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FENTON, John Wilfred MM (1893-1917) +

FENTON, John Wilfred MM (1893-1917)

Known as ‘Paddy’, John Wilfred Fenton was born 26 February 1893, the son of John Fenton and Helen nee Laidlaw. of Lantana, Hamilton. He was educated at Hamilton and Western District College, and Geelong College which he entered in 1909. His address at the time was Gray St, Hamilton. A fine all-round athlete, he was a member of the College 1st Football, Cricket and Athletics teams in 1910. At the Geelong College Sports in 1909 he ran second in 150 yards handicap event known as the 'Masters Trophy' and in 1910 was awarded the 'Association Plate' presented by J L Currie.

J W Fenton (War Service)

J W Fenton (War Service)

He was managing his father’s property in the Western District at the time of his enlistment in the AIF on 15 July, 1915, and embarked on HMAT A18 Wiltshire on 18 November 1915, arriving in Egypt just before Christmas. He served with 10th Battery, 4 Field Artillery Brigade throughout the campaign in Egypt, France and Flanders, at Armentieres, Bullecourt, Messines and Passchendaele. He was awarded the Military Medal, gazetted on 17 December 1917:
‘On 29th September 1917 in Bellwarde-Westhoek Valley, the Battery was being shelled heavily by 5.9 and 8” to such an extent that orders were given to temporarily evacuate the position. Immediately after, a 6-mule team of the 2nd Australian D.A.C. was almost directly hit with a shell, severely wounding two of the drivers and killing one. Notwithstanding the heavy shell fire, Gnr Fenton and Gnr Crawford, accompanied by the Battery AMC Orderly, immediately went to the assistance of the wounded, dressed their wounds and carried them to the Dressing Station. The AMC Orderly was killed in doing so. They went back again to see if they could render any assistance to the two Pioneers who had also run over with them in the first place, but had been killed by the same shell that killed the AMC Orderly. I consider they exhibited the highest form of individual courage under such trying circumstances.’

Fenton was then granted a commission as lieutenant, and transferred to 15th Battery, 5 Field Artillery Brigade, two months before his death. ‘Paddy’ Fenton died of wounds, aged 25, after a gas attack at Ribemont on 19 June 1918, and was buried at Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, France - Grave VII. B. 50.

A colleague reported to the Red Cross Information Bureau of the circumstances of his death:
‘Re the above named officer. I called at the No 8 Red Cross Hospital today. He died on June 19th and was buried at Terlincthun Military Cemetery on the 20th June and his grave number is 6831. He died from the effects of mustard gas. He came into the hospital on the 3rd June - being admitted on the 1st June to the 5th Australian Field Ambulance, and went from there . . . to the 20th CCS on the 1st June. I saw the Matron and she turned up the letters written to the relatives. She had written four letters in all, giving the fullest particulars of his death and she has received letters from Australia kindly and sympathetically acknowledging the letters.’

A further report from Pte H D A Joske, 15 Battery, confirmed the date of the incident:
‘I saw Lt Fenton gassed at Ribemont on 31st May at the gun pit, the shell bursting at his feet. He was taken back as far as Boulogne.’

His brother, David Trevor Hamilton Fenton (1896-1944), was also educated at College.

Sources: Based on an edited extract from Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck. pp35-36 (citing Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Pegasus April 1911 p5; Photo Pegasus December 1918.)
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