Percy William VENNING


VENNING, Percy William

Service Number: 965
Enlisted: 1 September 1914, Morphettville, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 10th Infantry Battalion
Born: Quorn, 4 October 1894
Home Town: Pinnaroo, South Australia
Schooling: Pinnaroo State School
Occupation: Farmer
Died: Died of wounds (received at Gallipoli), At Sea (HS Galeka), At sea (HS Galeka), 28 April 1915, aged 20 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Buried at Sea, Lone Pine Memorial, Gallipoli Peninsula, Canakkale Province, Turkey
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Lone Pine Memorial to the Missing, Pinnaroo Pictorial Soldiers Frame, Pinnaroo Soldiers Memorial Hosptial, Pinnaroo State School Venning Memorial, Pinnaroo War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

1 Sep 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Morphettville, South Australia
20 Oct 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 965, 10th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
20 Oct 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 965, 10th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ascanius, Adelaide
28 Apr 1915: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, SN 965, 10th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli, Transferred to HMT Galeka

Help us honour Percy William Venning's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Belinda Holmes

Percy William Venning was born on the 4th of October 1894 in Quorn, South Australia. As a child, he moved to Pinnaroo with his family and was the first student to enrol in the new Pinnaroo State School. Percy worked on the farm with his father and attended the local rifle club. He was ‘quiet, unassuming, fine and a steady worker’.

Percy would be one of the first and the youngest to enlist in the First Australian Expeditionary Force in the district on the 2nd of September 1914. Placed with the 10th Battalion, Percy embarked on the HMAT Ascanius, Adelaide on the 20th of October 1914. On the 19th of December 1914, Percy was cited for being incorrectly dressed on parade and docked a day’s pay. Little is noted in Percy’s service records of his time at Gallipoli. It can be assumed that he was present with the 10th Battalion at the landing at ANZAC Cove on the 25th of April 1915 and endured the fighting over those coming days. On the 28th of April 1915, Percy suffered wounds and was evacuated to the HMT Galeka, which was acting as a hospital ship off the shores of Gallipoli. It was here that Percy succumbed to his wounds between the 28th of April and the 2nd of May 1915.

Word was sent to the Venning family back in Pinnaroo on the 5th of May 1915 and on the 7th they were informed by their local Minister. Still, the family had no information of what had befallen their child. In August of that year, a friend of Percy’s, James Hugh Smythe of Adelaide, wrote to Percy’s parents to inform them of the circumstances of his death. He wrote:

'Percy and I had been comrades, and had much in common. It is a consolation, though a sad one to view, that he died a glorious death, giving up his life in the attempt to fetch his comrades water. Volunteers were called for to make a dash for water, and Percy, with three others, made the attempt. They had to run the gauntlet of a fierce fire for a long distance over a bare flat plateau, and it was during the rush over that Percy was hit. I have not been able to gather any details. After he was carried out, but expect the hospital authorities will send you his papers and personal effects. You and all Pinnaroo will be proud to know that your son fell bravely doing his duty, as we his comrades knew he would. Things are quiet here just now; just a flare up now and again; the trouble is that the Turks artillery pester us considerably, and one has not got to linger over a job too long.'

Sadly, it was the only account of Percy’s death that his family would receive. In September 1915, the Venning family approached the local Member of Parliament, the Honourable Richard Witty Foster who wrote to the Secretary of Defence on the 30th of September. It was this letter than spurred into action the follow up cables and subsequent completion of the virtually empty service record. Still, it was not until March 1916 that the records were updated, and the family informed. Delayed still, Percy’s personal effects were not sent home until ANZAC Day, 1916 – almost the first anniversary of his death.

The grief felt by the Venning family and Pinnaroo community for the loss of Percy must have been immense. The township wrote articles, flew flags in the district at half-mast and placed an enlarged portrait of him in the church. The photograph was described in the newspaper as being ‘wonderfully lifelike’, framed in oak and with a silver plate inscription reading ‘In the memory of Private Percy W Venning, a scholar of this Sunday-school, who fell at the Dardanelles’. Percy’s mother, Margaret, continued to write the Australian Army with a letter on file in 1944, enquiring about Percy’s service medals.

Perhaps most telling of their admiration for Percy was the public fundraising for a memorial in his honour. Students at Pinnaroo State School and their friends paid a subscription to procure a ‘suitable memorial’. Made of Italian marble and set on a dark slate background, the memorial went on public display in Adelaide in June 1915 before being shipped to Pinnaroo for the opening on the 2nd of July 1915.

It is one of, if not the first publicly subscribed, public memorials to the Dardanelles campaign in Australia. This stunning memorial to one young man’s sacrifice can still be found at the Pinnaroo Primary School.