1914 - 2023

The Marston Lads

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James Venables

Killed in Action
7th July 1916

Aged 31

13th Battalion
The Cheshire Regiment

James Venables was the most difficult Marston Lad to research. With his war enlistment records missing, at least three men of the same age were found and not one with any Marston connection, the task ahead wasn't going to be easy. As is often the case; the unlocking of James Venables was down to a stroke of luck.

James Venables joined the 13th Battalion of The Cheshire Regiment. His regimental number of W/162 is interesting. The 'W' relates to the 13th Battalion, Wirral.

A search with The Cheshire Regiment has a James Venables commemorated at Marston Memorial as well as Port Sunlight (The Lever Brothers Memorial, which was a Chemical Company known as Port Sunlight) which is the Wirral, and with the same service number.

Cheshire Regiment Source.

His service number and name do match up perfectly with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission together with the recorded date of death. Unusually, his War Graves Commission records do not have any documents that relate to his commemoration, these are always kept following communication with family. His certificate shows no age, where he lived or any other information such as 'Son of'.
While searching for his war records, I used just the service number 162, omitting the W. I then I found a James Venables on the Soldiers Effects Register, this document relates to money and property signed for by next of kin. In James Venables case, a sister named Mary Taylor, who had married a James Taylor in 1915, and more importantly, in the Wirral. The rest of James Venables story then came together after some 10 months of research.

If you could help me further, please get in contact.

Soldiers effects register James Venables Service number 162

James Venables was born the 26th July 1884 at New Ferry, the Wirral.

His parents were Thomas and Sarah Louisa Venables. James was one of six children born to the marriage. By 1911, James's mother had passed away. James was working within the soap manufacturer's, which would be Port Sunlight who made the famous soap tablets.
Later documentation stops at 1911 where James is living in the Wirral. What brought him to Marston? Given the link to Chemical's, it must be due to either the newly formed Alkali Plant at Lostock Gralam, or Marston Saltworks.

To be commemorated on the Marston war memorial, James Venables must have been living in Marston. The question is where?.

The only war records surviving do include his service medal records. The date given for one medal was the 25th September 1915 when he landed in France.

The 13th (Wirral) Battalion, Cheshire Regiment was raised at Port Sunlight on 1st of September 1914 by Gershom Stewart, MP. They proceeded to France on the 25th of September 1915 and concentrated in the area of Nieppe. Their first major action was in defence of the German attack on Vimy Ridge in May 1916.

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The Battle for Vimy Ridge May 1916
The German attack on Vimy Ridge (Unternehmen Schleswig-Holstein/Operation Schleswig-Holstein) was a local attack on the Western Front on 21 May 1916, during the First World War. The Germans intended to prevent mines being blown under German positions by capturing the British front line and mine gallery entrances. After the Third Battle of Artois (25 September – 4 November 1915)

The French Tenth Army had held positions on the western slope of Vimy Ridge and the German 6th Army occupied positions on the steeper eastern slope. During the Battle of Verdun (21 February – 18 December 1916), the Tenth Army was withdrawn and the British First Army and Third Army on either flank, took over the French positions.

1st July 1916 | The Lochnagar Mine

The Lochnagar mine crater on the 1916 Somme battlefields in France is the largest man-made mine crater created in the First World War on the Western Front. It was laid by the British Army's 179th Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers underneath a German strongpoint called “Schwaben Höhe”. The mine was exploded two minutes before 07.30 am Zero Hour at the launch of the British offensive against the German lines on the morning of 1st July 1916.
'The March to La Boiselle'
On the 5th of July 1916, the 13th Cheshire's march from Bouzincourt to La Boiselle, which is just 4 miles away but under constant artilley and gun fire.

By the 6th July, they had occupied trenches at La Boiselle which they consolidated and held.

The Capture of La Boisselle (1–6 July 1916) was a tactical incident during the Battle of Albert, the name given by the British to the first two weeks of the Battle of the Somme.

At exactly 08.05am on the 7th July 1916, the 13th Cheshire's went over the top. After suffering severe casualties, they had reached their objective.

It was during this battle that James Venables was killed. His body was never recovered.

James Venables is remembered with honour at the Thiepval Memorial, France.

The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing
Tony Hayes