A luxury cruise liner has welcomed back its oldest former crewmember as preparations begin to mark both their 100 year birthdays.

In November former Cunard bellboy John ‘Jack’ Jenkins MBE will celebrate his 100th birthday and at the same time, Cunard will celebrate 100-years of sailing from its home port of Southampton.

To mark their upcoming milestones, John was welcomed on board the Queen Mary 2 by Captain Aseem Hashmi for a celebratory lunch.

This November will mark one hundred years since the superliner RMS Mauretania began the cruise line’s Southampton express transatlantic service; linking the Hampshire shipping hub with New York City.

While aboard Queen Mary 2, John, now living in Portsmouth inspected the ship’s current bellboys – to ensure they met the “high standards” of 1930s Cunard service.

He quickly pointed out that working on board Mauretania was quite different to how it is today.

John said: “I remember one of my first trips, when we sailed to the West Indies. When we arrived in port I would then have to walk around on deck with a gong, as we had no loudspeaker system back then, and bang the gong and say, ‘all visitors ashore, all visitors ashore’.”

Born at a time when ocean liners were the only way to travel, John joined Cunard in 1933 as a bellboy and lift operator. He went on to join the war effort, and fought at D-Day in 1945, before returning to the UK to take up a career in the merchant navy.

Reflecting on his time on the Mauretania, John said: “I enjoyed it very much. It was a happy ship. I was very sad when she was retired; every panel on the ship’s interior was different. All the carvings in the dining saloons were carved with different designs, which I always admired.”

Captain Hashmi said: “It was an honour to welcome back John to the Cunard family.

“It felt like a fitting way to start our centenary celebrations, here in Southampton, and to congratulate him on such a special milestone birthday. The members of the ship’s company and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to stories of what life was like on board.”

Departing on November 19 the Queen Mary 2 will undertake a historic transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York – in tribute of the century-long relationship between the city and Cunard.

Entering service in 2004 the Queen Mary 2 was the largest, longest, tallest, widest and most expensive ocean liner in the world, a title she retains to this day.


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