Captain Ken Jenner D.F.C.
Born November 14 1920, died February 24 2013
Captain Ken Jenner, who has died aged 92, flew bomber operations in the European, Middle Eastern and Burmese theatres of war before becoming one of the earliest Comet pilots with BOAC
Already a veteran of 31 bombing raids over Germany, Jenner joined No 159 Squadron in October 1942 and flew one of the unit’s new American-built, four-engine Liberator bombers to Aqir in Palestine. Over the next few weeks he bombed shipping and port installations in Greece and on the North African coast, including at Tobruk, Benghazi and Tripoli.
During a daylight operation against shipping south of Crete, two Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighters attacked his aircraft. He pressed home his attack and, with both his gun turrets out of action, skilfully evaded the two fighters until they ran out of ammunition. One of the fighters drew alongside and the pilot saluted him. Jenner then flew his badly damaged aircraft back to base and made a skilful landing in darkness. He was awarded a DFC .
Kenneth Sydney Jenner was born on November 14 1920 at Wadhurst in Sussex, but when he was five his family moved to New Zealand, where he was educated at Hamilton High School. He won a regular place in the 1st XV and was a lifetime supporter of the All Blacks.
When war broke out he joined the RNZAF and trained as a pilot before sailing with 83 New Zealanders for England. Only five of his group survived the war.
In 1941 he joined No 40 Squadron, flying Wellington bombers. On April 17 that year he was returning from a raid on Berlin when the crew encountered navigational problems and, with the aircraft running out of fuel, he gave his colleagues the option of bailing out. The rear gunner did so, but was killed. Jenner brought off a remarkable landing on a steep hillside in Devon, without serious injury to the remainder of the crew.
After completing his tour, he served as a bombing instructor and took part in the first two ‘Thousand Bomber Raids’.
After converting to the Liberator, Jenner left for Palestine in October 1942, flying 12 operations before the squadron was transferred to an airfield near Calcutta for operations in the Burma theatre. For nine months he attacked Japanese-held airfields, the major railway installations near Rangoon and Mandalay, and the wharves at Rangoon. Most of these flights lasted almost 10 hours. When he transferred to a bomber training unit, he continued to fly operations, including dropping agents behind enemy lines.
On his return to England, in spring 1944 Jenner married his fiancee, Ruth Sutton, whom he had met before leaving for the Mediterranean. He had ‘acquired’ a German parachute in Malta, and his bride turned it into a wedding dress .
Jenner joined a long-range transport squadron equipped with the Liberator and the York, a new transport aircraft based on the design of the Lancaster. The routes included trooping flights to the Far East via airfields in Egypt, Iraq and India.
At the end of January 1945 Winston Churchill flew to the Crimea for the Yalta Conference with President Roosevelt and Stalin. Jenner piloted one of the five Liberators of No 246 Squadron used to fly the support staff to the conference, leaving England on January 26 and returning via Malta on February 11.
In February 1946 he was transferred to BOAC and flew York aircraft for four years, then the Hermes. In early 1953 he joined the new Comet I Flight as a senior first officer on the early flights to the Far East.
At the end of April Jenner set off for Singapore. After an overnight stop in Karachi, he and his crew picked up Comet G-ALVV, taking it in stages to Singapore. On the morning of April 2 they flew the aircraft to Bangkok, where a new crew took the aircraft on to Calcutta. After a brief stop, that crew took off for Delhi at 10.59 hours GMT. Six minutes later the Comet broke up in the air with the loss of 43 lives. Two more Comets were lost in the next 12 months, and the aircraft was grounded.
Jenner flew Constellations until January 1959, when he joined the Comet IV fleet. That October he captained a record-breaking trans-Tasman Sea crossing from Sydney to Auckland. Later he was a captain on VC 10s, his favourite aircraft. He retired in 1975.
Jenner was an accomplished sailor. He built an Enterprise dinghy in the living-room of his house, and devoted much time to the Cadet Class before owning a 35ft Warrior Class yacht. He made a number of trans-Atlantic yacht deliveries and helped develop the X Class moorings at the Hamble River Sailing Club, where he was Commodore from 1981 to 1983. He also joined the Royal Southern Yacht Club, where he served as both Rear – and Vice-Commodore.
Ken Jenner’s wife Ruth died in 1975, and the next year he married Audrey Jeromes, who survives him with a son and daughter of his first marriage.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard of the Spixworthonian Language School.