Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (16 April 2020)
Date of Auction: 16th April 2020
Sold for £4,000
Estimate: £3,000 - £3,600
Distinguished Service Order, V.R., silver-gilt and enamel, complete with integral top riband bar, with significant white enamel damage to reverse of one arm; Coronation 1902; Queen’s South Africa 1899-1902, 6 clasps, Cape Colony, Tugela Heights, Orange Free State, Relief of Ladysmith, Transvaal, Laing’s Nek (Capt. W. J. Venour. D.S.O., R. Dub: Fus:) top lugs neatly removed to facilitate mounting; Africa General Service 1902-56, 2 clasps, Aro 1901-1902, S. Nigeria 1902 (Major W. J. Venour. D.S.O. R. Dub: Fus:); Khedive’s Sudan 1896-1908, 1 clasp, Sudan 1899, unnamed as issued, mounted cavalry style as originally worn, light contact marks, generally good very fine, unless otherwise stated (5) £3,000-£3,600
FootnoteD.S.O. London Gazette 27 September 1901:
‘In recognition of services during the operations in South Africa’
M.I.D. London Gazette 8 February 1901 (South Africa); 10 September 1901 (South Africa); 12 September 1902 (Aro Expedition)
Wilfred John Venour was born on 2 May 1870, son of Lieutenant-General E. Venour, Indian Staff Corps, late Commandant of the 5th Bengal Native Infantry and severely wounded during the Indian Mutiny (whose medals were sold in these rooms as part of the Brian Ritchie Collection in June 2005). He was educated at Weymouth College and commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers on 29 October 1890, being promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, 16 December 1893; and Captain, 9 October 1899.
He was employed with the Egyptian Army from 28 December 1898 to 13 October 1899, seeing active service with the Nile Expedition, and in South Africa during the Boer War, 1899-1900. Joining the 2nd Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers on 30 January 1900, he was present at the Relief of Ladysmith, including operations of 5-7 February 1900, and action at Vallkrantz; operations on Tugela Heights (14-27 February 1900) and action at Pieter’s Hill; operations in the Transvaal in June 1900; operations in Natal, March to June 1900, including action at Laing’s Nek (6 to 9 June 1900); operations in Orange River Colony, June 1900. (Queen’s medal with six clasps, twice mentioned in despatches and D.S.O.)
At Pieter’s Hill on 27 February 1900, Venour’s gallant conduct in leading three companies of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers in an assault on a kopje is noted by Majors C. F. Romer & A. F. Mainwaring in The Second Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the South African War:
‘The greater part of Pieter’s Hill fell into our hands, but the Boers still held a kopje to the north of the hill, and maintained a heavy fire. General Barton, anxious to complete his victory, directed three companies of the battalion and one company of the Scots Fusiliers to advance against the kopje. ‘B’, ‘C’, and ‘H’ were the three companies selected...
...the detachment advanced about 2.30pm and came at once under a heavy rifle and pompom fire. The companies pushed forward , however, by successive rushes until they reached a donga some three hundred yards from the kopje. Here further progress was checked for a time, and General Barton ordered forward three companies of the Royal Irish Hussars. The latter came up at about 5.30pm and supported by the covering fire of ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘H’ companies, rushed the left of the hill, when the above-mentioned companies of the battalion, led by Captain Venour, assaulted the right. The attack was successful. During the advance Lieutenants Haskard and Bradford, in command of ‘C’ and ‘H’ companies, were wounded, and the engagement cost the regiment nine killed and forty-three wounded.
The three companies which had made their attack on the kopje spent the night on the captured position. Captain Venour, who was the senior officer present, re-formed the men of the Irish and Dublin Fusiliers, and constructed sangars, with a view of warding off a Boer counter-attack.’
Just two days later, on 1 March 1900, with the Boers now in retreat and the path to Ladysmith open, Captain Venour and Major F. P. English also of the 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers entered Ladysmith, fully two days ahead of Redvers army:
‘After breakfast on March 1st, the 11th Brigade advanced along the railway towards Ladysmith. It was thought that the Boers would be holding Bulwana, and the brigade had orders to attack the hill. But it was soon learnt that the enemy had retired, and we eventually reached Nelthorpe Station about midday and bivouacked. Major English and Captain Venour took the opportunity of riding into Ladysmith.’ (Ibid)
Having taken part in all the severe fighting among the Tugela Heights, and particularly distinguishing themselves in the fierce engagement at Hart’s Hill on 23 February, the 2nd Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, nine hundred strong when they had disembarked in South Africa and now roughly half that number, received a measure of recognition:
‘On the 3rd, Sir Redvers Buller’s army entered Ladysmith, and the honour of leading the army fell to the 2nd Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers - an honour nobody begrudged them, on account of the constant fighting they had taken part in since the beginning of the war, and the heavy casualties they had suffered. The route was by the railway bridge, and the streets of the little town were lined by the garrison, who, emaciated but clean, presented a startling contrast to the war-stained relievers.
