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War hero a Waroona stalwart

Forrest Matthew Edward (Mick) Jenkins

Born: June 27 1923

Died: July 24 2020

Waroona-Hamel’s longest surviving World War II serviceman Mick Jenkins will be remembered for his service in the Royal Australian Navy and his contribution to the Waroona community.

He died last month aged 97.

Forrest Matthew Edward Jenkins (Mick) grew up on the banks of the Serpentine River.

Life was always one great adventure for Mick. He had an enduring fascination for all that life offered him. He had an inquisitive intelligence that, coupled with an ability to find humour in almost any situation, gave him a rich and stimulating life.

Mick attended the West Waroona School, walking 5km to school each day, but he was never a conscientious student.

The pranks his older brother and sisters got up to were legendary, and he was a willing participant in the shenanigans.

He also took an early liking to boxing with his older brother David which carried on throughout the navy years.

He left school at 14 and went on to sharpen his mechanical skills working at cousin Syd Ryan’s garage in Perth. He eventually returned home to join his brother and father on the family farm.

World War II brought an opportunity to fulfil a childhood dream of going to sea. Mick at 18 seized the chance and volunteered for military service.

The year 1942 found him in the Royal Australian Navy and sailing to England as part of the Australian draft contingent for HMAS Shropshire, a gift from the Royal Navy to Australia after the sinking of the Canberra.

It was on leave in London, while waiting for the refit of the Shropshire, that Mick saw and witnessed first-hand the terrible devastation of the city, the horror of war and the terror of the bombing raids.

Mick was crossing a bridge over the Thames one evening when the air-raid siren sounded. Feeling like a sitting duck, he noticed a big wheel barrow that workmen had left behind and quickly upturned it over himself.

Emerging after the bombs had done their worst and the planes had departed, he made his way to a nearby light at a little cafe.

On entering he was astounded at the reception and the free food and drink. Only later did he realise he was totally covered in cement dust and it had been assumed he’d been sheltering in a building that had taken a direct hit.

“There’s a lot of luck in life”, was a favourite saying of Mick’s and being drafted to the Shropshire was certainly that.

HMAS Shropshire was known as the “The Lucky Ship”, as she lost no men during some of the most fiercely fought sea battles of the Pacific war.

Fighting around the Philippines, the ship was attacked on multiple occasions by kamikaze bombers.

Vessels on either side of the ship were damaged or sunk, but the Shropshire and Mick survived.

He returned home a decorated serviceman having been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal — an uncommon acknowledgement of outstanding valour, and a clear indication of the man he was.

On his return from England, Mick had no idea where he lived. He arrived back to Waroona on the train and had to ask the station master as the family had sold the farm and moved into town.

They had written him a letter telling him the news, but in the meantime he came home and the letter was somewhere in England.

Mick chose the life of a farmer over continuing in the navy, he loved his family and the stability it gave him.

Eventually he met and fell in love. He described a romantic meeting after crashing a motorcycle and following the beautiful sounds of classical piano emanating from the Trevenen Homestead.

It was there he met Margaret Trevenen. They married in 1949 at the Cookernup Church and had five children; Andrea, Michael, Howard, Shaun and Alissa.

The call of adventure and the sea never really left him though, and he was always drawn back to the ocean at every opportunity.

After owning several sailing vessels, he, his brother Dave, and some former school friends decided to build a twin-cabin cruiser, the mighty Mildara Queen.

Farming was not the only business that Mick took on during his life, and during the 1960s the family owned a butcher shop D & F Jenkins Butchers in Waroona.

He ran this with his brother Dave, and they bred cattle and sold them through the business.

During the 1970s he also had a backhoe business digging septics in the Waroona area.

Mick and Margaret’s marriage ended and he then married Eileen Lewis. Eileen had been a teenage sweetheart whom Mick had written to all through the war.

The relationship was rekindled when both became unattached years later and they married in 1980. Similar interests saw the pair actively involved in community work including the RSL.

Mick was awarded a life membership of the Waroona St John Ambulance in 1983.

He was also a proud founding committee member of the Quambie Park Aged Care facility and was awarded a life membership in 2003.

Age did not seem to weary Mick, and his eighth decade found him driving a Mack truck in outback Kimberley country, sleeping in a swag under the stars and revelling in the glories of nature.

Mick always wanted to know what was going on, as his granddaughter Jessica discovered when he was staying with her in Victoria.

She had just returned from four years working and travelling overseas and went for a job interview.

Thinking it might be a nice outing for him, she invited grandad Mick along for the ride. What she was not expecting was he would also join her for the interview and go along with the senior consultant on a tour of the hospital.

When asked if she got the position she replied, “Who’s not going to employ a 28-year-old girl who brings her 85-year-old grandfather to an interview”.

Mick was always fun to be around, even in his darkest days nearing the end of his life when asked by a doctor how he was feeling he replied: “I’m not sure if you’ll need a shovel or a harp”.

He leaves behind four of his five children, eight grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. He will be sadly missed by his family and many friends.

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