#FABTrip15: Pte. John Harold Fenton of Cavendish, Lest We Forget

 

John Harold Fenton reported for duty on June 10, 1918. A farmer’s son from the windswept plain at Cavendish, Alberta, young Fenton was just 17 when he journeyed west to Calgary to enlist in the Alberta Regiment of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.  Possibly driven by patriotism, a desire for adventure, or the need to escape the dusty desolation of the drybelt, Private Fenton signed up just as the Great War was drawing to a close. While Germany’s forces on the Western Front were nearing defeat by October 1918, another deadly foe was emerging from the east, this time closer to home. Read more at www.forgottenalberta.com #LestWeForget #Alberta #Canada #RemembranceDay #WW1 #abandoned #forgotten #pioneer #cemetery #history #mybadlands #FABTrip15 @gregfarries

A photo posted by Jonathan Koch (@forgotten_alberta) on

John Harold Fenton reported for duty on June 10, 1918. A farmer’s son from the windswept plain at Cavendish, Alberta, young Fenton was just 17 when he journeyed west to Calgary to enlist in the Alberta Regiment of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.  Possibly driven by patriotism, a desire for adventure, or the need to escape the dusty desolation of the drybelt, Private Fenton signed up just as the Great War was drawing to a close. While Germany’s forces on the Western Front were nearing defeat by October 1918, another deadly foe  was emerging from the east, this one closer to home.

At 3 a.m. on October 2, 1918, a train transporting troops from Quebec to Vancouver pulled into Calgary, carrying 15 soldiers who had contracted Spanish influenza. Hoping to stop the spread, the stricken 15 were immediately quarantined at Sarcee Camp, later known as Signal Hill, the largest military training facility in Canada at the time. Unfortunately, the quarantine proved unsuccessful, and within weeks, the insidious “flu” had begun tightening its grip on the frenzied burg. Led by Calgary’s medical health officer, citizens mounted a herculean effort to battle the bug. Then, as the epidemic appeared to run its course, victory over Germany was achieved. On November 11, 1918, scores of jubilant Calgarians took to the streets to celebrate, shedding the face masks they were issued for protection, and in the process, helping to instigate a second outbreak of influenza.

Although he never made it to the Western Front, the war caught up with Private Fenton. As infected soldiers returned from the front, Fenton too, fell ill, contracting pneumonia, the deadliest complication of the Spanish Flu. Pte. John H. Fenton passed away at Sarcee Camp on November 17, 1918, less than a week after the “War to end all Wars” had come to an end, one of ninety soldiers from the camp to perish during the epidemic’s first five weeks. His remains were returned home to be interred at the community cemetery at Cavendish, where they remain on the windswept plain almost a century later – “Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast.”

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11 thoughts on “#FABTrip15: Pte. John Harold Fenton of Cavendish, Lest We Forget”

  1. Thank you so much for posting this, some of the reference links were helpful in continuing to explore Harolds life – he is not forgotten and is remembered by our entire family all throughout the year.

  2. I was at the graveyard purely by chance on November 15, 2015 and took an almost exact same photo of Private Fenton’s marker. I did not even know this cemetery existed as this was the first time I was in this part of Alberta. I did not notice your story until today. This is a thoughful post and thank you for providing some history on this man.

  3. Thanks BW, I have noticed many photos of Private Fenton’s tombstone online recently. Hopefully our cumulative efforts to shine light on his resting place will ensure its preservation, and that the stories of these brave young men aren’t forgotten.

  4. Jon, that was really beautiful. Using language to bring the beautifully sad, short life of this young man, hardly out of boyhood, is clearly a work of love for you. Don’t stop, please.

    It is important to read items such as this. Happily, we are removed from that war by a century; sadly, time causes memories to fade, as those who endured the past have all gone on to their future. You brought honour here. Thanks.

  5. Thank you Greg, it’s been heartening to see the response to the post, and to learn of the number of people who are doing their part to honour the memory of Private Fenton, and others like him on the plains.

  6. I lived in Cavendish in 1958 to 1960 when it was an Alberta Gas Trunkline housing camp with ten company houses built in 1957.
    I was two years old when my Father moved the family out there from Calgary to start his career with AGTL.
    There was only a Cavendish General Store there for a year and nothing else remains today except the TCPL Compressor Station. NOthing left of the town.

    The houses were all moved in the 80’s and the Shop and Swimming Pool shut down and land re-claimed.

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