In 1910, aged 16 years, John Venn was employed by Mount Lyell M and R Company as a ‘nipper’. On Sunday 27 February 1910 Venn and a group of other boys went for a swim at a waterhole adjoining the King River. Two boys – Henry Lodge and John William Harding got into trouble in the deep water.
Despite the gallant efforts of John Venn, the two boys drowned. Commended by the coroner for his actions, John Venn was recommended for and awarded the Humane Society Bronze Medal.
By January 1916, John Venn was a 22 year old married slaughterman living at Richmond when he volunteered for enlistment. John and his brother George, who enlisted on 2 August 1916, embarked on the HMAT A20 Hororata on 23 November 1916 as part of the 7th re-inforcements for the 2nd Pioneer Battalion. In late October 1917 he was transferred to the 2nd Pioneer Battalion and promoted to the rank of temporary Corporal. On 13 March, having reverted to the rank of Private, he was taken on strength with the 2nd Pioneer Battalion along with other reinforcements at Nieppe, just outside of Armentieres.
On 13 June 1918 the 2nd Pioneers were at Morlancourt Ridge in the Sailly-le-Sec area. Here the men were constructing communication trenches and were trying to connect a captured German trench with the Australian’s front line. A high explosive shell landed among a group of soldiers including Sapper John Venn who was killed instantly. He was buried at the High British Cemetery ¾ mile north east of Sailly-le-Sec, but later his body was removed to the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, located in front of the Memorial.