William H VENABLES
Rank: Private
Number: 19023
Unit: 21st Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 29 August 1916
Age: 22 (based on 1901 Census)
Cemetery: Delville Wood Cemetery, Longueval, Somme, France

William's father, James, was a farmer who had been born in the Davenport area of Stockport. His wife, Mary, originated from Suffolk. Their two oldest children, James and Samuel, were born in Copstock, Leicestershire, in the early 1890s. The family had come back to this area by about 1898 when another son, Samuel, was born. By now, James was farming at Adswood Farm. He was known to be still farming there in 1910, but there is no mention of him in the 1914 edition of Kelly's Directory and it possible that he had given it up by then (he is believed to have died in 1918, aged 56)

When War came, William was a fairly early enlister, joining up in the autumn of 1914 into the sixth of the "Manchester Pals" Battalions. He was assigned to 7 Platoon, "B" Company. He enlisted in Manchester, probably in the autumn of 1914, into "B" Company of the sixth of the Manchester "Pals" Battalions. After training, they went on active service to France on 10 November 1915, taking over a section of the front line, for the first time, on 6 February 1916.

William's first experience of the Battle of the Somme will have come on its first day, 1 July 1916, when the 21st Manchesters were involved in the attack on German positions at Mametz. He will have been In action again on 14 July. During the month, the Battalion suffered 500 casualties, dead and wounded.

For the couple of weeks prior to his death, William's Battalion had been in reserve at Maricourt. On the evening of the 29th, they marched to Montauban (which had been captured by the 16th & 17th Battalions on 1 July). They then moved to trenches south of the nearby Delville Wood, relieving the 20th Battalion. The Battalion's War Diary makes no specific mention of daily casualties during the tour of duty between 29 August and 5 September, but does record a total of 42 deaths. It would seem that, in the absence of other information, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has recorded them all as 29 August. Most days of this tour were quiet but there was action on the 3 & 4 September and this is probably when William was killed.

At 5.15pm on 3 September, troops were drawing grenades from the bomb store when it was hit by a shell, causing several casualties.

The next morning, the Manchesters' positions came under artillery attack. Lt P Thorniley, commanding "D" Company sent the following signal to Battalion HQ. "The shelling has been exceptionally heavy and we have had several more casualties. Both the men and myself and other officers are absolutely done in. I would suggest if it is possible a relief by one of the other Coys early this afternoon. We can't stand much more. We have practically no cover. Just been smothered again by a shell."

During the afternoon, two companies conducted a grenade attack against the enemy trench. This was unsuccessful and there were many casualties.

William could have died in any of these incidents.

(Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)

   
           
   
     
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