Topic: Francis Alvar Fenton (1895-1917)

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Aged two when his mother died, Francis Alvar Fenton was adopted by James and Elizabeth Lever and raised on their Tauranga farm. He enlisted to fight during World War I. Alvar received bomb wounds to both legs in France on 12 February 1917. He died of his wounds at the 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station two days later, on 14 February 1917. Story by Debbie McCauley.

Francis Alvar Fenton (also known as Alvar Francis Fenton) was born in Auckland on 21 July 1895 (reg. 1895/15981). His parents were William Ashby and Rose Mary Fenton (nee Russell) who married on 24 February 1890 (reg. 1890/43).

Mary died on 5 April 1897 when Alvar was just two years old (reg. 1897/2707). He was adopted from Huia Hospital in Grafton Road, Auckland by James and Elizabeth Lever (nee Legg) who had arrived in New Zealand in 1883. Huia Hospital was owned by their daughter Isabel Daisy Lever (1877-1959) who would later nurse during World War I. James and Elizabeth lived at the corner of Willow and Hamilton Streets in Tauranga. The family later moved to Greerton where the family farm was managed by their son Henry Graham Lever (c1870-1957).

James Lever died in Tauranga in 1907.

In 1907 Alvar's birth father, William, remarried to Lavina Ann Creighton (nee Rhodes) (1862-1925) of Hunua, Auckland (reg. 1907/2052).

The Greerton farm was sold in 1910 and Henry Lever moved to Auckland, then back to Tauranga at the end of 1911 when the family bought a farm of 62 acres from Mr. Dickie at Matua. The road leading into the area would become known as 'Levers Road'. Alvar would have worked on the Lever farm. 

On 7 March 1916 Alvar enlisted to fight in World War I, training at Featherston Military Camp. He embarked with E Company, 8th Reinforcements, 1st Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade, from Wellington on 26 June 1916. They disembarked at Devonport, England on 22 August 1916.

Marching into Sling Camp, Wiltshire, they were taken on strength with Auckland Company, 1st Brigade Training Battalion, on 23 August 1916.

The unit arrived in France on 26 September 1916, disembarking at Etaples before marching in to the New Zealand Infantry and General Base Depot on 27 September 1916.

Alvar joined the 1st Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment, in the field on 1 November 1916.

On 12 February 1917 Alvar was wounded in action, receiving bomb wounds to both legs. He was admitted to No 1 New Zealand Field Ambulance and transferred to the 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station on 13 February 1916.

Alvar died of his wounds at the 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station in France on 14 February 1917, aged 21. He was buried in the Estaires Communal Cemetery, Nord, France (Grave III. K. 8).

His adoptive mother, Elizabeth, died at Huia Hospital on 29 August 1918 (reg. 1918/5054).

In 2013 a book by Mount Maunganui-raised military historian Damien Fenton was launched called New Zealand and the First World War 1914-1919The book is dedicated to the memory of Damien's grandfather's cousin, Private Francis Alvar Fenton. "We don't know too much about him. There is no photo of him. He had such a short life," said Damien. 

Alvar Fenton had lived in Te Puke and his name is on the war memorial gates in the Tauranga Domain.

Alvar Francis Fenton (1895-1917)


Archives New Zealand: Military personnel file.

Auckland War Memorial Museum: Cenotaph Record.

Births, Deaths & Marriages Online (New Zealand).

Find A Grave: Pvt Alvar Francis Fenton.

Stuff (2013, November 7): New book explores World War I.


A version of this article was archived in August 2016 at Perma CC

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Francis Alvar Fenton (1895-1917)

Note:Service Number: 15082
First Names:Francis Alvar
Last Name:Fenton
Date of Birth:21 July 1895
Place of Birth:Auckland
Country of birth:New Zealand
Date of death:14 February 1917
Place of death:1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station, France
Place of burial:Estaires Communal Cemetery, Nord, France
Fathers name:William Ashby Fenton
Fathers date of birth:1865
Fathers place of birth:Pukekohe, Auckland, New Zealand
Fathers date of death:27 November 1942
Fathers place of death:Te Kuiti, New Zealand
Mothers name:Rose Mary Russell
Mothers date of birth:1867
Mothers place of birth:Ireland
Mothers date of death:5 April 1897
Mothers place of death:Owharoa, Waitawheta, Waikato, New Zealand
Military Service:World War I (1914-1918)