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The Cenotaph, erected in the St. Norbert Cemetery, was an over-grown, long forgotten homage to the thirteen men who fought and died in World War I and who were connected to the St. Norbert area.

Then one day in 2008, Art Bloomfield, an area resident, took a closer look at the overgrown monument while walking his young grandson to pre-school. Soon after, he and his family made it their personal mission to ensure that the cenotaph and those thirteen men whose names are etched in stone were forgotten no more.

Celebrate and honour these men at the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month.

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Image placeholderPRIVATE WILLIAM RICHARDSON (RICHARD) FENTON
Regimental #51161

Born:  June 1 1893, Brown Hill, ON

Occupation:  Farmer

Enlisted:  December 22, 1914, Princess Patricia’s, Canadian Light Infantry

Presumed Killed in Action:  June 4, 1916 (aged 23 years) at Sanctuary Wood, Ypres, Belgium (No Known Grave)

Awarded:


Raised by mother Harriet Campeau and step-father, William Campeau, Richard, a Roman Catholic, was a single farmer. At the age of 21, he stood only 5 foot 4.5 inches and weighed 135 lbs. With medium complexion, Richard had dark blue eyes and brown hair. He did have previous military experience with the 90th Regiment of the Winnipeg Rifles.

photo of the PPCLI Cap Badge for Richard Fenton
PPCLI
Cap Badge

Of the 13 men listed on the St. Norbert, MB War Memorial who served with Canadian units, Private Fenton was both first to enlist and the first to die. 

There's nothing of note in his CEF file regarding his militia service, except that he must have been considered to be fully trained.  From the date of his enlistment to the date he proceeded to France was barely two months.  According to his pay card, he first enlisted with the 44th (Manitoba) Bn, but other documents show this as the 28th (Northwest) Bn.  As he was with the recruiting battalion for barely a week, this is not really significant.  He was very quickly routed to the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI).

The PPCLI holds the distinction of being the last privately raised army regiment in the British Commonwealth.  When war was declared, Montreal millionaire Hamilton Gault offered to raise and equip a regiment for war service.  He was able to do so in less than three weeks.  The PPCLI was also the first Canadian infantry regiment to see combat in World War One.  The regiment did not see itself as a "Canadian" unit, though.  It went to France as part of the British 27th Division in December 1914 while the rest of the CEF trained in the rain and mud of Salisbury Plain.  The regimental reserve was based at Candahar Barracks in Kent.  The barracks was named after a battle fought by the British in Afghanistan years before.  Eighty-five years later, when the PPCLI was posted to Afghanistan, they wound up in - where else - Kandahar.  Fenton joined the PPCLI Reserve at Candahar Barracks in late January 1915.  A month later he was drafted to France and joined the PPCLI near the Belgian town of St Eloi.  Although there was little aggressive action, the PPCLI positions were under constant observation from the enemy positions across a broad valley, and they took several casualties while just staying in place.  

Fenton first became a casualty due to illness, and was invalided back to England for a brief time.  He rejoined the PPCLI in September 1915.  This was another relatively quiet time during the war, as neither side had built up sufficient strength to do anything other than annoy each other.  The only news of note was that, over strenuous objections from the PPCLI, the regiment was transferred into the CEF in December 1915.  From now on, the PPCLI served as part of the Canadian Corps.  This quiet period ended at about 8:30 am on June 02, 1916.  The Germans laid down a massive bombardment that lasted several hours, followed by a large scale infantry assault.  By June 04, many Canadian units, including the PPCLI, nearly ceased to exist.  Some war diary references refer to the remaining troops as "survivors".  Some time during this attack, Private Fenton was killed. 


He has no known grave
He is memorialized on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ieper, Belgium
He is commemorated in the First World War Book of Remembrance, page 84
His name is inscribed on the St Norbert, MB War Memorial
Veterans Affairs Canada Link
Library and Archives Canada File RG150, 1992-93/166, Box 3036-37

*with files from Jim Busby and Brian Cyr

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