The entry into Ladysmith, with its enthusiasm and meeting of old friends, formed a fitting end to the battalion’s Natal campaign. Hardly any other unit in the army had suffered such casualties. Only five company officers marched through Ladysmith with it. The others had been killed, wounded or disabled.’ (Ibid)
In June 1900, while serving during operations in Orange River Colony, Venour was admitted to hospital and eventually invalided home.
He was employed by the West African Frontier Force from 1 May 1901 to 15 May 1904, serving in 1901-02 in Southern Nigeria, with the Aro Expedition, in command of a column; was slightly wounded and mentioned in despatches (clasp). A report on the operations of the Aro Field Force is given in the despatch of Commissioner R. Moor, published in the London Gazette of 12 September 1902, starting with with its goals:
‘The objects of the expedition were:
a) To abolish the slave trade which was actively carried on throughout the entire territories belonging to, and dominated by the Aro tribe.
b) To abolish the fetish of the Aros known as “Long Juju,” which, by superstition and fraud caused many evils amongst the Ibo tribes generally, and to all the outlying tribes of the entire protectorate, who continually appealed to it. While this Juju existed it was impossible to establish effective government in the territories.
c) To open up the whole of the Ibo country lying between the Cross River and the Niger to civilisation and trade of collecting the natural products of their country and developing it to the best advantage.
d) To introduce a currency in lieu of slaves, brass rods, and other forms of native currency that existed in the territories, and which from their nature and cumbersomenes were opposed to advance in any direction.
e) Finally, to establish throughout the territories a labour market to take the place of slavery.
A few days before the operations commenced a most deplorable massacre of some 400 men, women and children, mostly women and children, was carried out in the hinterland of the Opobo district, at a town called Obegu. The Aros had long threatened to attack the tribes friendly to the government, and though the people of Obegu had been warned to keep careful watch, they were unfortunately caught napping by a conglomerate force of the various sections of the Aro tribe, together with other Ibos unfriendly to them, and their town was destroyed with the slaughter of the people above mentioned. This gave another object and duty to the Field Force, viz., that of capturing and bringing to justice the natives responsible for this bloodthirsty massacre, in the carrying out of which one section of the Aro tribe alone, the Abams, who were great head hunters, are reported to have obtained 200 heads...’
And later continuing:
‘I am able to state with certainty that the objects of the expedition detailed in paragraph 2 of this despatch have been effectively carried out in so far as could be done by military operations. The slave trade has been abolished, the evil fetish of the Aro tribe has been broken, the entire colony has been opened up, and the natives are already beginning to engage in legitimate trade in place of the traffic in human beings, and a currency of British coinage has been introduced which the natives are now gladly accepting in lieu of slaves, brass rods, manillas etc.’
An enclosure within the same despatch, given by Lieutenant-Colonel A. F. Montanaro, providing more of the military particulars of the expedition, brings to notice Captain Vernour:
‘The country becoming now fairly open, the enemy was slowly driven back on his final position. Here he made a determined stand, and our fire appeared to make no impression, Major Heneker decided to outflank him simultaneously on both flanks. This movement was carried out by Captain Venour, D.S.O., who, working his men round through the scrub thereby exposed a long line of deep trenches to enfilade fire. The ‘Cease Fire’ was then sounded and the whole line advancing, charged into the trenches and turned the enemy out at the point of the bayonet...
Captain W. J. Vernour, D.S.O., Royal Dublin Fusiliers. A hard working, reliable officer. He commanded the Advance Guard at the taking of Aro-Chuku, when he handled his men with such skill that that I selected him to command a column which did very good work.’
He received the Brevet of Major on 17 April 1902, and served later the same year in command of operations in the Nsit Country (clasp).
Completing his tour in Southern Nigeria, he served at the Regimental Depot, Naas, Ireland from 31 December 1904 and as Adjutant, Militia and Adjutant, Special Reserve from 13 January 1906, becoming Major on 17 August 1908 and was with the 1st Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the Madras Presidency from 9 February 1913, in command of detachments.
He died on 6 April 1914. Sadly, too, his older brother, Lieutenant-Colonel W. E. Venour, 58th Vaughan’s Rifles, was killed in action at Givenchy-les-Labasse in October 1914, shot by Germans dressed in Gurkha uniforms taken from the dead.