at the age of 95 and in 2012, he even carried the Olympic torch.

In recent years, Mr Jenkins' volunteer work has been recognised.

He was awarded Portsmouth Volunteer of the Year in 2016 and National Museum and Heritage Volunteer of the Year 2019.

Mrs Baynes described her grandfather as a "remarkable man" who is "fiercely independent and a real inspiration".