The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX484) Lieutenant Colonel Austin George Fenton, HQ Military History Section, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.76
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 17 March 2019
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on (NX484) Lieutenant Colonel Austin George Fenton, HQ Military History Section, Second World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

NX484 Lieutenant Colonel Austin George Fenton, HQ Military History Section
Accidental 28 January 1945

Today we remember and pay tribute to Lieutenant Colonel Austin George Fenton.

Austin Fenton was born in North Sydney on 28 July 1905, the son of Alfred and Constance Fenton. After receiving his education at North Sydney High School, Austin worked as a journalist. After a cadetship in the Sydney office of the Newcastle Morning Herald, he moved to Newcastle where he worked for the paper as a sub-editor.

He married Dorothy Helen Fenton, and the couple went on to have three children, Adrian, Helen, and Ian. At the outbreak of the Second World War, the family were living in the Newcastle suburb of Merewether.

Enlisting as soon as the Second World War began in September 1939, Austin first served in Greece and the Middle East, working in press relations for the Intelligence Corps and the Australian Government censor.

Working as a government censor was a difficult task that required knowledge of military operations. With his background in local militias and journalism, Austin was well placed to maintain positive relationships between the press and the military. The Official History of Australia in the Second World War singles out Fenton as bringing professionalism in journalism and military intelligence to his role.

His work was noted by the authorities and he received several promotions throughout his career, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Returning to Australia in 1942, he transferred to the Army Intelligence Directorate of Public Relations. In August, he arrived in Papua to work as Assistant Director of Public Relations, and later as Liaison Officer at General Headquarters. Austin believed that press correspondents should get as close to the war effort as possible, and that as censor it was as much his role to assist the press to get stories that they could send home as it was to censor. Noel Monks, an American correspondent in New Guinea, described him as “the most competent censor in the south-west Pacific”.

Recognising his abilities, in 1943 he was Mentioned in Despatches for “gallant and distinguished services”.

By 1944, Austin had played an integral role in many of Australia’s most important battlegrounds. The Military History Section, responsible for recording and eventually writing the Official History of Australia’s role in the Second World War, recognised his experience, and in July 1944 seconded him for duty to work gathering information on Australia’s war in the south-west Pacific.

On 28 January 1945, Austin boarded a Beaufort aeroplane in Port Moresby, bound for Lae. The aircraft took off from the Ward airstrip at 7 am and was never heard from again. Austin and all members of the aircraft were officially pronounced as assumed killed nearly a month later. Austin was 39 years old.

His contribution to the Australian war effort was recognised in 1945 when he was posthumously awarded an MBE for his “meritorious service and exceptional devotion to duty”. The Governor General presented the insignia for this prestigious honour to Austin’s son, Adrian, at Admiralty House in January 1949.

Sixteen years after its disappearance, the wreckage of the missing aircraft was spotted in thick jungle on Mount Kenevi, to the south of Kokoda. A team sent to examine the crash site found Austin’s identification discs, and his body was finally laid to rest in the Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Lieutenant Colonel Austin George Fenton, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

David Sutton
Historian, Military History Section

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