Born 24th October 1869, Leopold Jenner, the fifth son of Sir William Jenner (first baronet), physician to Queen Victoria was educated at Marlborough College and Royal Military College Sandhurst. He was an all round sportsman and a brilliant polo player. In 1899 he married Leonora Helen Gertrude Stewart (daughter of Field Marshal Sir Donald Stewart). They made their home at Avebury, an old manor in Wiltshire from 1902 to 1937, which they filled with fine furniture, and later at 9, The Circus, Bath. She died in 1952 and there were no children of the marriage. He died on 20th October 1953.
Leopold Jenner had a distinguished military career and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was an enthusiastic sportsman and in I 904 and I 905 won the Army fencing championship at the Royal Military Tournament, but as a sportsman he is best remembered as a brilliant polo player.
In I888 Gentleman Cadet Leopold Jenner graduated from the Royal Military College and joined the 3rd Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps as a Second Lieutenant. He was posted to Gibraltar from I 888 until 189 I and this is almost certainly where he would have started playing polo. On the 28th December I888 Jenner was presented to HM Queen Victoria at Osborne House (Isle of Wight).
In 1904 Leopold Jenner retired from the army having reached the rank of Captain and he largely lost touch with his Regiment, although he remained a steadfast friend to some of his fellow officers. He then became Joint Polo Manager for eight seasons (with Captain FA Gill) of the Ranelagh Club, which at that time was the largest polo club in the world. TF Dale in Polo at Home and Abroad (1915) commented that "each of the great London Clubs has a special place in the history of the game. Hurlingham was its home for the first critical twenty years of its life in England; Ranelagh gave the younger players their chance and enlarged their horizon, besides enormously increasing the opportunities for Inter-Regimental play by the soldier players. It is in no small degree due to Ranelagh that military polo holds the place in the game it does to-day. While Roehampton has given the further opportunities for expansion in various directions that were needed."
In 1914 Jenner rejoined the Army on mobilization and being too old to be posted back to the King's Royal Rifles - first served on the Staff in Egypt and at Gallipoli and was mentioned in despatches and awarded the DSO. From 1916 to 1919, having rejoined the Army in 1914, he served in France, where he was mentioned in despatches on a further three occasions and was made a CMG and received the Order of the Crown of Roumania. In December 1919 he was awarded the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George.
Jenner's entry as a Notable Player in the Polo and Coaching volume of British Sports and Sportsmen describes him as "a clear product of Army polo". It continues by saying that he "can look back on a playing career of interest and marked by distinction and success. If one may take the period 1902 to 19 14 as representing the Golden Age of Polo - beyond all doubt a larger number of first-class players touched their best during that time than in any other span of years - Colonel Jenner was at the height of his form during the first half of this Golden Age, and the year 1907 saw him selected to play [for England] against Ireland. An accident unluckily kept him from turning out". In 1909 The Bystander in their section The Polo Season and its Prospects remarked in Points on Players and Their Form that Jenner "In the opinion of many, the best No. I in modern polo. A wonderfully fine hitter, especially on the near side of his pony, and a deadly goal-scorer at all manners of acute angles. Has not arranged to play regularly in any team this year, though several would be very glad to have his valuable aid." From February 1903 until July 1910 the Hurlingham Club produced an annual Form List of the leading players of that period and which included just over 60 players. Leopold Jenner appeared on the Form List from 1904 to 191 0. In 191 I the Hurlingham Club started to produce an annual Handicap List - with a I 0 handicap being the top - and Jenner was ranked with a 7 handicap, putting him in the top 40 British and international players ranked by Hurlingham. In 1912 Jenner's handicap was increased to 8, recognizing him as one of the best polo players of his generation.
In the 1850s British army officers had joined local Manipuri tribesmen in playing polo in the
extreme northeast of India. The reputation and interest in the sport quickly spread and it was
immediately recognised as being of immense value in cavalry training. In the I 860s British army
officers started playing the game in Britain and from there it spread quickly across the British Empire and to America and Argentina. It was regarded as particularly suited to Englishmen brought up playing cricket and football and "good exercise for the rider and capital practice for horses". J Moray Brown was to write "polo appeals irresistibly to English tastes" and he concluded that for an Englishman "no other sport fits him more for the sterner joys of war or enables him better to bear his part in the battle of life". The Americans too were to recognize polo's value as preparation for war. General Patton in 1906 wrote "No sport, save possibly steeple chasing and football, is so good a school in this respect as polo. This element of personal risk is not a decided drawback but an advantage. No matter how brave a man may be, he is none the less a creature of habit. If his most lethal experience prior to battle is dodging automobiles on city streets, the insinuating whisper of bullets about his sacred person will have a more disquieting influence on him, than would have been the case had the same person received a few cuts and broken bones on the polo field". The English magazine The Field noted in July I 872 that "we believe that it is the universal verdict of those who have engaged in it, that polo is the best game out". However, not all were totally in favour of polo and one commentator remarked that "it may perhaps be considered time to question the good sense of a game, which whatever its merits as an amusement has cost the lives of gallant officers in the Queen's service".
