Sunday History Photo / Person

Submitted: Sunday, May 02, 2010 at 02:24
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Clyde Fenton graduated as a medical doctor in 1925 from Melbourne University. He had a stint in the Royal Air Force in England in 1928, but they did not teach him to fly and Fenton did not find the RAF suited him. Fenton returned to Australia and headed outback, first to Wyndham and then on to Darwin. Fenton did gain his pilot’s licence with an idea to join the Royal Flying Doctor Service, but the founder, Flynn, had a policy of not using doctors as pilots. Fenton then privately raised the money for an aircraft, and in March 1934 arrived in Katherine as the Government Medical Officer. On his own initiative he started an aerial ambulance rescue service which grew into the Northern Territory Aerial Medical Service.
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Requests for medical assistance came via pedal radios through the two Royal Flying Doctor Service stations at Cloncurry and Wyndham, then telegram. With famous daring and an apparent disregard for personal safety, Fenton landed on the primitive bush strips and runways to pick up the sick and return them for medical treatment. With no navigational equipment or radios, landing on strips lit by kerosene flares or car lights, and with only the railway lines and the Katherine River to locate his position he would “buzz” the hospital in Katherine so staff could go out and light the flares for his landing.
He improvised flares for night landing in half petrol drums fitted with handles and filled with cotton waste soaked in crude oil. The flares would burn for up to two hours and could be seen up to thirty kms away. A rotation beacon was installed in 1937 and a base wireless was installed two years later.
Dr Fenton left the Territory after the war and spent the rest of his working life in Melbourne, where he eventually died on 28 February 1982. The WW2 airstrip Fenton near Hayes Creek, NT was named after him, and he is remembered through the Clyde Fenton Primary School in Katherine. One of the planes he flew is on display at the Fenton Hangar at the Katherine Historical Society Precinct and he enjoys a particular renown as a unique and dashing Territory character.
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Reply By: petengail - Sunday, May 02, 2010 at 07:21

Sunday, May 02, 2010 at 07:21
fascinating doug thanks for that...
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Reply By: Member - John Q (QLD) - Sunday, May 02, 2010 at 07:52

Sunday, May 02, 2010 at 07:52
Hi Doug,

Another interesting piece of history. Thanks for your time & effort in putting these articles together.

John
just crusin & smelling the flowers

1. At Halls Creek (Is he really lost?)
2. East of Cameron Cnr


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Reply By: Member - Toyocrusa (NSW) - Sunday, May 02, 2010 at 09:14

Sunday, May 02, 2010 at 09:14
I look forward to these history pieces each Sunday. Thanks again Doug.
PS Now that "Macha" has retired maybe you could take up with the Sunday program on ABC. LOL. Bob.

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Reply By: Member - Scoot (SA) - Sunday, May 02, 2010 at 10:13

Sunday, May 02, 2010 at 10:13
Thanks Doug ,

Another great history lesson , love your work.
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Reply By: Member - jay D (VIC) - Sunday, May 02, 2010 at 18:42

Sunday, May 02, 2010 at 18:42
Hey Doug

Another good sunday story, thank's.
Nice and warm in Alice, country is nice and green.
Heading further nth Tuesday.

cheers
jay
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Reply By: Member - Royce- Sunday, May 02, 2010 at 23:15

Sunday, May 02, 2010 at 23:15
Good work. I visited the Clyde Fenton PS a few years ago and didn't think to ask who it was named after!
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Reply By: Nargun51 - Monday, May 03, 2010 at 10:31

Monday, May 03, 2010 at 10:31
He was also a member of the Adult Parole Board of Victoria (Males) from 1966 to 1974
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