Private Stafford Hope Venton, Crofton Pumping Station

Stafford Hope Venton worked on the Kennet and Avon Canal. He was killed in action in WW1 on 23rd November 1917.

Private Stafford Hope Venton, Crofton Pumping Station
Private Stafford Hope Venton

Stafford Hope Venton was born in Taunton, Somerset, in 1892. He was the only child of William Venton and Beatrice Maud, nee Pidgeon, and he may also have had a half sister or adopted sister, Alice, who was born before Stafford’s parents married. Thus far I have been unable to trace a birth registration for her, but she appears with the rest of the family in the 1901 census, at 16 Eastbourne Road, Taunton. Stafford's father, William, was working as a railway labourer, and his mother, Beatrice, as a button hole maker in a factory.

Sometime between 1901 and 1911 Stafford’s family moved to Devizes, in Wiltshire. By 1911 he was living with his parents at 31 Forty Acres, Roundway, Devizes, and he was working as a house painter. His father William was a steam crane driver and was employed by the GWR.

Stafford was among the soldiers honoured by the GWR in their magazine. They said that he was a painter in the engineering department on the Kennet and Avon Canal.

Stafford probably still lived in the Devizes area when he enlisted, in either Devizes or Newbury (there is a discrepancy in the Soldiers Died in the Great War database). He probably enlisted as part of the Derby Scheme between October 1915 and February 1916, but he may have been conscripted later, after 2nd March 1916.

Initially, Stafford was attached to the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment (20086). The battalion had been in France since November 1914. He was later transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment (43418(1)). The two regiments were together on the front line throughout 1916 until May 1917, both being in the 25th Infantry Brigade in the 8th Division.

Finally, Stafford moved into the 10th Service Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment, an old pals battalion known as the Grimsby Chums, which had been decimated on the Somme and needed to be bolstered by new drafts of men. The 10th Lincolns were attached to the 101st Brigade, in the 34th Division.

In November 1917 the 10th Lincoln’s were south east of Arras, in the Pas de Calais, France. The History of the Lincolnshire Regiment 1914-1918 states:

"On the 1st of November, the 10th Lincolnshires moved to Boisleux St. Marc for a short period of training before going into the front line east of Cherisy, where the line was comparatively quiet. Casualties during the month were four other ranks killed, fifty-two wounded and six missing." One of these men was Stafford.

The 10th Lincolnshire's War Diary records the 10th Lincolnshires' arrival on the front line on 22nd November:

"Cherisy, 22nd. Relieved 11th Suffolks in front line, becoming Left Battalion, Right Brigade. Relief completed without incident by 2pm. Trenches in good condition and weather fine. Strong patrols out all night to ascertain whether enemy were leaving their front system, owing to heavy Brish attack at Cambrai. Trenches found to be strongly held by enemy."

"Cherisy, 23rd. An uneventful day. Enemy put down a fairly heavy barrage on our front line, between 6.15 and 7.15 pm, causing some casualties. No infantry action on the Divisional front. Strong patrols again sent out during the night, and enemy found very alert."

These records tally with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records, which show that four Other Ranks were killed in action during November 1917: two on 12th November, and two, including Stafford, on 23rd November.

Stafford was 24 years old when he was killed. He was buried less than 5 kilometers from where he died near Cherisy, at Saint Martin Calvaire British Cemetery, St. Martin-sur-Cojeul. On his mother’s request, his cross was inscribed “Thy Will Be Done, O Lord”. On the anniversary of his death, in November 1918, Stafford’s parents placed a well known verse in the local paper.

We do not forget him we loved him too dearly
For his memory to fade from our lives like a dream
Our lips need not speak while our hearts mourn sincerely
True grief often dwells where it seldom is seen.
From his sorrowing Father and Mother.

Stafford was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal, and he is remembered on Devizes War Memorial.

The CWGC recorded Stafford's parents’ address as Crofton Pumping Station. His widowed mother was still living at the pumping station in 1939, and it is likely that she remained there until her death in 1957.

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