Jenner played for a number of different army and civilian teams in his polo career and won many
major tournaments including the Roehampton Cup, the Public Schools' Cup (playing as the Old
Marlburians they dominated this tournament in the period before the First World War), the Ranelagh Novices Cup, the Warwickshire Cup, the Cirencester Challenge Cup, the Blackmore Vale Challenge Cup, the Hurlingham Open and the Ranelagh Open.
He was following in a family tradition as his brothers Sir William Jenner and Albert both played.
The former had played polo for his regiment the 9th Lancers and had won the Indian Inter-Regimental Tournament in 1883, 1884 and 1885. Sir William as a member of the 9th Lancers team won the Hurlingham Inter Regimental Tournament in I 896 against the 4th Hussars team that included the young Winston Churchill in their team.
Jenner explained the success of the Old Marlburian team as "though they not unseldom
defeated teams stronger than theirs, man for man, the well balanced nature of the Old Marlburians' side and the fine understanding existing between the individual members of the team enabled them to emerge victorious". As Polo and Coaching recorded "the united powers of a side composed of C and G Miller, EB Sheppard and Colonel Jenner was undoubtedly formidable".
Commenting on the success of the Old Marlburians team Jenner said that, "two points are especially worth continually emphasizing in polo practice. The fact should never be lost sight of that a game is won by the side which scores more goals than its opponents; hence the amount of energy expended and ground covered by a player do not express his value to the side if the crucial matter of hitting goals fails to emerge as a result. Spectators and critics do not always regard this essential, and incline to praise a player merely because he has been exceedingly active upon the field. The second point is the prime importance of passes being sent along not merely in a correct direction, but so aimed as to reach a partner in a position where he can receive them conveniently". Polo and Coaching concluded that "a distinct factor in the success of the Old Marlburians in their Public Schools' Cup success was the accuracy of passes given by the Millers to the other men on their side, reaching them in a position which enabled them to be picked up and utilized".
One of the finest games, which Jenner recalled was when Ranelagh Uenner, Arthur Rawlinson,
Capt. Gill and H Scott-Robson) defeated the America Cup team (the Waterbury brothers, Foxhall
Keene and J Cowdin) by I I I 0 in 1902. The match was played in front of the King (Edward VII) and
the Queen and the Prince and Princess Charles of Denmark and a crowd of 5,000. Jenner scored
the winning goal with the last stroke of the match and Dale commented in Polo: Post and Present that "the Ranelagh Club was able to show to one of the largest gatherings of the season one of the most exciting matches in the memorable Coronation year".
Jenner took a particular interest in making his own polo ponies. He is quoted in Polo - Past and
Present as saying "I have a stud of six ponies, only one of these was a made polo pony when I bought it and that was the only case when I gave over £80. The rest cost from £60-80 and had never been in games before I bought them".
One of Jenner's lasting contributions to polo was his co-operation with TF Dale to Polo: Post and
Present. This is acknowledged by Dale in the preface "I am greatly indebted to Captain LCD Jenner, joint Polo Manager of the Ranelagh Club, who read over all the practical and technical chapters with the one exception of the one on handicapping, for which only I am responsible. The corrections and suggestions offered by him have been, in almost every case, incorporated into the text, and are, I heartily acknowledge, a most important addition to the usefulness of this book".
With the outbreak of hostilities in Europe in 1914, polo in England came to a complete halt. The
First World War was to have a profound and long-term effect on the English game. Previously the
War Office had encouraged polo, believing it would help produce the best quality mounted soldier.
However the dismounting of most cavalry regiments during the war was to result in the British Army placing a lesser importance on the game. The editor of the volume of Polo and Coaching in the series British Sports and Sportsmen wrote: "By the close of 1918, emerged an England where the 'Grim Reaper' had gathered with no sparing hand from the very flower of sportsmen. An England where the whole balance offlnancial values had altered, an England where everyone had been too busily employed in inevitable tasks to consider the training of polo ponies". The Great War had taken a heavy toll of English men and horses. Amongst previously prominent polo players killed in action were the twin brothers Captain Francis and Riversdale Grenfell (who had played with Jenner in the 1907 Freebooters team) and fellow players Major Leslie Cheape, Captain Noel Edwards, Captain Jack Atkinson and Captain Herbert Wilson.
There is no record of Leopold Jenner playing polo again after the First World War. In Jenner's obituary in The King's Royal Rifle Corps Chronicle in 1953, Major-General Sir Hereward Wake a fellow officer wrote "My earliest recollection of Leo Jenner is of a ride together in the Lightweight Race at the 3rd Battalion Point-to-Point Meeting near Aldershot in 1897, just after I joined. When I say "together" I refer to the first two or three fields only. It was a real point-topoint in those days, over natural country, a few flags (none in the fences) and perhaps a church tower to ride to. We all admired Jenner's horsemanship and envied his light-weight. And he was a most efficient if hot tempered officer, to young officers an encouraging friend, for his men taking endless trouble, to his superiors not so agreeable!"
Hereward Wake concludes Jenner's obituary with an anecdote "When serving in France he helped to provide Captain Maurois with one of the amusing characters in Les Silences du Colonel ramble, the novel which did so much to help our French Allies to understand the British soldier in the first