Stafford Hope Venton was born in Taunton, Somerset, in 1892. He was the only child of William Venton and Beatrice Maud, nee Pidgeon, but he may also have had a half 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 that time the family were living at 16 Eastbourne Road, Taunton. His father was working as a railway labourer, and his mother as a button hole maker in a factory.
Sometime between 1901 and 1911 Stafford’s family moved to Devizes, in Wiltshire. In 1911 he was living with his parents at 31 Forty Acres, Roundway, Devizes, and working as a house painter. His father was a steam crane driver and was employed by the GWR.
The GWR portrays Stafford among the men honoured in their magazine, listing him as 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 may have been conscripted after 2nd March 1916.
Stafford was attached to the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment (20086). The battalion had been in France since November 1914.
Stafford 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 to 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, Pas de Calais, France. The History of the Lincolnshire Regiment 1914-1918 states:
On the 1st of November, the 10th Lincolnshire 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.
This tallies with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records, which show that four Other Ranks were killed in action during the month of November 1917: two on the 12th November, and two, including Stafford, on the 23rd November 1917.
Stafford was 24 years old when he died. 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. He is remembered on Devizes War Memorial.
The CWGC records his parents’ address as Crofton Pumping Station. His widowed mother still lived at the pumping station in 1939, and possibly remained there until her death in 1957.